Jo Rhodes explains how people are using their skills and trading their time to help each other through the community volunteering scheme, Settle Timebank.

A FANASTIC way for people to share their skills and time with each other has grown out of a community project in Settle.

Settle Timebank was one of the first ideas that came out of Settle Soup - in itself an innovative idea generating social event.

With Settle Soup, people get together, enjoy a bowl of soup before networking and developing a range of ideas and potential projects.

And one of the things that came out of it was the timebanking project, one of many others dotted across the country, which allows people to help each other out by sharing job skills - or something as simple as feeding a pet.

It it also a way of making new friends and building the kind of skills needed for those who may be seeking a way back into employment.

Settle Timebank is bang in the town centre in Commercial Courtyard, part of the town's Community and Business Hub.

Everyone’s time is valued equally, so one hour of time given earns one time credit and all exchanges take place without any money changing hands, says Jo Rhodes.

Funding for a two year pilot project was provided by North Yorkshire County Council’s Stronger Communities programme, which supports communities in playing a greater role in delivering local services.

"Settle Timebank currently has about 40 members offering help with a diverse range of skills," says Jo.

And people are often surprised just what they can offer - like feeding a pet to taking some recycling to the tip.

"People often say there is nothing they can do, but most things people need are simple neighbourly tasks," says Jo.

"Many people already get support from their friends, from church or neighbours, but for some it is not easy to get the help they need. Most things people want help with are simple jobs like pet feeding, putting posters up for events, help sorting recycling or a lift to the tip."

And just about anyone can help out - including older and younger people, and also disabled people.

"The timebank lets people who may not necessarily be able to do traditional volunteering get involved. People can also say when they are available, which makes it easier for them to change what they offer and when they can offer it," she says.

"Several members who are disabled receive help with things like massage or recycling and can contribute in other ways, whether it’s computer support or running art and craft workshops."

One of the members, a single mother, is particularly skilled at assembling flat-pack furniture and has earned lots of credit by putting together bookshelves.

"She is spending those on art workshops and holistic therapies.," says Jo.

Timebanking UK is a national charity that supports timebanks - like the one in Settle.

The charity has found active timebanks in a community generate a huge amount of work, creating new friendships and reducing isolation - particularly in rural places like Settle.

Being part of a timebank can also increase confidence and develop new skills that could potentially encourage people back into voluntary or paid work.

The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has also promoted timebanks as a good way to learn skills and meet people within the community.

"We know timebanks function best when they have a physical base where people can find out more, and since being here in Commercial Courtyard, we have signed more people up and been able to explain how they work. The hub also gives us a venue from which to run workshops, talks and groups that timebankers can get involved with," says Jo.

It has been found that the best timebanks have a mix of individuals, businesses and community groups - all bringing together their own aspects of the community.

Jo says: "Several businesses in the town are offering things through the timebank and it may be the loan of physical items, such as a soup kettle or a projector that can be borrowed. They could also be running taster workshops or offering complementary therapies."

To find out more about Settle Timebank, drop in to the Settle Community and Business Hub for a chat during drop-in sessions on Tuesdays from 10am till 4pm or on Fridays from 12 midday to 5pm or see more about the timebank on the hub website: Settle Timebank can also be contacted by email or by telephone 07977 040329.

To find out more about North Yorkshire County Council’s Stronger Communities programme, visit the website: