A Cardiff social enterprise project is continuing to grow and is now one of the best of its kind in the UK.
Spice Timeplace is a collaborative project between Spice, a social enterprise working across the UK, and Action in Caerau and Ely, a local development trust operating in the Ely, Caerau and Fairwater areas of Cardiff.
The project uses a time credits model where people can gain credit through helping their community in various ways.Volunteers are then able to spend vouchers on activities which they otherwise may not have been able to do.
From having just 22 groups with 57 members in 2012, Timeplace now has more than 100 groups and 1,000 members who donated 35,000 hours of their time last year alone.
Earning opportunities vary because there are so many groups. Activities include litter picks and clean-ups, energy-saving sessions, gardening, visiting the elderly, writing for the community paper, and studying for new qualifications such as child psychology or construction.
Jess Magee, a Timeplace volunteer, said: “I have been using time credits for the last two years. I live in Ely and I have earned more than 500 time credits since January 2014.
“I hold a lot of events with my group Escape-Cardiff, which is a support group for families who have children with ADHD and other behavioural problems.”
Nerys Sheehan, Timeplace facilitator for Caerau and Ely, said: “The preconception of people in Ely can be very negative. People think you won’t amount to much.
“Timeplace gives you a strong sense of community spirit and of being part of the community. People want to get involved anyway, but time credits are a bonus really.
“The basic premise is that for every hour you give, you get an hour to spend on an activity of your choice.”
As with earning opportunities, spending opportunities are plentiful. Volunteers can relax in community groups with quiz nights, kids dancing classes, self-defence classes, and they can hire hall and equipment for children?s parties, bouncy castles or even Nordic walking.
On the other hand, credits can be spent at one of many commercial partners. Two credits could get you into the Sherman Theatre to watch a play, the Chapter Arts Centre to watch a film, or even to watch Cardiff City play football or the Devils play ice hockey. The most extravagant way to spend hard-earned credits is to go on a day trip to London, another city in the UK, or even a holiday with the entire family.
Ms Magee said: “At Christmas in 2013, I took my family to Trecco Bay using time credits and really enjoyed it.
“We hold arts and crafts events, Easter fun days, Halloween parties where people can earn and spend time credits, and we have also had trips to Sherman Theatre, Llanelli Wetlands, and Dan-yr-Ogof.”
Mrs Sheehan added: “For the corporate partners, there is no monetary value for them in accommodating Timeplace, apart from when we buy food and drink in the cafe.
“So we rely on the generosity of these organisations. Recently, Cardiff City Football Club have agreed to give us four tickets per game. The Cardiff Devils Ice Hockey team have been partners for a while and they are able to give us more.”
Anne-Marie Lawrence, time credits facilitator and ACE Timeplace pioneer, said: “Spice is a charity and social enterprise with an income generated through a number of sources.
“Currently the Timeplace programme is funded by Interreg 4b northwest Europe as part of the community currencies in action project. Previously Timeplace was funded by the lottery.
“Spice work with a number of other organisations across the UK ranging from local development trusts, housing associations, local authorities and health and social care providers.
“In terms of evaluation results Timeplace leads the way. But Spice do have a project in West Norfolk that has more members and hours.”
Anyone who wants to get involved with Timeplace can call the ACE office on 02920 003123, or visit The Hub on Cowbridge Road West, Ely.