Government backs TimeBank to deliver major language project

Julia Shipston Julia Shipston

National volunteering charity TimeBank has been awarded a grant of £1.12m by the Department of Communities and Local Government to run an extensive volunteer-led project to support long-term UK residents with little or no knowledge of English.

TimeBank was chosen from nearly 200 charities from all around the UK in the first stage of the English Language Competition Awards and from 44 at the final stage.

Its Talking Together project is one of six creative and original ideas to have won a share of £6m to launch new projects to bring English language learning into the heart of the community.

Based in the Midlands, Talking Together will offer engaging, informal and flexible English language learning opportunities, together with mentoring in essential skills such as IT, employment and access to health and other services.

In the first stage of this innovative project TimeBank will recruit and train 70 volunteers and involve local and community organisations to support 1,300 residents – many of them women – in practical language skills that will enable them to do vital, everyday things like visiting the doctor or communicating with children’s schools. In a rolling programme, those volunteers will then train others so thousands more people can benefit. 

Talking Together draws heavily on the charity’s experience with its acclaimed Time Together project that recruited and matched over 2,500 refugees with volunteer mentors. The success of that project demonstrated that volunteering can play an extremely effective role in supporting people to learn English and build skills.

Helen Walker, Chief Executive of TimeBank said: “TimeBank is thrilled to have won this competition to deliver such an important and prestigious project. The award recognises TimeBank’s considerable expertise in leading and delivering volunteer projects that tackle complex social issues. We know that language skills are vital to build strong, united communities and we’re looking forward to applying our learning, skills and experience to support these marginalised residents to feel fully part of society.” 

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said: “These fantastic projects will have a positive impact on local communities, enabling people to fulfil their potential, to communicate with friends and neighbours, gain employment and increase self-confidence.”

In addition to its national volunteer mentoring projects, TimeBank already delivers Midlands-based projects that support carers plus ex-service men and women who are recovering from mental health issues resulting from traumas and injuries received during active service. 

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