Volunteering at TimeBank during Covid-19Phil Pyatt
Volunteers’ Week is always a good opportunity to reflect – not just on the present, but to look to the future. In this current Covid-19 world, in just a matter of weeks the world has completely changed. If someone had said to you in January that we would be on lockdown and unable to see family and friends, I think it would have been hard for anyone to envision.
This is definitely one crisis that has affected everyone in some shape or form, whether having to isolate like the general population, or as one of the shielded, to our NHS and front line key workers, or those who have tragically lost a loved one.
At TimeBank it has really changed the way we work. Like most organisations we quickly made the decision before the Government announcement to work from home, and to end some of our high-risk projects to ensure the safety of our volunteers and beneficiaries.
In 2019 we were able to secure funding from the Forces in Mind Trust to continue our Shoulder to Shoulder project with veterans in Scotland, trialling an innovative approach to mentoring. This involved carefully matching trained volunteers with beneficiaries to mentor them using online video technology. In the current climate this type of approach has become a necessity as more and more beneficiary groups – old and young – are experiencing social isolation.
In Birmingham we secured a small piece of funding from the Big Lottery for our Covid-19 TimeBank Tell-Us project working with existing volunteers from our Talking Together programme after the Government funding for this ended in March. Over three months, this will provide ongoing support to local community organisations and their beneficiaries with a range of approaches including WhatsApp groups, video and telephone support, with a focus on the BAME communities we were supporting through Talking Together.
However, this is really a drop in the ocean as to the need out there, and we are working hard as a charity to secure further funding to support more people in our hubs of London and Birmingham. The future of volunteering is changing and technology as a necessity is playing a bigger part, particularly for the those facing extreme isolation. At TimeBank we are well placed and experienced to help meet some of this need and like a lot of organisations with cuts in funding we are doing what we can, where we can. With the support of funders we can do so much more in reaching some of the hardest to reach communities affected by the Covid-19 crisis.