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How will I know I am safe?

Time Banks UK recommends that anyone setting up a time bank ensures high standards of safety. As a minimum, these should include:

references taken on all participants
individual interviews as part of the recruitment process
CRB checks undertaken whenever necessary
public liability insurance
An added safety measure is Time Online, the special computer software that does the matching. By arranging all transactions through the central broker, the Time Broker knows where anyone carrying out a service is at a given time.

What if I get into debt?

Unlike a conventional bank account, there is no penalty for being in debt. All that is asked is that you give your time to someone else in the scheme when the opportunity arises. We recognise that there will always be participants who have a greater earning capacity than others. The option is given for them to donate some of their credits to fellow members or to a community pot to “top up” other accounts.

Isn't this just a tax dodge?

The help you get through a time bank is often the kind of support money can’t buy – someone to talk to, a prescription collected, a letter read or written, a homemade cake for a children’s party. These are the things that a neighbour or a family member might do for us – but not everyone knows their neighbours or has friends and family close by. The time bank links people up to share their skills and help so that it is mutually beneficial. But its main emphasis is in the social sphere – linking people together and building community – not in the economic sphere.

Time banking & tax exemption:
Community Time Bank currencies are not a taxable income. Time Banks only record the time ‘exchanged’ between participants of the scheme. Time credits cannot ‘buy’ goods or retail services. Time credits have no market or cash/equivalent value.

The Department of Works and Pensions ‘Time Exchange’ guidance bulletin states:

“It must be emphasized that for the purposes of existing legislation and this guidance, in a ‘Time Exchange’ scheme, Time Credits cannot be exchanged for goods or services or converted into alternative currency.” (DWP)

On June 15th 2000, whilst answering a question on ‘Time Exchange Schemes’ (Time Banks), Angela Eagle – the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security – stated: “Time credits derived from participation in a Time Exchange Scheme, such as Fair Shares, do not constitute earnings.” (Hansard)

Many thanks to Jon Cousins of Avalon time bank for use of his handbook materials to inform the decisions of Time Banks UK.

Isn’t this just public services on the cheap?

There will never be enough resources to meet everyone’s needs through the public sector. Time banks can’t do everything any more than the government can. What time banks can do is to help fill the gaps that were perhaps traditionally filled by extended family and neighbours. An important bonus is that they help us realise that we all have skills that are valued by others. This not only creates a closer sense of neighbourliness but also increases each individual’s sense of self worth.

Do you need real money to run Time banks?

Money is needed to cover certain costs such as a computer to run the Timekeeper software, a telephone, a base to work from and ideally someone to work as the broker.

To minimise costs, you need to think creatively! The software Time Online, can be accessed when you join Time Banking UK, and all you need for that is an internet connection and a computer. Businesses are often willing to donate surplus computers and participants can earn their time credits through helping to run the time bank.

Can groups join or is it just for individuals?

Time banks are for everyone and can include groups or individuals. They do not have to be stand-alone projects and can link existing groups with other members of the community. What they offer is a technology for rewarding participation and rebuilding community. This way, you can mix and match. Schemes can be run to suit your own community and those individuals and groups who are part of it. Time banks are flexible: they can be skill based, gender based, age based or more general to encompass a wide range of ages and skills.

What is the difference between Time banks and LETS?

Time banks and LETS both use time as a means of currency. There are many different types of each scheme but broadly speaking the fundamental differences between the two are:

Time banks value everyone’s time equally. You give an hour and you get an hour back – no matter what service is required or skill needed to deliver it. This exchange rate never changes. LETS schemes sometimes work this way but each LETS group has its own way of deciding how much their currency is worth. In many LETS groups, one LETS credit is worth one pound sterling which enables them to relate to market values.

Time banks aim to work alongside the mainstream agencies like Health and Social Services, or local authorities, whilst LETS work more closely towards building an alternative economy. More recently, however, as part of their anti-poverty initiatives, some local authorities are now working with LETS schemes. Both Time banks and LETS help strengthen a sense of community spirit and allow individuals to discover, develop and value their own abilities.

Time banks match people using a central broker. LETS provide a directory of members who contact each other directly to get the service they need.

Time banks usually have at least one paid member of staff. Most LETS schemes work on a purely voluntary basis.

Time banks have a local base, office or shop where participants can call in for a chat, get some advice, etc. LETS usually work without a base and use the telephone, a directory and local get-togethers as contact points.

Time banks have been given a Benefits Disregard by the Government. At present, LETS have not been awarded this disregard – members on benefits have to declare their LETS earnings. LETS schemes, with the backing of several government ministers, are trying to get this position changed.

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