This paper explores the potential contribution of timebanking, an innovative volunteering scheme, to the co-production of preventive social care with adults in England. Interest in volunteering in social care has increased as one proposed solution to the international crisis of a rising demand for services in juxtaposition with decreased resources. Volunteering has been particularly promoted in preventive services that prevent or delay care needs arising. Despite sustained interest in volunteering and co-production in social care, little is known about how theory translates into practice. Reporting implementation data from a Realistic Evaluation of six case studies in England, this paper explores one volunteering scheme, timebanking. The research explores how timebanks were working, what contribution they can make to adult social care, and whether they are an example of co-production. Data collected included interviews, focus groups or open question responses on surveys from 84 timebank members, and semi-structured interviews with 13 timebank staff. Each timebank was visited at least twice, and all timebank activity was analysed for a period of 12 months. Data were triangulated to improve reliability. The research found that in practice, timebanks were not working as described in theory, there were small numbers of person-to-person exchanges and some timebanks had abandoned this exchange model. Timebanks faced significant implementation challenges including managing risk and safeguarding and the associated bureaucracy, a paternalistic professional culture and the complexity of the timebank mechanism which required adequate resources. Lessons for timebanks are identified, as well as transferable lessons about co-production and volunteering in social care if such schemes are to be successful in the future.
- SPS Centre for Research in Health and Social Care