Wiltshire Council stop use of volunteering Spice Time Credits at leisure centres - putting the scheme in jeopardy
A Spice Time Credits scheme run for year by the Pewsey Community Area Partnership (PCAP) has been put in jeopardy because from June 1 Wiltshire Council is stopping use of the credits at leisure centres.
Aimed at young people, families on low incomes and the unemployed, the scheme has been very successful in persuading people to volunteer who might not usually think of volunteering.
From litter picks, to apple pressing, to helping in school gardens, the scheme has covered a wide range of activities. For every hour spent volunteering, a person gets a Spice Time Credit - which looks very like a bank note.
These credits can be used to access time-based activities locally or nationally. This has included access to Wiltshire leisure centre activities - a very popular and widespread use for the credits.
PCAP say Wiltshire's decision has come at short notice: "We had hoped that before the cut-off we would be able to influence decision makers at Wiltshire Council to reverse the policy change - sadly this approach has not been successful."
PCAP believe this change of policy will have an impact on the future of the entire Spice scheme in Wiltshire - as well as in the Pewsey area.
The PCAP will be meeting with its partners to decide whether their scheme is sustainable now access to the leisure centres for those earning credits has been withdrawn.
Dawn Wilson, chair of the PCAP, says the success of their targeted scheme means that it has spread to Tidworth and other areas of Wiltshire: "If the scheme is to continue in a viable and sustainable way, it will require replacement funding and so we are appealing to any businesses in the Pewsey area who may be interested in grasping this opportunity to support our community."
This policy change by Wiltshire Council raises questions on two fronts.
First, Council leaders frequently laud the part played in the county by volunteers - especially important as services provided by the Council recede. So why undermine volunteering?
Secondly, the increased use of leisure centres underpins the Council's drive to improve the health and wellbeing of Wiltshire residents. As Baroness Scott has put it: "We are focused on prevention and support." So why discourage use of leisure centres?
You can find out more about the national Spice Time Credits scheme here.