TimeBank has introduced a fresh approach to gaining volunteers.
Here, former adviser to Scotland's first minister and TimeBank
chief executive, John Rafferty, explains his vision to Reg
Failing to get a place on a social work course is not the most
obvious route into social care but that is how John Rafferty
started his career. Now he is the chief executive of TimeBank, the
latest voluntary organisation bringing a new concept to
volunteering and social care.
An initiative established by ONE20, a charity set up by Jane
Tewson (co-founder of Comic Relief), TimeBank is a movement
designed to make volunteering easy throughout the UK. The aim is to
show that sharing your time, skills and interests with others can
Linked with the media and supported heavily by the BBC, TimeBank
hopes to capitalise on initiatives such as Comic Relief and
Children in Need except by encouraging volunteering rather than
"Time-giver is a phrase which will get into everyday
vocabulary," Rafferty says, reflecting the organisation's positive
approach. "The people who will benefit are the most vulnerable in
society - people with disabilities, the elderly and the
Almost 40 per cent of the UK's non-volunteering population, he
claims, say they would like to get involved. TimeBank's role is to
show people the issues and make it easy for them. "Eventually we
intend to have time banks in every area and in places of daily use
like supermarkets," Rafferty says.
University degrees followed by research into the effects of
hospitalisation on those with psychiatric illness first gave
Rafferty a taste for social care. Unable to get a place on his
chosen course, he trained as a psychiatric nurse at Leverndale, one
of Glasgow's large hospitals.
"Almost to my surprise, I found that I enjoyed it tremendously,"
he says, describing the first of a series of unlikely moves. By
1978 he had made a move to social care, becoming the director of
the volunteer centre in Glasgow. "It started with a couple of staff
and grew like Topsy," Rafferty says with clear understatement.
Within 10 years, unashamedly taking advantage of every government
sponsored scheme, the centre was responsible for almost 2,000
Then he set up the Scottish Foundation. Ahead of its time, the
organisation established and part-owned businesses that ploughed
their profits back into voluntary groups and social care.
Cardinal Thomas Winning spotted Rafferty's business acumen and
organisational skills, recruiting him to overview the archdiocese's
social services strategy. A £12 million deficit did not deter
him from taking the post, quickly devising a five-year plan.
"Within three years the organisation was on a level financial
footing," he declares as if the whole episode was about balance
sheets and belying the considerable achievements in the development
His task complete, Rafferty moved on to become the first
Scottish director of the National Lottery Charity Board.
Emphasising that his brief included UK responsibilities, it is with
an obvious hint of satisfaction he declares: "In the first year, we
distributed £100 million to voluntary organisations throughout
Then came a move that was to prove bittersweet. With devolution,
Rafferty became the principal special adviser to the first minister
in the Scottish parliament, Donald Dewar. It was an appointment
that was to end suddenly in 1999 under controversial circumstances.
He still smarts from that episode and the considerable media
coverage but can look back on the positive: "We set up a parliament
that worked and succeeded in forming the first coalition government
in the UK since the war. An exhausting time but extremely
Before long, Rafferty's skills were sought again and he took
over the reins of TimeBank. Rafferty has come a long and
interesting route from Leverndale psychiatric hospital. Speak with
him for a short while and the satisfaction he gets from his work is
apparent - a satisfaction he believes others can gain from
"We will encourage people to be selfish in that sense," he says.
"TimeBank will be the only bank you get more out of than you put