Volunteers could earn ‘care credits’ for helping others

From the BBC

“People who volunteer to help the elderly or disabled could earn time credits which they could then redeem for their own care later in life.

The system already operates in Japan and the government is now considering whether it could also work in the UK.

Care Services Minister Paul Burstow said it could help vulnerable people maintain their independence.

Charities said they welcomed moves to get more people volunteering, but care in old age was a right not a reward.

Prime Minister David Cameron has said that increased volunteering is key to his idea of the Big Society.

‘Time Account’

In Japan, the system, called Hureai Kippu, was established in 1991 and has been expanding ever since as a way of helping to manage the country’s rapidly ageing population.

Literally translated as “Caring Relationship Tickets”, it allows a volunteer to “bank” the hours they spend helping an elderly or disabled person in their personal Time Account.

Different values apply to different kinds of tasks. For instance, more credit is given for helping at antisocial hours or with personal body care. Household chores and shopping command less.

These healthcare credits are guaranteed to be available to the volunteers themselves later in life, or to someone else in need, within or outside their family.

The local and national government has even set up a nationwide electronic clearing network, so that a person can provide help in Tokyo, while their time credits are available to their parents anywhere else in the country.

Mr Burstow said the government was looking at ways to “enable communities to take social care responsibilities on for themselves”.

“What they do in Japan is effectively a way of people sharing their time and giving of their time to make a difference for people in different parts of the country,” he said.

“We have some of those schemes here in the UK such as time banks, and what we are doing is making sure we take some of those lessons learnt in Japan and transfer them to our own domestic circumstances.”

Asked about those who would receive care under such a system, Mr Burstow added: “What they’re going to get is that bit of extra help that can make a huge difference, can [help] keep their independence.”

Voluntary groups warned that anyone volunteering must be properly trained and that access to proper care was a right that all elderly and disabled people should enjoy.

Further details of plans to reform care services are due to be outlined in the forthcoming public health White Paper.”

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