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Erewash Time Swapper Brenda Green sits down for a coffee and cake with Time Swap lead Jo Perkins and they share a good laugh and exchange stories about recent fun meetings. Brenda smiles an eyes-sparkling, broad Derbyshire smile and talks fondly of her new-found friends and the support and camaraderie fellow members bring. Through the Time Swap programme she has developed valued skills, forged friendships, and received a great deal of help in return. But it wasn’t always like this.

Before Brenda was introduced to Time Swap, things were very different. She recounts the times she would frequently visit her GP, sobbing her heart out at her sense of loneliness and isolation in the community. She speaks of her frequent trips to the emergency department, of the pain for which doctors could find no diagnosis, of the sessions spent with the cognitive behavioural therapist, of sleepless nights, of the pills prescribed. As she remembers these former times, the lovely smile fades, there is sadness in the corners of her eyes. The worry begins to return.

Listening to Brenda’s story, you cannot but help be struck by the transformation that has taken place. The NHS speaks an awful lot about transformation. ‘Large scale change, accountable care, integrated care, acronym-strewn type transformation’. But this is transformation at a beautiful, personal, individual level. Through the simplicity of a leaflet, a telephone call, a filled-in form and a first escorted trip to a meeting of like-minded local residents, Brenda is a person whose health and wellbeing is transformed.

“It’s really helped me because before (Erewash Time Swap) I was going to the doctor and saying I had a pain here and a pain there and the doctor was doing blood tests and things but kept saying she couldn’t find anything wrong,” says Brenda.

“Now I’ve joined Time Swap I go for my ‘MoT’ at the doctors and she says I seem to be a bit different. I explain about it all and the doctor says it seems like it has changed me; that before I would just sit in her room and I’d sob my socks off.

“I don’t really go to the doctor now, I don’t go to casualty at the weekend, I’ve stopped taking some tablets. I did have restless legs and they’ve calmed down. I think I was on the verge of a breakdown. I was on Diazepam, I was referred to mental health and had some counselling sessions. But now I’m sleeping a lot better. I feel like I’ve really come alive, I feel I’ve got something to live for.”

Acting on the publicity

Brenda signed up for Erewash Time Swap in 2017 after a daughter-in-law handed her a publicity leaflet. Erewash Time Swap now has 180 members who all offer their time and skills - such as home DIY and garden maintenance – and receive time back from other people with different skills in return. Time banking is an easy way for people to become a valued part of their community as well as giving practical help to those who need it.

“There was a form to fill in but I’m no good with forms. I’m ok with my name and address and a few details but after that my mind goes blank. I called Jo (Perkins) and we filled in the form together. Jo came along with me to the first meeting at Ilkeston Library. When I first went, at that time I wouldn’t have been able to walk in to a café on my own. Now I feel I could talk to anyone.

“Time Swap has really helped me. I’ve got a Jack Russell called Pip and I need to take him out for walks but I cannot go far. That’s not fair on the dog so another Time Swap member Tim has been round to walk him for me. I’ve met Melvyn a few times, he’s been round here for a chat sometimes. David has helped with DIY, putting up two shelves in the summer house. I’ve also had some help with doing emails.”

Everyone has skills

In return Brenda has contributed to Time Swap through her skills in knitting. She has joined a group of active Time Swap knitters in Ilkeston producing wool dolls which she intends to donate to Home Start, a leading family support charity. Good hand-eye co-ordination comes naturally to Brenda who worked for many years in the old textile factories of Ilkeston as a machinist, making trousers and tights. Her hosiery and dressmaking skills meant she used to make a lot of her own clothes as well as curtains for her family home.

“Before I joined Time Swap I would spend a lot of time calling The Silver Line, the phone line set up by Esther Rantzen. You can call them day or night and have a chat. Now I’ve discovered Time Swap I gave The Silver Line a call and told them all about it and where they could get more information on it. The lady on the phone said it sounded a good thing.

“I’ve also been along to an older people’s meeting at the Flamstead Centre (day centre in Ilkeston) and took along the Time Swap leaflets and some of my dollies. I wanted to show them what I’m doing with my time.

“Erewash Time Swap is brilliant. It’s brought me alive, it’s made me some friends, there’s always someone there I can talk to or ask for help. At the last meeting I took a chocolate cake to celebrate my birthday. I’d say to anyone else they should join, it would change their life. You make yourself some friends and if you need help, there’ll always be there.”

For more information about Erewash Time Swap including finding out about membership, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call Jo on 07974 269193. Visit: derbyshire.gov.uk/timeswap

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