On time, over target and under budget - what an achievement

Regular readers of the blog will know that our most recent Westminster events have had an animal theme – being upstaged by a mouse running through the audience, or accepting you have to kiss a lot of frogs before finding the right partner!

Last Monday night saw us launch our Talking Together evaluation in the Thames Pavilion room on the river at the House of Commons – and our only animal guest was a seagull sitting on the wall outside!

Talking Together was our innovative volunteer led English language training and mentoring project, funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government, that we ran in Birmingham and Leicester over 18 months. And what an 18 months it was - we trained 144 volunteers who supported 1571 learners to speak every day functional English Language and we then mentored 204 to the next level.

Our External Evaluator, Hilary Barnard, gave a fantastic overview of what we achieved -  here are just some of the stats:

  • A retention rate of 91%

  • 88% learners were women; 69% had dependent children

  • 87% learners were not working; 60% wanted to find work; 65% wanted to prepare for further study

  • 60% learners in the UK for less than 10 years

71% learners from target group aged 18 to 40

And perhaps some outcomes that are harder to put a number against:

  • Growing confidence (c. 65%) and competence (c.45%) of learners in everyday issues
  • Raised aspirations of learners for their next steps in education, training and employment

  • Boost for wellbeing and for vital work of carers

  • Strengthening parenting around children’s education and healthcare, including knowing what their kids are doing on the computer

Crucially Talking Together came in on time, over target and under budget with an estimated social return on investment of £9.31 for every £1 invested, which we think is a phenomenal achievement.

This was a big project for a little charity like TimeBank, and we take great confidence from the faith shown in us to deliver it, but it’s not the largest project of its kind that we have run. Our very first mentoring project from which all of our expertise in this area stems was called Time Together, a project matching refugees with a UK national to help them integrate more effectively into UK society. It is incredible to think that 13 years on Talking Together was built based on our learning from that project and indeed today we see a new refugee crisis looming where our programme may yet be resurrected to support this vulnerable group of people.

So we were incredibly proud when Talking Together replicated its parent project and was awarded the prestigious Approved Provider Standard Award by the Mentoring and Befriending Foundation.TimeBank is above all an expert in volunteer mentoring. In all our projects we seek to ensure that volunteers have a positive experience, gain new skills and become more rounded individuals.  So the feedback we’ve gained from our volunteers has been particularly gratifying.

As one volunteer said “Another unseen delight has been the chance for me to connect with a community I have never been involved with … it is a shining example of how different people and communities can integrate …”

I’m very proud of the way that Talking Together has played such a vital role in building community integration because English language truly is the glue that binds our society together.  We hope very much to be able to expand this programme long term – if you’d like to find out more take a look at the evaluation here or the video we commissioned about it where volunteers and learners talk about their amazing journey.