Berkshire

Windsor and Maidenhead council trials volunteer scheme

David Cameron at the Big Society Network
Image caption The idea is part of David Cameron's Big Society initiative

A government initiative to encourage volunteers in the community will be trialled in Berkshire's Royal Borough.

CareBank - part of the prime minister's Big Society idea - is set to be rolled out across Windsor and Maidenhead.

The Conservative-led council said residents would gain credits which could be used for future health care.

Councillor Cynthia Endacott, of West Windsor Residents' Association, said it was a good idea but hoped existing volunteers would not be "sidelined".

If the pilot scheme - which will begin later in the year - is successful, it will be rolled out nationwide as part of the initiate to foster a culture of voluntarism.

'Not about cuts'

The council said it hoped local residents would "lead the way" in care by providing help and support to the elderly and vulnerable.

Those who take part will earn credits which can be used for themselves or their families, as well as free swimming sessions and gym memberships.

Councillor Simon Dudley, cabinet member, said it would help older and vulnerable people to remain independent .

"This will mean so much to their quality of life and well-being and will also provide well-deserved recognition for volunteers who want to make a really worthwhile contribution to their community."

The council said it aimed to work closely with charitable and volunteer organisations, whose members also qualify for the scheme.

Mr Dudley added: "CareBank is not intended to bring about cuts in council services but rather to be complementary to them so that, together, we can offer local people workable options, flexibility and support along with tangible recognition of volunteering efforts.

Mrs Endacott, leader of the residents' association on the council, said "in principle" the initiative was a good idea.

"There's a very strong community spirit anyway - everyone does help everyone out.

"In other areas there might not be such a strong community spirit."

Councillors will discuss the proposals on Thursday.

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