Berkshire

Windsor and Maidenhead consultant's volunteer warning

Windsor Castle
Image caption If successful the pilot scheme could be rolled out nationwide

An expert from Japan who is advising Windsor and Maidenhead Council on its Big Society volunteering scheme has warned of potential difficulties.

Dr Mayumi Hayashi, a researcher at the University of East Anglia, said in Japan the scheme had struggled to recruit enough young volunteers.

However, Councillor Simon Dudley said 20,000 people in the borough were already volunteering.

The council is hoping to implement its CareBank volunteer scheme by September.

CareBank is part of the prime minister's Big Society idea whereby residents who volunteer in the area gain credits which can be used for future health care, or council services such as leisure centres.

'Struggle financially'

If successful the pilot scheme could be rolled out nationally.

The Conservative-led council has been holding open days since it announced its plan in February to both tell residents about the initiative and gain their thoughts about it.

Dr Hayashi said the scheme had many benefits.

"Socially the system provides care for those who would not otherwise get support," she said.

"There are increasing numbers of older people living alone who struggle financially and also physically."

However, she expressed reservations about how the scheme would operate in poorer areas than Windsor and Maidenhead.

"It might do well in Windsor and Maidenhead because they are rich areas and there aren't too many dependent people, but will it operate in Liverpool or London where there are many?" she said.

"If it is seen as an addition to existing services it could be very popular, but if it's seen as a poor substitute to local authority services which have been cut, it won't work."

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