If you are currently looking for work then volunteering is a good way not only to support the communities you care about and to fill some time productively, but also a great addition to your CV.
 
Receiving benefits? That’s no problem but the key is to be upfront about what you are doing.
 
You can volunteer and still receive benefits if:
  • the only money you get from volunteering is to cover expenses such as travel, meals or care costs
  • you continue to meet the conditions of the benefit you get, such as time spent looking for jobs or getting work experience.
 
With Volunteers’ Week upon us (1 – 7 June) you can expect to see, hear and read a lot more about the advantages of becoming an unpaid volunteer. https://volunteersweek.org
 
And the NCVO (National Council for Voluntary Organisations) is pretty much the go-to place for advice in England if you feel like giving it a go. Its guide to volunteering while receiving benefits has lots of useful information.
https://www.ncvo.org.uk/ncvo-volunteering/volunteering-and-benefits
 
And the Government web pages on volunteer opportunities, rights and expenses are also worth visiting.
https://www.gov.uk/volunteering/pay-and-expenses
 
The NCVO has provided a list of FAQs on volunteering while receiving benefits. Here are some of the key points.
 
Can I volunteer when I’m receiving state benefits?
Yes, including means-tested benefits such as Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), Incapacity Benefit, Income Support, and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
 
What is the Government’s definition of volunteering?
When you choose to give your time and energy to benefit other people without being paid for it.
 
Accepted organisations include:
  • charities
  • voluntary or community groups
  • public-sector organisations such as the NHS and police
  • social enterprises
  • local businesses.
It doesn’t count as volunteering if you are:
  • helping out a family member
  • given money other than out-of-pocket expenses
  • under contract to do the work.
 
What are the rules about expenses?
The organisation should collect receipts from you and reimburse exactly what you’ve spent. This means that, if needed, you could show your benefits adviser that any money you were getting was a reimbursement and not a payment.
 
What if I am receiving Universal Credit?
You can still volunteer as long as you also undertake any activities such as job searching, training or other requirements, identified by your Jobcentre Plus adviser.
 
Does volunteering count as taking ‘reasonable action’ to find a job?
Yes, it can count towards up to half of the time you are expected to be looking for a job. So if you are required to spend 35 hours a week looking for full-time work, half of this time (17.5 hours) can be spent volunteering.