Volunteering While On Benefits

A range of measures to change the welfare benefits system in the UK are underway. Volunteers, and organisations that involve volunteers in their work, are concerned about the impact of these changes on volunteering.

Will volunteering affect my benefits?

You can volunteer for as many hours as you want and still claim benefits if:

  • The only money you get from volunteering is to cover expenses (like travel costs)
  • You continue to meet the conditions of the benefit you get

New guidance was published by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in May 2017. It answers the following questions put to DWP by people with experience of volunteering and claiming benefits. It is designed to be clear, simple and concise.

Download the guidance and the answers to these questions by clicking here.

  • Am I allowed to claim expenses for volunteering?
  • What is volunteering?
  • Why do I have to tell DWP about my volunteering?
  • How do I inform my benefit office about volunteering and what information do I need to provide?
  • How could volunteering affect my entitlement to benefits?
  • How many hours can I volunteer for?
  • Who can I contact if I’m having issues with volunteering and claiming benefits?
  • I don’t have work-related commitments because I am ill/have a disability
  • Will getting involved in volunteering be viewed as a change in my capacity to work?
  • Will volunteering make me ‘fit for work’ even if I’m on a health related benefit/conditionality?
  • Can the Jobcentre Plus require me to volunteer?
  • If I am volunteering and I’m offered a job interview or a job, what should I do?
  • How can you help me if I need assistance with communication and/or access?
  • If you wish to speak with someone in confidence about volunteering and benefits, contact one of our advisers at Volunteer Glasgow.

Frequently asked questions from volunteers:

  • How many hours can I volunteer? There is no limit on how many hours you can volunteer each week as long as you are available on your signing day, are available and actively seeking work and comply with requests from Job Centre Plus regarding your job-seeking.
  • Can I use my volunteering placement as a “work placement” to comply with Job Centre Plus requirements? This depends on your Job Centre Plus advisor and the organisation you volunteer with. Some volunteers tell us that they have been able to negotiate a work placement within the organisation where they volunteer (in agreement with their JCP advisor). This is for a defined period, sometimes in addition to their existing voluntary work. Others have been unable to do this – their JCP advisor has stipulated that work placements must be organised through them, or the organisation has been unable to accommodate the requirements of a work placement.
  • I am unable to pay “upfront” out-of-pocket expenses for my voluntary work. What should I do? The organisation you volunteer with may be able to provide some expenses in advance e.g. pre-paid bus tickets for travel expenses. It is unlikely, however, that they will be able to pay other expenses (such as lunches) in advance.

Frequently asked questions from organisations:

  • The economic situation means that we are swamped with people who want to volunteer with us. What should we do? Be clear about how many volunteers you can realistically involve. If you are unable to consider a new applicant inform them as soon as possible so they can search for other opportunities. Direct to VCE if they do not know of us. Also – ensure that the opportunities you advertise with VCE are accurate and up-to-date. If you no longer require volunteers for a particular opportunity let us know and we will archive it. This means it will be taken off our website (but is easily put back on when/if your requirements change, without you having to complete a new registration).
  • Some of our volunteers are in panic about impending changes to welfare benefits, and how it may affect them. What should we do? There is clearly reason for many volunteers to be concerned about their situation. However, there is also a lot of misinformation and partial information in the public domain. Organisations should ensure that their volunteers have access to expert and accurate advice – see list below - rather than attempting to give information or guidance themselves.
  • Some of our volunteers are unable to pay “upfront” out-of-pocket expenses for their voluntary work. What should we do? Many organisations use pre-paid bus tickets to cover travel expenses in advance. However, organisations should exercise caution in paying other expenses in advance e.g. for lunches, as this could be viewed as payment and put organisations in breach of legislation regarding National Minimum Wage. See good practice guide from VCE.
  • Pressure to find paid work is having a serious impact on our volunteers’ motivation and morale. What should we do? Effective volunteer management structures are vital to support and inspire volunteers’ motivation and morale. Look at our Good Practice Guides for more information.

For accurate and expert information and advice, direct volunteers to:

The Advice Shop
249 High Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1YJ
0131 200 2360

Enquiries regarding housing benefits should be directed to the individual’s landlord or housing association in the first instance

Citizens Advice Bureaux or local equivalent:

Portobello 669 7138
Gorgie/Dalry 474 8080
Dundas Street 557 1500
Pilton 202 1153
Leith 554 8144
Granton Information Centre 552 0458
CHAI 442 2100

Housing Advice

Cyrenians Homelessness Prevention Service 475 2556

Edinburgh Housing Advice Partnership (EHAP) 0845 302 4607

Web Links:


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