VOLUNTEERS are people who, unpaid and of their own free will, contribute their energy, spare time, skills and interests to make a difference in the community.

People of all ages, abilities and backgrounds can volunteer and Volunteer Centres have hundreds of different opportunities on their books. There should be something to suit everyone, regardless of their time availability. Some people volunteer every week, some every month and some maybe a lot less often.

If you have never tried volunteering – why not find out just what you could do. It could change your life as well as somebody elses!

Volunteering is a 2 -way process!

Volunteering can provide a stepping stone into paid work. Volunteering can help you to become more employable. You can:-

• learn new skills • practise the skills you have •
• become more confident • improve your CV • pick up good ideas •
• show employers you can be reliable • meet people • make useful contacts •
• have things to talk about in a job interview • get references •


The short answer is … YES! People are allowed to volunteer while claiming state benefits, including means-tested benefits such as Job Seekers’ Allowance, Incapacity Benefit and Income Support, just so long as the rules are followed. Read on for basic guidance and links to other sources of information.

What is volunteering?

You choose to give your time and energy to benefit other people, or the environment, without being paid for it. But you can receive actual expenses, so you needn’t be out of pocket.

As a volunteer, you could:

  • volunteer with a charity or other voluntary organisation
  • volunteer with a public-sector organisation, or
  • help your community

It is not volunteering if you:

  • do something for a family member
  • are given money apart from your expenses, or
  • are under contract to do it (this does not include any volunteer agreement you may have).

The general rules – 2 important things to know:-

Informing benefits advisors

It is compulsory for people claiming benefits to notify their advisers that they are volunteering.
Form ES672VJP has to be completed. It is often reported that people are put off volunteering because of misunderstandings around benefits. Volunteer Centres, and volunteer managers within organisations, can support volunteers by providing information which reassures the Jobcentre about the nature of the volunteering role.

Volunteer expenses

Only actual out of pocket expenses can be reimbursed to volunteers. Any kind of extra payment jeopardises a person’s right to claim state benefits, and benefits claims can be reduced or suspended. e.g. if a volunteer pays £4.30 for travel every day, it might seem easier to round the sum up to £5, but this is not a reimbursement of an actual expense and would constitute a payment.

Volunteers will usually need to produce receipts, bus tickets etc. and complete a simple claim form. Sometimes benefits claimants need to inform their Jobcentre Plus or benefits advisor about their volunteer expenses. People receiving Housing Benefit should also inform their local authority about their volunteer expenses.

Volunteering is an important leisure pursuit for many people who are no longer involved in paid work.
Also, for people who are considering returning to paid employment, it can provide the chance to try out different types of work.

50+ volunteers can bring very special skills to their voluntary work – many will have experienced years of paid employment and family life and gained a variety of “life skills” along the way. Whilst sharing these skills with others they will gain a sense of achievement themselves.

Retirement can provide the chance to do something different……

Time to…

  • Take up new interests & challenges
  • Do something different
  • Put acquired skills to good use
  • Meet people from different walks of life
  • Learn new skills
  • Take on new responsibilities
  • Gain a sense of achievement
  • Do something for others
  • Put something back
  • Choose what you’d really like to do

Being a volunteer means you can do almost anything – anywhere! There are literally thousands of projects to get involved with. No matter how much time you’ve got, or where you are, there’s an opportunity for you.

25% of new volunteers visiting Volunteer Centres are between 16 and 25 years old and more than a quarter of the population of Hertfordshire is aged under 19!

Young people are volunteering in greater numbers than ever before and there are many good reasons for this.


Whilst helping others you’ll help yourself:-

  • get something extra to put on your CV or University / College application forms
  • gain new skills and experiences – many voluntary jobs involve some training
  • experience a taster to see whether a particular job / career would suit you:- in a hospital, shop, or office, with children, with elderly or disabled people, in environmental & conservation work
  • meet new people and have fun!.

Everybody needs some support when they take on a volunteering role, but sometimes people need a bit of extra help before they become confident in their new tasks.

Volunteering can really help volunteers as well as the people they help!

People who might need some extra help to get involved in volunteering include those with disabilities, or recovering from mental ill health, or perhaps people who are generally lacking in self confidence.

Disabled people often feel that they are the recipients of services, and their abilities to give something back to their communities can be overlooked. Reasonable adjustments can be made to enable disabled people to take up volunteering opportunities, and they can offer can valuable insight and experience to those roles. Volunteering is a key route to enabling people from socially excluded groups to participate in their communities.

Volunteering doesn’t have to take up a lot of time. You can choose a voluntary task that fits with your busy schedule.

Some people volunteer just once or twice a year, others get time off to volunteer as part of an employer supported volunteering scheme.

What do employed people get out of volunteering?

  • personal & career development
  • taking on new challenges & experiences
  • developing new and existing skills
  • meeting new people and making new networks
  • raising community awareness
  • putting something back
  • fun ……….& as an antidote to aging!

No wonder then that many companies encourage their employees to volunteer, often giving them time off to work in the community (perhaps an afternoon a month for an individual, or a day a year for a team challenge).

Individual volunteering

Employees can use existing skills to help in the community e.g. a person with an HR background becoming a trustee of a charity and attending quarterly management committee meetings. This experience can be part of a personal develop plan and contribute to career progression.
Alternatively a volunteer might wish to do something completely different as a complete relaxation from work e.g. conservation work for someone who sits at a desk all week. Volunteer Centres can help you find a task which fits your interests and time available.

Group / Team volunteering

This is great for team building exercises and the publicity is beneficial to everyone. Local organisations often need a blitz of voluntary help to complete a particular piece of work and many businesses enjoy involving themselves in such activities.

Examples of projects undertaken by employees from companies include: –

  • Mural painting at a school for children with special needs
  • A work-based fundraising activity for a nominated charity
  • Creating a new shrub border at an elderly care unit
  • Redecorating a Women’s Refuge
  • Creating a wild life pond at a unit for adults with learning disabilities
  • Planting spring flowering bulbs at the Hospice

Volunteer Centres are committed to equality and diversity. We recognise the contribution that all people can make as volunteers and so we welcome enquiries from everyone.

Almost a quarter of men and women in the UK have a criminal record and the majority of these convictions are for single minor offences and therefore the majority of ex-offenders pose no threat to children, young people or vulnerable people. However many potential volunteers who have criminal records are reluctant to apply for voluntary work where this would involve the disclosure of their record. People are often ashamed and embarrassed about their cautions and convictions and/or fear they will not be treated fairly because of them.

We work on the assumption that people applying for voluntary work do so in order to help others, to meet new people, to develop new skills, to make a difference, etc., and have no ulterior motives. With this in mind, we will wherever possible provide information about appropriate opportunities, and the selection procedures involved in taking up those opportunities.

Organisations which involve volunteers have to safeguard their services users, whilst ensuring that potential volunteers, who are ex-offenders, are treated fairly and not penalised for having committed an offence which has no relevance to their volunteering.