There is a lot of confusion over whether volunteering affects an individual’s benefits. This is not helped by the fact that some benefits advisers are poorly informed about volunteering and sometimes give people the wrong advice. In actual fact the rules are quite simple, and it’s well worth knowing them so that you can advise volunteers if they have any queries.
Are people allowed to volunteer if they are claiming benefits?
Although there can be confusion over whether volunteering affects an individual’s benefits or not – including amongst some Jobcentre Plus staff – the rules are actually quite simple. In most cases, there’s no limit to the amount of volunteering that someone can do whilst claiming benefits, as long as they continue to meet the conditions of those benefits.
People claiming state benefits are allowed to receive expenses as long as they only cover their out-of-pocket costs. Any kind of profit could result in their benefits being reduced or suspended.
BUT you must make sure you inform the Job Centre that you are volunteering and get their permission!
Here’s the latest guidance from NCVO on volunteering and claiming benefits
Here’s a summary:
People can volunteer and claim benefits if:
- the only money they get from volunteering is to cover expenses, like travel costs
- they continue to meet the conditions of the benefit they get
If you’re getting State benefits, you can be a volunteer and, in nearly all cases, your benefits will not be affected. However, there are some cases where your benefits can be affected for example, if you get a subsistence allowance or if you’re doing what someone else would normally be paid for.
It’s not volunteering if you:
- help out 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).
Volunteering helps other people and can also help you in many ways.
It can give you a better chance of getting paid work, by helping you to:
- learn new skills
- practise the skills you have
- become more confident
- put some volunteering experience on your CV
- pick up good ideas from other people
- show employers you can keep regular hours and stay committed to a task
- meet people who can help you find paid work
- have things to talk about in a job interview, and
- get references.