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What is volunteering?

This is when you choose to give your time and energy to benefit other people without being paid for it. You could do voluntary work with any kind of organisation, including:

• a charity, voluntary organisation or community group
• a public-sector organisation, like your local council
• a social enterprise supporting your local community, or
• a local business.

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).

What if I get State benefits?

We know that volunteering can give you a much better chance of finding paid work. So you can volunteer as many hours as you like while you’re getting benefits as long as you keep to the rules for getting them.

The basic rules are that if you get Jobseeker’s Allowance:

You must not be paid money or anything else for volunteering. It’s OK to be paid your expenses but you must tell the Jobcentre Plus what you get. So make sure you can get hold of your receipts.

You must contact Jobcentre Plus if you want to do any volunteering. We will ask you to fill in a simple form telling us about the volunteering you want to do.

More information is available by downloading the Jobcentre Plus 'Guide to volunteering while getting benefits' below or visit the Jobcentre Plus website link on the right hand side of this page.

Will volunteering affect my other benefits?

You should notify the relevant agency before starting a volunteering position if you receive incapacity benefit (IB), severe disablement allowance, employment and support allowance (ESA), carer’s allowance, industrial injuries disablement benefit, or invalid care allowance (ICA).

Invalid Care Allowance is not affected by volunteering unless it prevents you providing care for at least 35 hours each week. There is no limit to the number of hours someone can volunteer whilst in receipt of IB, though in the past some benefits agencies have claimed that volunteers who volunteer regularly and for a substantial (in their view) amount of time could be seen as fit for work.

Employment and Support Allowance was introduced on 27 October 2008 and, for new claimants, replaces both IB and income support paid because of disability or incapacity (although all claimants will be reassessed for ESA by spring 2014). The regulations for ESA clearly state that claimants will be allowed to volunteer. The regulations also recognise that reasonable expenses can be reimbursed to claimants who volunteer.

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