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Advice Column: Volunteering and Benefits

Hello. I am thinking about volunteering but am worried about my benefits stopping if I do. Do you have any advice?

Volunteering is an opportunity to meet new people, learn something new, and help make a difference to others, build your confidence and share your knowledge and skills with others.

You are allowed to volunteer for as many hours as you like as long as you keep to the rules for getting the state benefits.

The first rule is that it must conform with the definition of volunteering : ‘when you choose to give your time and energy to benefit other people without being paid for it’.

You can volunteer with charities, voluntary or community groups, public-sector organisations, social enterprises or local businesses.

It doesn’t count as volunteering if you are helping out a family member or given money other than for out-of-pocket expenses.


If you get Jobseeker’s Allowance or Income Support

You should:

  • Tell your local Jobcentre Plus office when you plan to start volunteer work
  • Keep all receipts for any out-of-pocket expenses you’re paid whilst volunteering (in case they want to see them).
  • Keep actively looking for work – and still be available to attend a job interview with 48 hours notice.

Volunteering might count as looking for work if:

  • it’s likely to help you find a job
  • it’s reasonable that you’re not being paid for the work you’re doing as a volunteer

Check with your local Jobcentre Plus office if you’re not sure if the volunteering counts as looking for work.

If you can’t work because you’re sick or disabled, you should still tell your Jobcentre Plus office and keep any receipts for and out of pocket expenses. If you get Incapacity Benefit, you should still be available to attend any required meetings or interviews.

If you get Carer’s Allowance

You can volunteer for as many hours as you like, as long as you can still provide at least 35 hours of care each week.

If you get Housing Benefit or a Council Tax Reduction

Tell your local council when you plan to start volunteer work. They might want to see receipts for any out-of-pocket expenses you’re paid whilst volunteering, so hold on to these if you can.

Universal credit

If volunteering you should still undertake any activities, such as job searching, training or other requirements, identified by your Jobcentre Plus adviser. This is likely to be part of a claimant commitment.

When you first attend Jobcentre Plus, your adviser will decide which of four groups you will be put into, depending on your needs and circumstances:

  • if you are unable to work because of illness or disability, or you have a child under one year old, you will have no work-related requirements
  • if you are the sole or main carer of a child aged between one and five years, you will be expected to attend a work-focused interview to help you keep in touch with the world of work and improve your opportunities for work
  • if you have a limited capacity to work, perhaps because of an illness or disability, you may be asked to undertake activities in preparation for work (‘work preparation requirements’)
  • everyone else will be expected to take ‘all reasonable action’ to find a job or increase their hours or pay (‘all work-related requirements’).

Your adviser will draw up a claimant commitment in consultation with you. This will set out which group you are in and what actions, if any, you will be expected to take to find work, find better-paid work or increase your hours. It will also say what will happen if you don’t comply with this (e.g. possible sanctions).

If you are volunteering:

  • the number of hours that you must spend searching for work can be reduced (the maximum reduction in hours is 50% of what you would otherwise spend searching for work, even if you spend more time volunteering).
  • you may be given up to 48 hours’ notice to attend an interview and up to a week’s notice to start paid work (if this is considered reasonable).


Volunteering Opportunities:

Citizens Advice Carlisle & Eden

Volunteers at Citizens Advice come from a range of backgrounds and ages to contribute their time and skills to help deliver this important service.

The benefits are many and our volunteers increase skills and confidence while meeting new people and making a positive difference to people’s lives.

We need people who are prepared to commit to some training and supporting us on a regular and preferably long-term basis, coming in at least once a week.

If you’d like to help people in your community, and can spare a few hours a week, we’d love to hear from you.

If you want to find out more about volunteering with CACE contact or visit

Cumbria CVS

Cumbria CVS can help you to find a volunteering opportunity. They can provide you with a selection of local volunteering opportunities based on your skills, interests and needs and they can put you in touch with these local organisations to progress things with them directly.

Exciting opportunities available include caring, administration, supporting disabled or older people, driving, conservation and being a trustee.

To find out more contact Cumbria CVS today and help make a difference in your local community:

Telephone: 01768 800350

Email: (or complete a form on the website)



Twitter: @cumbriaCVS