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How Many Hours Can You Volunteer For?
You can volunteer for an unlimited number of hours each week as long as you are still meeting the rules of your benefit. For example you will still need to be available for work if you are claiming Jobseekers Allowance. This means that you need to be available for an interview at 2 days notice, be seeking full-time work and able to begin a job with one weeks notice.
In some cases if you volunteer on a full-time basis and receive reimbursement from your organisation in the form of an allowance this may affect your right to claim benefits. This is an area where you definitely need to seek the advice of your benefits adviser who can clarify your rights and responsibilities in the situation. Depending on the benefit you receive you may look for advice from your local council or Job centre Plus or the Pension Service.
This is also the case where you could be paid for work but choose not to be. This is not considered to be volunteering. In this case the notional earnings that you could earn may be taken into account and deducted from your benefit if it is an income-related benefit. These include Income Support, Housing Benefit, Jobseekers Allowance and Council Tax benefit.
There is no reason at all why claiming benefits should interfere with your ability to reap the rewards of volunteering. It may even help you to bridge the gap to employment or find your way into your chosen career.
What About Expenses?
In many cases volunteers are reimbursed for their expenses in travelling to and from their place of volunteering. This is simply replacing out-of-pocket expenses and should not affect your benefit entitlement in any way. Other items which you can be provided with without it affecting your benefit include the cost of waterproof clothing or other special equipment, the cost of food for meals taken away from home or the cost of childcare to enable you to volunteer.
All expenses need to be declared to your benefits adviser and once they are shown to be legitimate out of pocket expenses they will not be deducted from your benefits. If you receive any additional payments or allowances this may be taken into account and deducted from your payment. For example if you receive pocket money or even payment in kind.
Guide to Volunteering While Claiming Benefits
Volunteering can offer a rewarding way to make the most of time spent on benefits. Not only can you gain new skills but you can also gather useful experience which may help you to find the job or career of your choice. In most cases there should be no problem with you volunteering while claiming benefits. However there are exceptions to this and you should always check with your benefits advisor before embarking on any voluntary work.
You are considered to be a volunteer if you do not receive payment for the work you do (apart from expenses), are not volunteering because of a legal obligation (such as a sentence), help out a non-profit making organisation such as a charity or help someone who is not a family member.