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Volunteering FAQs

Answers to the most often asked questions about volunteering with a local Citizens Advice.

If you’ve already decided to volunteer, or have specific questions that aren’t covered here, find out if your local Citizens Advice is looking for volunteers in your area, choose one and fill out our quick online enquiry form. They'll get in touch with you to discuss the options.

ExpandDo I contact my local Citizens Advice to tell them I'm interested in volunteering?

You can either contact your local Citizens Advice directly or search for opportunities and fill in your details on our online enquiry form, which will be sent automatically to the local Citizens Advice of your choice. Someone from the local Citizens Advice will then get in touch with you. You do not need to do both.

ExpandWhat will happen when my chosen local Citizens Advice contacts me?

All local Citizens Advice have slightly different recruitment procedures. They will probably send you more information about the work that they do, and about volunteering opportunities specific to their local Citizens Advice. They may invite you for an open day or an informal chat, and you will be asked to fill in an application form. You will then be invited to an interview and, providing both you and the local Citizens Advice are happy that you are right for the role you want to volunteer in, you'll start volunteering shortly afterwards. You will receive a full induction at the local Citizens Advice. 

ExpandWill I have to complete an application form or have an interview?

Yes, but remember the application form and interview is a two-way process. It enables the local Citizens Advice to find out more about you, to ensure that you are suitable for the role, but also enables you to ensure that the volunteering opportunity meets your needs and interests.

ExpandI've got specific skills and experience, can you use them?

One of the strengths of the Citizens Advice network is the diverse range of backgrounds, skills and experiences our volunteers bring to their roles. Naturally, different local Citizens Advice have different opportunities available according to their needs. Your local Citizens Advice will be able to tell you more about the specific opportunities they can offer you, but you can read what our volunteers do to find out more about some of the typical opportunities available across the service.

ExpandAre there certain skills I need to be a Citizens Advice volunteer?

It will depend on which role you are interested in. All advisers receive comprehensive free training so do not need any previous qualifications or experience. However, you will need to be open-minded, non-judgemental, be able to listen, learn, and work in a team. In most other roles, volunteers will usually need some form of prior experience. However, local Citizens Advice are learning environments and volunteering in any role will give you the chance to develop your skills.

ExpandWhat will I get out of volunteering for Citizens Advice?

 All our volunteers get something slightly different from the experience. Some of the most common benefits reported are:

  • making a difference to an individual’s life
  • changing the way things work for the better
  • receiving highly respected training
  • getting invaluable work experience
  • developing new skills
  • putting existing skills to good use
  • getting involved with the community
  • making new friends. 

ExpandDo you provide training?

All advisers receive comprehensive free training, which is recognised and respected throughout the country. The training programme consists of observation, working through self-study packs, and a three day course run by Citizens Advice. You will be supported throughout your training by an in-bureau Guidance Tutor. Most local Citizens Advice have several trainees at any one time, so you are likely to be training with other new volunteers. We find that most people complete the adviser training programme in 6-12 months, although this will, of course, depend on how much time you are able to commit to it.

ExpandDo you always need volunteers?

Generally, the Citizens Advice network needs around 5,000 new volunteers every year to meet the constant demand for advice, although each local Citizens Advice will have their own specific needs. Search for opportunities, fill in your details on our online enquiry form and your chosen local Citizens Advice will contact you will contact you directly with information about local volunteering opportunities.

ExpandWhat support will I get as a volunteer?

All volunteers are fully supported and supervised throughout their involvement with Citizens Advice. There will be a paid member of staff that you can turn to for extra support if you feel you need it. There is an Advice Session Supervisor on duty at each advice session to guide and assist volunteer advisers. We make sure that you are not put in situations that are beyond your abilities, and will work with you to help ensure that you find volunteering with us both challenging and rewarding.

ExpandHow much time do I need to give?

There is no minimum time requirement to volunteer with the local Citizens Advice. You should discuss with your local Citizens Advice manager the time you have available, your interests, and skills, and how they fit with local Citizens Advice needs.

ExpandWhen / what times can I volunteer?

Local Citizens Advice tend to be open during office hours. If you work full time and are therefore never available during the day it is unlikely you will be able to train as an adviser, although some local Citizens Advice do run weekend and evening sessions. Other roles are more flexible in the times that you can volunteer. Some roles even allow you to volunteer from home for part of the time, eg trustee, fundraiser, PR officer. You'll need to discuss the details with your local Citizens Advice when they contact you.

ExpandWill I get my expenses paid?

All local Citizens Advice reimburse travel and other out-of-pocket expenses. Some local Citizens Advice can also pay for carers' expenses.

ExpandAre childcare costs covered?

All local Citizens Advice reimburse travel and other out-of-pocket expenses. Some bureaux can also pay for carers' expenses.

ExpandWhen can I start?

Search for opportunities and fill in your details on our online enquiry form. Your chosen local Citizens Advice will then contact you to talk through options. Discuss with them the role you are interested in and when you can start. Local Citizens Advice will generally want you to start as soon as possible. If you are interested in training as an adviser, there may be a slight delay before the local Citizens Advice is able to take on new trainees – simply to ensure that you receive the highest quality resources, support and personal attention.

ExpandWhat are the chances of getting a job afterwards?

Nearly one third of volunteers who leave us go on to paid employment. Local Citizens Advice volunteering provides skills and experience that is valued by many employers. A lot of paid local Citizens Advice staff, for example managers, case workers and administrators, started out as volunteers.

ExpandWhat age restrictions are there on volunteering?

Citizens Advice volunteers need to be 16 or over. There is no upper age limit for volunteers.

ExpandI work full time, can I still volunteer?

There are opportunities in some local Citizens Advice for evening and weekend work, though volunteering as an adviser generally needs to be done during normal office hours. Trustee boards members tend to meet in the evenings so being a trustee can be particularly suitable for people who work full time.

ExpandWhat volunteering opportunities are there for students?

Many students (eg policy and law) find local Citizens Advice volunteering complements their course and provides them with valuable work skills for the future. Speak to your local Citizens Advice to see how you can fit in your time with them. It is possible to move to another local Citizens Advice elsewhere after you leave college.

ExpandWill volunteering affect my jobseeker's allowance?

Citizens Advice volunteering will not affect jobseeker's allowance (JSA) provided you:

  • remain available for and are actively seeking a full time paid job
  • take reasonable steps to find a job (e.g. answering adverts, signing up with an agency and taking other steps required by the Jobcentre Plus office)
  • inform the Job Centre/ Jobcentre Plus office that you are volunteering
  • can attend interview within 48 hours and take up work within one week.

Local Citizens Advice can help you by providing a standard letter stating that the volunteer:

  • receives no remuneration, only reimbursement of actual out-of-pocket expenses, which does not count towards the JSA ‘earnings disregard’
  • can be contacted whilst volunteering at the local Citizens Advice if a job opportunity becomes available
  • can be available at a week’s notice to start work or attend an interview with 48 hours’ notice.

Volunteering should not affect income support as long as you are not receiving any money other than reimbursement of expenses.

ExpandWill volunteering affect my other benefits?

You should notify the relevant agency before starting at the local Citizens Advice 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).

ICA 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.

ESA 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.

Local Citizens Advice can help by providing a letter for the volunteer confirming the number of hours, that these hours are unpaid, and that volunteering is far more flexible and cannot be regarded as the same as paid work.

There are some benefits that are not affected by volunteering and where the relevant agencies do not need to be informed that the person is volunteering. These include; state retirement pension, council tax benefit, housing benefit, statutory maternity pay, maternity allowance, war widow's pension and widow's pension.

Your next step?

Could you join us? Search for volunteering opportunities with us.