Skip to navigation Skip to content Skip to footer

How volunteering affects your benefits - overview

This advice applies to England

You can volunteer as many hours as you want each week and your benefits won’t be affected. However, depending on the benefits you receive, there are a few things you should know before you start.

Volunteering is unpaid work for someone other than a close relative - for example, working for a charity or not for profit organisation. If you’re a volunteer, you’ll have no contract of employment. This means you decide how many hours you want to volunteer each week.

You won’t be paid for your work, but can be paid for out of pocket expenses. This includes money spent on food, travel or childcare costs whilst volunteering.

If you get Universal Credit

Tell your work coach when you plan to start volunteer work - you can do this by adding a note to your online journal. They might want to see receipts for any out of pocket expenses you’re paid while volunteering, so hold on to these if you can. Payments for expenses aren’t counted as earnings and don’t affect how much Universal Credit you’ll get.

If your claimant commitment says you have to search for work

You can spend up to half of this time volunteering if your work coach agrees. For example, if you have to search for work for 30 hours a week, you can spend up to 15 hours of that time volunteering.

If your work coach agrees, you won’t have to go to a job interview or start work you’re offered straight away. Your work coach can change your claimant commitment so you have to be given:

  • up to 48 hours notice to attend a job interview

  • up to 1 week to start a job if you’re offered one

If you get Jobseeker’s Allowance or Income Support

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

You should keep actively looking for work - and you should 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

Tell your local Jobcentre Plus office 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.

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.

Did this advice help?
Why wasn't this advice helpful?
Did this advice help?

Thank you, your feedback has been submitted.