How volunteering affects your benefits - overview

This advice applies to Scotland. See advice for See advice for England, See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Wales

You can volunteer while claiming benefits, as long as you keep to the conditions of the benefits you get. Check the rules about volunteering for the benefit you claim to make sure your benefits aren't affected.

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. You should always keep receipts for expenses - your benefit provider might ask for these as proof.

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. 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.

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.

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

If you get Carer’s Allowance

Tell your local Jobcentre Plus office when you plan to start volunteer work.

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 benefits because you're sick or disabled

You can volunteer as many hours as you like, but tell the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) before you start.

Explain to the person assessing you how your health affects your ability to volunteer. You should also tell them about any adjustments you might need to volunteer.

The DWP might look at the work you do as a volunteer and reassess you to see if your health has improved.

You should keep any receipts for expenses while volunteering. You should still attend meetings or assessments organised by the benefit provider while you're volunteering. You might be able to arrange different times for these meetings if it's necessary.

If you get Housing Benefit or a Council Tax Reduction

Tell your local council when you plan to start volunteering, they might ask you for details of the work.

Page last reviewed on 02 December 2020