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.
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.
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.
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.
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