Answers to common questions about volunteering with local Citizens Advice.
Frequently asked questions about volunteering in the Witness Service can be found here.
Click on each question below to show the answer.
If you have a specific question that isn't covered here, find out if your local Citizens Advice is looking for volunteers in your area then fill out the quick online enquiry form. Your local Citizens Advice will get in touch with you to answer any questions you have and discuss volunteering options.
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.
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 usually be asked to fill in an application form. You will usually be invited to an interview. The interview is a two way process, and so providing that both you and the local Citizens Advice are happy that you're right for the role you want to volunteer in, you'll start volunteering shortly afterwards. You'll receive a full induction at the local Citizens Advice.
All volunteers receive an induction when joining their local Citizens Advice. All advisers receive comprehensive free training, which is high quality and well respected. This training may consist of working through study packs, either individually or as a group, face to face courses and observing advisers or other volunteers and staff in their roles.
You'll receive support throughout your training and when you undertake your volunteer role. We find that most people complete the full adviser training in 6-12 months, although this will, of course, depend on how much time you are able to commit to it. For other roles such as assessors or information/digital assistants, there is usually shorter training available (perhaps taking 3 months) but which will involve some of the elements mentioned above. For other roles there may be other training offered within the local Citizens Advice.
The local Citizens Advice will be able to provide you with more information about what training is available for the role you're interested in.
All advisers receive comprehensive free training so do not need any previous qualifications or specific experience. In many roles you may need some basic skills or experience (such as being familiar with a computer and searching the internet, or being able to talk to people). To get more of an idea of this see our 'What our volunteers do' page and also 'What our trustees do' if you are interested in a finding out more about what is involved in being a trustee. Your local Citizens Advice can give you more information.
Local Citizens Advice are learning environments and volunteering in any role will give you the chance to develop your skills. For all roles you'll need to be open-minded, non-judgemental, be able to listen, learn, and work in a team.
All our volunteers get something different from their volunteering experience. Some of the most common benefits reported are:
- making a positive difference to peoples' lives
- receiving high quality training that is well respected
- getting invaluable work experience
- developing new skills such as communication, problem solving, analytical skills, IT etc.
- using existing skills and knowledge in a new environment
- improving self esteem, confidence and wellbeing
- getting to know the community better
- meeting new people from a range of backgrounds
- making friends
- feeling valued and part of a team
- making a positive contribution to the community
- changing the way things work for the better
Around 30% of our volunteers who leave local Citizens Advice 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.
Volunteers are fully supported and supervised throughout their time at Citizens Advice. When you join the local Citizens Advice you will get more details about who is supporting you day to day, and with any training you may be doing. Local Citizens Advice will work with you to help ensure that you find volunteering with us rewarding.
If you are an adviser, there is an Advice Session Supervisor on duty at each advice session to guide and support you. We make sure that you're not put in situations that are beyond your abilities and that there is someone there to support you if you need it.
There is no overall minimum time requirement to volunteer with local Citizens Advice. The local Citizens Advice that you apply to, will give you more information about what kind of time commitment they are looking for, for each role. You should discuss with the local Citizens Advice the time you have available and your interests and skills, to explore what possible roles would be suitable, both to fit in with you, and the local Citizens Advice's needs.
When / what times can I volunteer?
Local Citizens Advice tend to be open during office hours (Mon - Fri 9am - 5pm). Roles that involve giving information, advice and support to clients will usually require you to be available for a certain amount of hours during these times. The amount of hours and which days required will vary between each local Citizens Advice.
If you work full time and are 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. You should discuss your availability with the local Citizens Advice who will be able to explore what roles may be available to you.
There are many other roles that could be more flexible in the times that you can volunteer. Some roles could involve volunteering from home for part of the time, e.g. trustees usually meet in the evenings so can be particularly suitable to people working full-time. Fundraising roles may also be suitable. Some offices may also be able to facilitate volunteers providing email or webchat advice from home. You should discuss the possible options with your local Citizens Advice when they contact you.
What volunteering opportunities are there for students?
Many students find local Citizens Advice volunteering complements their course and provides them with valuable work skills for the future, particularly, but not limited to policy, law and social work. Speak to your local Citizens Advice to see what roles and time availability may be suitable for both you and them. It is possible to move to another local Citizens Advice elsewhere after you leave college or university.
Many local Citizens Advice will reimburse reasonable travel to and from training sessions, and some will reimburse travel to and from the office for your volunteering shift and other out-of-pocket expenses. Some local Citizens Advice can also pay for carers' expenses. Local Citizens Advice will let you know during the recruitment process, what expenses they can reimburse.
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, your availability 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 volunteer advisers – simply to ensure that you receive the highest quality resources and support.
The minimum age for Citizens Advice volunteer advisers is 16.
The minimum age to become a trustee is 16 or 18 (your local Citizens Advice will be able to confirm which).
There are many other volunteer roles that may be suitable for under 16s and your local Citizens Advice will be able to discuss these with you. See some of our roles for more information. There is no upper age limit for volunteers.
Can I volunteer if I have a criminal record?
Citizens Advice have a policy in place to ensure that ex-offenders are treated fairly. Having a criminal record is not, in itself, a barrier to volunteering. We consider each offence individually, looking at issues like risk to the client, how long ago it took place, the circumstances and whether they are relevant to the volunteer role. Anyone with a caution or conviction for a sexual offence against a child or vulnerable adult is considered unsuitable to volunteer.
Generally, the Citizens Advice network is always recruiting for volunteers as they are invaluable in helping us to meet the huge demand for information and advice. 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 directly with information about their specific local volunteering opportunities.
If you are in receipt of benefits, including means-tested benefits, you are fully entitled to volunteer for as many hours as you wish, as long as you continue to keep to the rules or conditions for getting that benefit.
For example, if you are in receipt of Jobseekers' Allowance, you are fully entitled to volunteer as long as you meet the conditions of your claim (e.g. remain available for and actively seeking a full time paid job etc.) Or if you are receiving Carers' Allowance, you need to continue to provide at least 35 hours a week of care to the person who is receiving the disability benefit. For Jobseekers' Allowance, Carers' Allowance and Income Support, you should inform the Jobcentre Plus office that you are volunteering.
For Employment Support Allowance (ESA), Incapacity Benefit (IB) and Universal Credit claims, you are fully entitled to volunteer and similarly should inform the Jobcentre Plus office of any volunteering you do.
If you are in receipt of disability benefits such as ESA, IB or Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payment (PIP) you should take care that your volunteering activity does not appear to conflict with your condition.
You do not need to inform Jobcentre Plus if you are volunteering if you are in receipt of DLA or PIP, unless your care/mobility needs have changed.
There is no need to inform HMRC of any volunteering if you're in receipt of Working Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit.
If you're in receipt of Housing Benefit and/or Council Tax Reduction you should inform your local authority that you are volunteering.
You should only receive actual out-of-pocket expenses (these are expenses that you might incur in order to volunteer, e.g. travel to where you volunteer).
Local Citizens Advice/Witness Service can help you by providing a standard letter confirming that the role is a volunteer one, the number of hours you are volunteering, that these hours are unpaid and that you're only receiving actual out-of-pocket expenses.
For more information about things to consider when taking up volunteering see this helpful NCVO guidance.
If you have any other questions around this, you could discuss this with your local Citizens Advice. Further information is available on the Gov.uk website: Volunteering.
Your next step?
Come and join us!
Alternatively, find out more about volunteering with Witness Service.