If you're worried about volunteering, find out everything you need to know before you take on a new opportunity.

Worried about Volunteering?

Volunteering is a great way to make friends, gain experience and give something back to you community. Whilst you’re looking for work, it’s a great way to fill the time, add something worthwhile onto your CV and develop new skills. Whilst there are plenty of benefits to volunteering, some people have questions and concerns about getting started. We take a look at some of the potential barriers to starting in a volunteer role, some of the questions from those worried about volunteering, and how these might be overcome.

I don’t want to commit to volunteering every week

That’s okay, there are plenty of short-term volunteer roles available as well. Not all volunteer roles are a big commitment or a regular, fixed time. Some volunteer opportunities might be just for a few hours or day, either as a one-off or on a casual basis to suit you. 

For example, there are seasonal roles like packing Christmas food parcels or helping at a homeless shelter, or one-off placements like helping with a renovation project or helping out during an event.

Do I have the skills required to volunteer?

Sure, you do! Sometimes being a volunteer can just involve you listening to people and being supportive to them.  Most just require time and enthusiasm – or an extra pair of hands! For those that involve working with individuals with specialist needs or helping out with something that requires a little bit more know-how, don’t forget that training will usually be provided.

You won’t simply be thrown in at the deep end. Many volunteering roles are all about being part of a team, so chances are you’ll be shown the ropes by someone whilst you settle in or even given a more formal induction or training course. Learning new skills is a key part of volunteering and you might even be able to gain qualifications as well.

Don’t forget however, not all volunteering roles are about doing something new, or working with others. Some rely on your existing skills (like helping out with marketing or social media for example) and some are working independently (such as delivering the local community newspaper). 

What if I’m nervous about volunteering?

It’s a good idea to speak with someone from the organisation you want to volunteer with first so that you know what the volunteer role entails before you start. This will put your mind at ease and help you look forward to getting started. 

Feeling nervous on your first day is completely normal, it’s a bit like your first day at a new school or a new job! Whilst it will take a bit of time to get to know people and exactly what you should be doing, you’ll soon become part of the team and learn just how rewarding helping others can be.

What if I don’t like what I am asked to do, can I stop?

Yes. You can stop volunteering in that particular role if you aren’t happy.  Always talk to your supervisor within the organisation if you can, but if that’s not possible or you don’t feel comfortable to do so, then please talk to Mark and let him know.

I don’t have money to travel to the place I would like to volunteer

Tell the organisation you are going to volunteer with that you don’t have money for your travel to reach them.  They may be able to help with travel expenses for you.

I have a disability. Can I still volunteer?

Yes you can!  Some organisations look particularly for people with disabilities to work with them, Kiera’s Kingdom in Stockport is one example. They work with people with chronic illnesses and mental health issues.

If perhaps your mobility is limited but you are able to use a phone or laptop perhaps you could think about looking for a volunteer role where you are talking with people and supporting them that way.  

Will Volunteering affect my Disability benefits?

Disability living allowance (DLA), personal independence payment (PIP) and attendance allowance are payable whether or not you are working. They are not means tested, so earnings do not affect the amount of your benefit.

Starting a job may suggest that your care or mobility needs have changed, so your benefit entitlement could be reconsidered. It is possible that your care needs may actually increase if you move into work. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) views starting or leaving work as a potential ‘change of circumstances’ for DLA and PIP. 

Will Volunteering affect my Housing benefits?

No, volunteering will not affect your housing benefit.  You will receive 10 points on your housing application, if you are bidding. If someone is on the housing register and is volunteering for 8 hours per week, demonstrating a community contribution, then they are entitled to 10 points.

Unfortunately, 125 credits is not enough for a house move as the current demand is so high.

What you need to do to add your volunteering role to your housing application:

  • Confirmation from the organisation via business email or on letter headed paper confirming the name of the person, when volunteering started and to acknowledge they consistently complete a minimum 8 hours per week.
  • You will need to add your name and your application number.
  • Send this info to your housing association contact.

Will Volunteering affect my work and universal credit?

If you are working as a volunteer under universal credit, the time you spend doing voluntary work can reduce by half the number of hours that the DWP will require you to look for work. 

This doesn’t mean there’s a limit on how much voluntary work you can do. For example, if you are volunteering for 35 hours a week and you are required to look for work for 35 hours a week, this requirement can be reduced by half to 17.5 hours.

Will Volunteering affect my Employment and Support Allowance?

If you get ESA, you are allowed to do voluntary work for anyone other than a relative.

 A ‘relative’ is a parent (in-law or step-parent), son/daughter (in-law/step), brother, sister, or the partner of any of them; or a spouse or partner, grandparent, grandchild, uncle, aunt, nephew or niece.

You must not be paid for your work, other than reasonable expenses in connection with that work. Permitted expenses could include travel, meals, childminding, the costs of caring for a dependent, equipment needed for work and use of a telephone. There is no limit on the number of hours you can volunteer.

Can I work more than 16 hours a week?

Yes, if the work is either voluntary or ‘supported permitted work’.

Supported permitted work

The work must be either:

  • supervised by someone from a local council or voluntary organisation who arranges work for disabled people
  • part of a treatment programme under medical supervision

You can still earn no more than £140 a week.

For more information:

Disability Rights UK Factsheet F35




If you’re worried about volunteering and would like to speak to someone about the different volunteer roles available in Stockport, you can learn more by visiting the Stockport Volunteer Hub.

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