Frequently Asked Questions About Volunteering

Volunteering whilst claiming benefits

You can volunteer whilst on benefits and there is no set limit to the number of hours you can do. You must be able to demonstrate you can meet the conditions for receiving your benefits.  On Job Seeker's Allowance this means you are:

  • actively looking for work

  • willing to stop volunteering if you get a job (you must be able to start a job within a week of being offered one)

It is always a good idea to discuss your volunteering with your benefits agency so they are in the picture. Many advisors are supportive and encourage volunteering but if your adviser is unsure, show them or refer them to:

1. page on volunteering
2. The DWP brochure JCP - Volunteering on Benefits 

’m on welfare benefits, can I volunteer?
Yes you can. People receiving Jobseekers Allowance, Income Support, Employment and Support Allowance, Incapacity Benefit and Disability Living Allowance are entitled to volunteer without losing their benefits because the Department for Work and Pensions believes that volunteering can improve your employability. There are some important rules though, which potential volunteers should follow before going ahead with their voluntary work.

Do I need to have a Disclosure check?
About half of all opportunities available via Volunteer Glasgow don’t require criminal record disclosure. If, however, you are going to be in contact with children or supporting ‘vulnerable’ adults, the organisation you are looking to offer your services may have a legal obligation to conduct a disclosures application on you. This is undertaken to ensure that you do not have any impediments or previous convictions that would make you unsuitable for working alongside children or vulnerable adults which could put them at risk. If you have a criminal record, this may not exclude you from volunteering. If you do disclose convictions you will likely be given a opportunity to explain the circumstances. Most convictions do not automatically exclude people from volunteering.

Is there extra support available?
If you are not sure about what you would like to do, or if you lack confidence, have a disability, illness or literacy need that means you’ll require some extra support in your volunteering then see our Guidance and Support page to assist you in finding the right opportunity. Support given to volunteers varies greatly across the voluntary sector and Volunteer Glasgow can help in overcoming barriers to make your volunteering experience rewarding.

Will I get expenses?
Most organisations are keen to reimburse out-of-pocket expenses to volunteers and will do this appropriately. Some choose not to and others would like to but cannot afford it, thereby creating a barrier for people unable to meet the costs from their own pocket. Every opportunity that we’ve listed online indicates whether expenses are paid or not.

Can refugees and people seeking asylum volunteer?
Yes they can. The UK Border Agency recognises volunteering as a purposeful activity and will not prevent people from volunteering. In fact, volunteering is a great way to integrate into a community and for improving spoken English. More details are on “I’m a refugee/seeking asylum“.

How can I use my particular skills?
If you have a specialist skill, and can’t find any opportunities that need it, then email We can promote your talents to over 100s of organisations through our monthly ebulletin and blog. Skills offered have included photography, finance, marketing, IT, languages, art, therapies and business.

What should I expect as a volunteer?
The experience will vary for every opportunity/role and for every group/organisation that you may help, but you should expect:

An induction where you are introduced to the opportunity/role and the organisation, its procedures, and to colleagues. Also a health and safety brief, remit of your role, and how expenses are paid.
A named contact who you can go to with any problems or queries.
Initial training in order to be able to carry out your role. This can vary from an hour to several months.
Ongoing support to provide you with development opportunities and to sustain your skills, motivation and interest in the organisation.
I’ve applied – what happens next?
You should hear from the opportunity provider in the next few days but some can take longer. If you hear nothing from them after the individual opportunity stated response time then contact us and we will follow it up for you. You may then be asked to visit for a chat/interview; complete an application form/references/disclosure check; wait for the next training intake or start tomorrow! Selections methods are varied but you should be kept in the loop at all stages.

Do I have rights as a volunteer?
Volunteers don’t have a legal status in the same way that paid workers do in the UK. Volunteers are not covered by employment law and therefore do not have formal rights to redress in an Employment Tribunal. This means that volunteers don’t have the right to have an organisation follow proper investigative procedures when things go wrong, and they don’t have the right to appeal a decision made by the organisation. You have the right to complain or walk away, but we’d encourage you to complain to give the organisation the chance to investigate and do their best for their volunteers.

Who can I complain to?
If you have an issue, concern or problem that relates to the governance of the organisation, health and safety, data protection or harassment, then there are some external agencies that may be able to help. It should also be noted that whilst volunteers are not covered by employment legislation, they are covered by some other types of legislation. It is recommended that complaints or problems should initially be discussed between a volunteer and their supervisor or line manager through an ad-hoc discussion or in a supervision meeting. If things go wrong, Volunteer Glasgow may be able to intervene and help to suggest possible solutions to the issue or problem.

I’ve got a criminal conviction - can I volunteer?
You can, and many people with criminal convictions do. It all depends on the nature of your conviction, how recent it was, the kind of voluntary role you are interested in and the organisation where you wish to volunteer.  Contact Us for more information and advice.

Will I be interviewed?

Most organisations don't ask you to a formal interview before they take you on as a volunteer, but they will probably invite you in for an informal chat. If the role involves some responsibility (for instance handling money) or if you will be working with people, or with specialist equipment, the interview may be more formal. In either case this initial meeting gives you, and the organisation, a chance to get to know one another.

The sort of questions the organisation will probably want to ask you will vary from one organisation to another and will depend on the type of voluntary work you are interested in. However, a typical interviewer (formal or informal) may ask any of the following:

why you are interested in volunteering
what sort of voluntary work are you interested in
how much time can you offer
what experience you have
what new skills you would like to learn through your volunteer work.
You can ask them anything that you feel unsure about. You may want to check some or all of the following:

how and when will my expenses be reimbursed
what variety there will be in the voluntary work I do
what type of training will I have to do the role
what support or supervision will I get - will there be someone to talk to regularly about how I’m getting on
An informal chat or interview can also give you an opportunity to look at where you will be volunteering and meet some of the other staff and volunteers.  You may also be required to complete an application or registration form and in some cases provide references.

How much time do I need to volunteer for?

This depends on you and the nature of the role you're interested in. You can find volunteering that takes only an hour a month. However, the less time you have the harder it can be to find something that’s right for you, or something that you can get your teeth into!

You can volunteer at any time of the week. While a lot of volunteering takes place during office hours, you can volunteer at evenings and weekends too, again depending on what you want to do. Typical volunteering out of office hours includes befriending, campaigning, helplines, environmental projects, sports and being a member of an organisation’s management committee or Trustee Board.

If you come and see a Volunteer Centre adviser at our drop-in; they will search our database for roles that match the time you have and will help you decide which might suit you best.

Search online through our database of voluntary roles - where you can select exactly what times you will be available.

Can I leave if I don’t like it?

Yes, of course. You are under no obligation to keep volunteering for an organisation if for any reason you don’t like the volunteering you are doing.

However, it is always worth talking to somebody before leaving as it might be possible to address and solve whatever is making you unhappy and this might mean you no longer feel you want to leave.  Also, if you’re experiencing a problem others might too.  By raising a problem you might improve the situation for everyone.

The person to talk to is your volunteer co-ordinator (if there is one), your supervisor or the person in the organisation responsible for you, or someone you have got on well with. You can then discuss the reasons why you feel unhappy and what you feel would improve things for you as a volunteer in the organisation.

It is also something you may want to talk about with other volunteers in the organisation. You could either do this informally, or if your organisation has a Volunteers Council or a regular meeting that all volunteers attend, you could bring up your problem there.

If you feel that something is seriously wrong or someone is treating you badly it is also worth checking whether your organisation has a complaints procedure.

Question number one ?
Links to relevant stuff 

Kyle at the Lighhouse Centre between 10am and 3 pm on:

  • Monday 12 November

  • Monday 04 March

  • Monday 27 May

  • Monday 09 September

Gairloch at the Lighhouse Centre between 10am and 3 pm on:

  • Monday 12 November

  • Monday 04 March

  • Monday 27 May

  • Monday 09 September

Skye & Lochalsh Council for Voluntary Organisations 

A Charity Registered in Scotland SC0177372 and Company Limited by Guarantee SC013885

Tigh Lisigarry, Bridge Road, Portree, Isle of Skye. IV51 9ER

T:01478 612921

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