Volunteering and Jobseeker's Allowance
Want to help out your community while improving your CV, but worried it might affect your Jobseeker's Allowance? Turns out you can volunteer while on JSA.
Volunteering is a great way to help people and can boost your CV. It can show potential employers you have dedication, drive and initiative. It can also be a foot in the door and give you the chance to learn about a job and pick up vital skills and experience.
Can I volunteer and still claim JSA?
You can volunteer for as many hours as you like while you're claiming Jobseekers' Allowance (JSA), as long as you are still actively seeking work and you aren't legally obliged to volunteer. If any potential jobs that you're suitable for come up, you will need to prioritise them over your voluntary work. This means you can't turn down suitable paid work because of your volunteering commitments. In practical terms, this means you must be free to go to an interview if they give you 48 hours' notice.
Are you getting paid for your volunteering?
Another thing to watch out for is whether or not you are getting any money in return for volunteering. Does the organisation offering the volunteering opportunity offer to reimburse your expenses as a volunteer, such as travel costs to get to the organisation or equipment costs (like boots or special clothing) to do what's expected of you as a volunteer? Any reimbursement of expenses, should not affect your entitlement to benefits. However, you should declare all your expenses to your Jobcentre Plus Office. Ask the organisation hosting the volunteering opportunity if they are happy to support you.
If you receive an allowance such as money to cover your food and accommodation, beyond simply reimbursing your costs, this is more likely to affect your benefits. You should ask your personal advisor at your Jobcentre Plus to clarify the situation before you begin volunteering. This booklet from Jobcentre Plus also gives more information about volunteering while receiving benefits (PDF).
Why you should volunteer
Even if you don't have a particular career in mind, voluntary work always looks good on a CV or job application. If you want to look for other voluntary work in your area you can search do-it.org.uk or you can get in touch with your local Volunteer Centre.