Everything you wanted to know…
How much time do I have to commit?
The amount of time you put aside for volunteering is entirely up to you. Volunteering can be as much or as little time as you feel you are able to give. It could be just once a month, once a week or even full time.
You can choose to volunteer for a couple of days a week or can get involved in one-off events, such as marshalling at local events. There are roles that take place in the evening or at weekends, or you can find a role that you can do from home.
To find out more talk with your local Volunteer Centre where they can advise you on roles that match with the commitment you wish to give or you can choose to volunteer informally for an hour at a time with Timebanking.
Are there any age restrictions for volunteering?
There are lots of different volunteering roles and some may not be suitable for all ages. Roles that involve providing support to adults or trustee roles are generally only suitable for people over the age of eighteen. Some roles may also have age restrictions for insurance reasons, or will require an adult to accompany people below the age of eighteen. Some roles are specifically looking for young volunteers. If you’d like to volunteer as a family then your local Volunteer Centre can suggest the roles that are most suitable.
I am over 65. Can I still volunteer?
There are some upper age restrictions for volunteers: for example, some driving roles can have upper age limits due to insurance, but there is plenty of choice if you are over 65. Many organisations value the skills and experience and older person can bring to a role.
I have a disability: can I volunteer?
Yes, there is a wide variety of roles available to people interested in volunteering. We would be happy to talk to you about the different roles available and any additional support you may need.
I am unemployed – will volunteering affect my benefits?
Volunteering shouldn’t affect your right to benefits, as long as the only money you receive is to cover your volunteering expenses, such as travel from home to the volunteering location.
There are no limits on the amount of time for which you can volunteer: however, you should always let your benefit agency know about your volunteering and any expenses that you receive. The new Universal Credit scheme will have some limits attached, the best advice is to speak to your advisor every step of the way.
What kind of training is available?
Most voluntary organisations will provide training. For some roles this will be an induction to the organisation and the environment you will be volunteering in. For those roles that require specific knowledge and skills you will be asked to attend a training course prior to beginning your volunteering and there may be follow-up training later on.
Depending on the role you choose, you can access different kinds of training. For example:
You can volunteer as a first-aider and receive training from the British Red Cross or Essex Ambulance Service. You can learn how to respond in emergency situations and show potential employers you have an important skill, as well as being responsible and reliable under pressure.
A number of volunteering roles offer training which is accredited by Gateway Qualifications (formerly Open College Network OCN): for example, you can train as a youth mentor, or to support victims of crime. Other roles can offer qualifications up to GCSE or BTEC level.
Some volunteering roles can be closely linked to certain careers: the training provided and the experience you gain through doing the role can be a great stepping stone for future employment.
Volunteering is a great way to learn new skills, so don’t be afraid to try something different.
I have had a look at the volunteering opportunities on offer and there is nothing I like.
Let us know what you would like to do and we will work to find you something that matches your skills and interests.
What if I don’t like the role once I have started volunteering?
If you are not enjoying your volunteer role you may leave whenever you like. However, you will be supported in your role so there will be lots of time to talk with the organisation you are volunteering with to make sure the role is meeting your needs and you are enjoying volunteering.
Will my expenses be paid?
It is good practice for volunteer organisations to offer their volunteers reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses. This could include the cost of travel to and from the place you volunteer, the cost of any special equipment you need such as waterproof clothes, the cost of any meals taken away from home during the voluntary activity, or the cost of childcare if you have children.
Many voluntary agencies will pay expenses, and you will be provided with more information when you register an interest.
Do I need references and/or a police check?
Different organisations have different methods of recruiting volunteers, and the number of checks they do will depend on the role you are applying for. Almost every organisation will want to meet you before recruiting you as volunteer; this is also a good chance for you to see how the organisation works before committing to go ahead.
For volunteering roles involving activities with children or vulnerable adults, you will be asked to complete a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check to help to ascertain your suitability for a role.
Having a conviction or offence on your DBS check will not be an automatic barrier to volunteering with vulnerable people or children. The organisation will consider factors such as severity of offence, how long ago it took place and whether it is relevant to the role for which you are applying. If you have any questions about completing a DBS check, you can speak to your local Volunteer Centre in confidence or visit the Disclosure and Barring Service website.
What can I do?
There are hundreds of different ways you can get involved with volunteering. For example, if you:
- Enjoy being outdoors, you could train as a walk leader and support people to get fit through gentle exercise. You could also get involved with a local environmental group and join a volunteer group in conservation work parties
- Want to pass on your experience, you could volunteer with young people or ex-offenders as a mentor, or help out in an office
- Enjoy company and want to meet new people, you could get involved with an older persons social group, befriend someone with a disability or visit a family to provide support to parents who are experiencing difficulties
- Want to learn new skills, you could train as counsellor or advice worker, help renovate historic boats, train to respond in emergencies, or train to provide health advice
- Want to try something different, you could volunteer at a holiday camp for inner city children or for people with disabilities, become a children’s entertainer, or train to respond to a 999 call
- Want to use your vocational skills to help the community, you could become a charity trustee and assist with management, fund-raising, marketing or accounts.
Where can we find out more?
To find out more about volunteering roles in your area contact your local Volunteer Centre for an informal chat.