Frequently asked questions
Who can volunteer?
There’s an opportunity for almost everyone. Volunteers can be:
- People who are former service users
- Old and young
- A variety of ethnic and religious backgrounds
How old do you have to be to volunteer?
There is no legal age limit, although organisations involving volunteers do tend to have a minimum and maximum age limit because their insurance policy does not cover certain age groups (such as under 16s and over 80s).
Can I volunteer if I’m under 16?
Some organisations say that they cannot insure volunteers under the age of 16. Contact us to discuss the range of volunteering opportunities available in this area.
Can I volunteer if I have a disability?
Yes, many organisations are fully equipped to deal with a variety of access and support needs.
Can I volunteer if I have a criminal record?
Each organisation will have a clear policy about involving potential volunteers with a criminal record. There will be volunteering opportunities where you cannot volunteer if you have a criminal record; however there are some where you can. Many opportunities will require you to have a Disclosure and Barring Service Check (formally Criminal Records Check or CRB.
I am not a British national; can I volunteer in the UK?
There are no restrictions on volunteering by EU nationals. The same goes for nationals of Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein. People with refugee status (or who have exceptional leave to remain) and family members can do any type of work including volunteering.
Asylum seekers and family members may volunteer – including whilst they are appealing against a decision to refuse them asylum.
You can find the latest information about volunteering by non-EU nationals, and more details about volunteering by refugees and asylum seekers from Volunteering England.
I’m an asylum seeker/refugee, can I volunteer?
People who have refugee status or have exceptional leave to remain are allowed to do any type of work, including voluntary work. You may have a letter saying that you must not engage in paid work – but this does not apply to roles that are voluntary and you are entitled to receive out-of-pocket expenses.
Do I need a Disclosure and Barring Service Check?
This will depend on the volunteer role that you are looking to do. If you are working with children or vulnerable adults, you can expect to be asked to complete a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.
How do I obtain a Disclosure and Barring Service Check (DBS)?
This will involve you filling in a form giving your name, current and previous addresses and giving proof of who you are and where you live. This will be sent to the Disclosure and Barring Service who will let the organisation know whether you have any previous criminal convictions. This should not cost you anything.
How do I find out about volunteering opportunities?
Due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, our drop-in, appointments and office are closed until further notice. All our staff are still available and working from home. Please call 01604 637522 or email email@example.com we will be happy to help.
What is a Volunteer Centre?
Voluntary Impact Northamptonshire is part of a national network of Volunteer Centres that are recognised by the Government to provide information on volunteering opportunities and to support volunteer-involving organisations.
Where is Voluntary Impact Northamptonshire based?
Located at 15 St Giles Street in Northampton, NN1 1JA, next door to the Guildhall.
How much time commitment do you need to volunteer?
You can volunteer to do as much or as little as you wish. Some places want volunteers at regular times and for regular hours but often this can be arranged at times that suit you.
Other organisations have one off opportunities and others still would be happy to take you just as it suits you. Remember you are the volunteer; you have the right to say ”No”.
How long will I have to commit for?
As a volunteer you are free to leave whenever you like. If things don’t work out or your circumstances change it’s good to talk it through with the person in charge and give them some notice if possible.
I cannot afford to travel to the volunteer organisation, will I be able to claim travel expenses?
This is down to individual organisations which you would need to discuss at the time of interest. Organisations are aware if they do not pay travel expenses then some people may not be able to volunteer with them.
Will it cost me anything to volunteer?
No, however travel expenses being paid are dependent on the organisation you are volunteering for.
What skills do I need to volunteer?
This will depend on what you do. If you don’t have the skills needed, where possible, we’ll help you develop them. Often, enthusiasm, the ability to smile and encourage are the most important skills required.
What will I do when I volunteer?
Only what was discussed for the volunteer role you have shown interest in unless you have agreed to do other areas as your role develops with the organisation. The organisation will give you a contact person who is responsible for supporting volunteers within the organisation should you have any queries or questions.
Will I receive training? I am not very confident!
Volunteers should receive a clear induction and support/training as necessary, as each volunteer has different needs..
Will I be insured as a volunteer?
Organisations which take volunteers should have appropriate insurance. You should be properly insured against any risks involved and should be provided with appropriate equipment/tools/materials to enable you to carry out your tasks. The organisation must make proper health and safety provision.
What will I get out of volunteering?
This is dependent on each volunteer’s circumstances and reasons for volunteering. However it could include building your self-esteem and confidence, gaining a new skill, having something to put on your CV and receive a reference, or being satisfied at giving something back.
Can I claim benefits while volunteering?
Yes. The benefits regulations are clear that you can volunteer. You can find all the latest information about volunteering and benefits, including Jobseekers Allowance and Incapacity Benefit from Volunteering England.
Will volunteering affect my benefits?
No. Volunteering does not affect the benefit payments you receive. Volunteers are not paid for their time but are entitled to be reimbursed for their travel and other legitimate expenses.
People claiming Job Seekers’ Allowance (JSA) can volunteer as long as they remain available for work and are actively seeking paid employment.
People claiming Income Support and/or Disability Living Allowance can volunteer.
People claiming Incapacity Benefit can volunteer for as long as they want. The rule that people receiving Incapacity Benefit could only volunteer for 16 hours a week no longer exists. Volunteering does not affect your “permitted work”.
Please note, if you are in receipt of benefits, please ensure that you declare you are doing volunteering as soon as you start.
I’ve applied for a volunteer role but not heard anything, what do I do?
If you have not heard back from the organisation within 2 weeks, please contact the Volunteer Centre who will be able to follow up for you. However, please be aware that a number of these groups are small or their Volunteer Managers/Co-ordinators only work part-time.
What if I can’t find an opportunity that I like?
Try increasing the range of your search on the database (eg use a 10 mile radius instead of 5) or try an all category search to see a full list of what is available before narrowing it down. If you still have no luck, contact us to discuss further
Will I get paid work or employment from volunteering with an organisation?
Volunteering will not guarantee getting paid work from an organisation. It will, however, give you something to put on your CV, have someone to get a reference from, give you the opportunity to learn new skills and build confidence – which may help you with finding paid work.
I have a legal question about volunteering
Do get in touch with us and see if we can help. There are also some good answers to many common questions about volunteering and the law on the Guardian website.
What are the benefits?
Volunteering is an activity where someone gives their time and skills to benefit others in the local community without pay, but benefits you. It can help you:
- Learn new skills
- Build Confidence
- Improve isolation
- Gain skills that demonstrate competencies on your CV
- Gain an awareness of available career opportunities
- Gain transferable skills
- Check out these 5 easy steps to help you find a suitable volunteering role
How do I volunteer?
Volunteering comes in all shapes and sizes. You can volunteer for a few hours regularly, one off, weekly or monthly, in your neighbourhood, online or in other countries.
Where do I volunteer?
A good way to start- list down the sort of cause/ organisation you would like to help or tasks you would like to do.
What skills can I offer?
Do you have IT skills, housekeeping, driving, teaching, creative, caring, fundraising, organising or perhaps you’re good at making friends. 80% of jobs today are landed through networking, volunteering can provide a platform for this.
How much time can I give?
Be clear about how much time you want/ are able to volunteer from the outset. Also, be clear about other roles and responsibilities you have so that from the outset expectations are set appropriately. Don’t forget to think about the travel time involved.
What organisation is right for me?
Identify organisations that operate in your area or for the cause you are interested in. Check out websites and see what volunteer roles they are looking to fill. Big charities often have a way for you to enquire and apply online. Other organisations may like you to email or write them.