What is volunteering? “Volunteering is an activity that involves spending time, unpaid, doing something that aims to benefit the environment or individuals or groups other than, or in addition to, close relatives.”
Principles of Volunteering
Choice: Volunteering is a choice freely made by individuals. Any encouragement to become involved in volunteering should not result in any form of coercion or compulsion. Freedom to volunteer implies freedom not to become involved.
Diversity: The diverse people of Hertfordshire bring a wide variety of skills, qualities and experience to the voluntary and community sector and this diversity needs to be recognised, respected and valued. Volunteering should be open to all, no matter what their background, age, race, sexual orientation, faith, etc. Volunteering can also help overcome social exclusion through new skills, experience, confidence and contacts gained while helping others.
Reciprocity: Volunteers offer their contribution unwaged but should benefit in other ways in return for their contribution to wider social objectives. Giving voluntary time and skills must be recognised as establishing a reciprocal relationship in which the volunteer also gains. Benefits that volunteers expect to gain include a sense of worthwhile achievement, useful skills, experience and contacts, sociability and fun, and inclusion in the life of LHT and the wider community.
Recognition: The value of a volunteer’s contribution to LHT, to the community, to the social economy and to wider social objectives, is fundamental to the relationship between volunteers, LHT and statutory policy and practice.
- To be given a clear idea of their tasks and responsibilities within LHT
- To be given the name of someone in LHT who will look after their interests and who will offer them appropriate support and supervision on a regular basis
- To be assured that any information shared with LHT is kept confidentially
- To be given the same protection under health and safety regulations and public liability as paid employees
- To be offered opportunities for training and skills development, appropriate for the voluntary tasks involved
- To not be exploited – volunteers should not: –
- be used to replace paid workers
- have unfair demands made on their time
- be asked to do something which is against their principles or beliefs
- To be given the chance to play a part in decision making within LHT
- To not be out of pocket through doing voluntary work. Travel and other expenses should be offered by LHT
- To accept the LHT aims & objectives
- To do what is reasonably requested of them, to the best of their ability
- To treat information obtained whilst volunteering in a confidential manner – this can be information about clients or other workers, paid & unpaid
- To recognise the right of LHT to expect quality of service from all its staff, paid & unpaid
- To recognise that they represent LHT and therefore need to act in an appropriate manner at all times.
- To honour any commitment made to the best of their abilities, notifying LHT in good time should they be unable to keep that commitment e.g. for holidays
- To be willing to undertake appropriate training with respect to Health & Safety issues, Insurance liability and general good practice as necessary for the voluntary work undertaken
- To share suggestions for changes in working practices with the Volunteer Co-ordinator
State benefits and volunteering
There are 2 important things to remember about volunteering with LHT while you are receiving state benefits:-
- You are free to volunteer as long as the work you do is unpaid (apart from out of pocket expenses) and you meet the rules of your benefit. It’s always worth checking with your benefits adviser before you start volunteering with LHT.
- Volunteering is not something you can be forced to do – it’s your choice.
- We NEVER pay a subsistence allowance to any of our volunteers – and never will.
There are rules for different types of benefits:-
Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA)
People receiving JSA can do as much volunteering as they want, as long as they remain available for, and are actively seeking, work. This means that claimants have to show that they are looking for work and applying for jobs where appropriate. People volunteering are entitled to 48 hours’ notice if they are asked to attend an interview, and a week’s notice before starting work. (These are concessions to the 24 hours’ notice normally allowed.)
Volunteering should not affect someone’s Income Support as long as they are not receiving any money other than true reimbursement of expenses.
Incapacity Benefit (IB)
There is a lot of confusion over Incapacity Benefit. This is partly based on misinformation about old rules and partly due to confusion about current rules.
- It is important to note that the “16 hour rule” which set a maximum time limit on volunteering by anyone claiming this benefit no longer exists. An amendment passed in The Social Security (Welfare to Work) Regulations 1998 removed this rule. Now there isn’t a set limit on the amount or type of volunteering that someone can do while claiming Incapacity Benefit.
- People often worry that starting to volunteer will automatically trigger an investigation into their need to claim Incapacity Benefit. This shouldn’t happen and the DWP’s most recent leaflet confirms that “you can still be a volunteer and get Incapacity Benefit or Income Support” as long as claimants follow a set of criteria explained in the guidance. (For further information, please refer to page 13 of “Volunteering while receiving benefits”, DWP/Jobcentre Plus)
- There is occasionally some confusion about volunteering and ‘permitted work’ (similar to the old ‘therapeutic earnings’). The permitted work rule applies only to paid work and should not affect volunteers.
Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
DLA is an allowance paid in acknowledgement of the fact that life for someone with a disability may be more expensive – for instance, someone with mobility problems may be reliant on taxis. Volunteering will not affect whether an individual receives this benefit or not. (For further information, please refer to “Volunteering while receiving benefits”, DWP/Jobcentre Plus)
Housing Benefit/Local Authority Housing Allowance
This is usually paid to people receiving JSA, Income Support, Pension Credit or who have a low income. It should not be affected by volunteering but claimants should inform their local authority about any volunteer expenses they receive. (For further information, please refer to “Volunteering while receiving benefits”, DWP/Jobcentre Plus)
Employment Support Allowance (ESA)
This is a new benefit which was introduced from 27 October 2008. The ESA will replace both Incapacity Benefit and Income Support paid because of disability or incapacity. (Incapacity Benefit and Income Support will continue to be paid to existing claimants; new claimants will receive ESA).
The new regulations on Employment Support Allowance clearly state that claimants will be allowed to volunteer. The regulations also recognise that reasonable expenses can be reimbursed to claimants who volunteer.