Frequently Asked Questions About Volunteering 

  1. Who can volunteer?
  2. How much time do I have to give?
  3. Can I volunteer while on benefits?
  4. I have a disability.  Can I still volunteer?
  5. Does it cost me to volunteer? 
  6. Will I be given training?
  7. Do I need a disclosure check / PVG?
  8. I have a criminal conviction.  Can I still volunteer?
  9. Will I be insured to volunteer?
  10. English is not my first language, does that matter?
  11. Can I leave a position if I don’t like it?


Who can volunteer?

Anyone. There are rarely upper age limits; although occasionally, some roles require volunteers to be over 16.

How much time do I have to give?

You can volunteer for as much or as little time as suits you. Sometimes, it depends on the role you are doing but mostly it depends on how much time you can give. It can be days, evenings, weekends or a mixture. The role description will state if you’re needed at specific times.

Can I volunteer while on benefits?

Yes. There is a lot of misinformation about what you can and cannot do. If you are claiming benefits you must tell your benefits adviser. If you are claiming Job Seeker's Allowance (JSA) you must still actively seek work and be available to start at any opportunity. Volunteering shouldn't affect your benefits as long as the only money you receive is reimbursement of expenses.

I have a disability.  Can I still volunteer?

Yes, absolutely (however, it must be noted some roles are not suited for all). Volunteer placements are interested in your ability not your disability. Some roles may require making a few simple adjustments to meet your needs. Thanks to digital technology more people can experience volunteering from home, if they prefer. However, if you want more social interaction there is everything from befriending to yachting available.

Does it cost me to volunteer?

Volunteering should only cost you your time. Most organisations pay reasonable out of pocket expenses such as travel costs. However, this isn’t true for all groups. We request information about volunteer expenses when a role is registered with us. Meaning, you should know at your initial enquiry if these are paid or not.

Will I be given training?

This depends on the role and the organisation. Some organisations offer substantial training and support; while others expect you to learn on the job or contribute existing skills. It also depends on the type of work you will be doing. Any available information regarding training will be provided when you first inquire.

Do I need a disclosure check / PVG?

No, not always. Most volunteering opportunities don’t require criminal record disclosure. The exception is if you are likely to be in regular contact with children or ‘vulnerable’ adults. In these cases, the organisation you’d like to volunteer with may be legally obliged to conduct a disclosure check. These policies are in place ensure that you do not have any previous convictions that would make you unsuitable for working alongside children or vulnerable adults. If you do require a PVG the organisation will organise this on your behalf and there is no cost to the volunteer.

I have a criminal conviction.  Can I still volunteer?

Yes, you can.  Convictions do not automatically exclude people from volunteering. The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act is there to make sure you are not discriminated against because of a criminal conviction. Nevertheless, depending on your conviction, it may limit what you are able to do.

The amount of information you decide to disclose is entirely up to you. However, we find that those who choose to disclose convictions are more likely to be given an opportunity to explain the circumstances. Additionally, it is a chance to highlight any new skills you’ve gained while in prison or undertaking community service.

Will I be insured to volunteer?

There is no outright answer for this. Most organisations and groups will have public liability insurance to cover their activities but volunteers are not always automatically covered. Similarly not all employers’ liability covers volunteering. Organisations registered with VAER must have volunteer insurance. If you have concerns or are in doubt about your insurance status ask the organisation for clarification.

English is not my first language, does that matter?

Many organisations could benefit from volunteers who have a background in more than one language and your first language could be a real asset to them. The staff at VAER can help you with your application if you are struggling to understand what is being asked.

Can I leave a position if I don’t like it?

Yes. You are under no obligation to keep volunteering for an organisation if you are unhappy. However, it is always worth talking to somebody about this first. This could be your volunteer co-ordinator, a supervisor or someone in the organisation who is responsible for you or someone who you have got on with well. You can then discuss with them why you feel unhappy and what you feel would improve your time as a volunteer in the organisation. 

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. The organisation would much rather try and resolve the issues making you unhappy than for you to leave.