New guidance produced by Scottish charities and the UK government clarifies the rules around volunteering when on benefits
People on benefits can be confident that volunteering won’t affect their claim as long as they report it to the Jobcentre, new guidance states.
And people on disability benefits are free to volunteer without fearing that it will automatically trigger a work capability assessment.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has worked with Voluntary Action Scotland and local third sector support bodies to create the new guidance to help people on benefits volunteer with confidence.
We have a clear, shared belief that volunteering can have a very positive impact on people’s employability - Denise Horsfall, DWP
It clearly states that volunteers are entitled to receive out of pocket expenses, such as travel or childcare costs, without losing their benefits income.
There is no limit on the amount of time that people on benefits can volunteer, however they must ensure that they can meet the conditions of their benefits, which may involve spending a certain number of hours a week job searching.
The guidance and a new partnership agreement between the two bodies aims to ensure everyone involved in benefits and volunteering, including claimants, benefits office staff and local volunteer advisors, understands the rules.
In Scotland volunteering contributes a estimated £2.6 billion a year to the economy. Research also shows that people who volunteer are happier, healthier and more employable. Poor people volunteer significantly less though.
Confusion about how many hours a person can volunteer when claiming benefits and whether it will impact on the amount of money they receive is thought to put off many from gaining employability skills through volunteering.
Denise Horsfall, director of the Work Services Directorate (Scotland) at the DWP, said: “We are delighted to be working with VAS and the TSIs on updated customer guidance because we have a clear, shared belief that volunteering can have a very positive impact on people’s employability.
“It can boost confidence and build skills and it can also prove invaluable, particularly for those furthest removed from the labour market, demonstrating personal values, commitment, initiative, skills, work experience and providing up-to-date references.”
Allan Johnstone, acting chief executive of Voluntary Action Scotland, added: “If we want to achieve a fairer Scotland it is imperative that public policies support all the contributions that people make to society and to our communities.
“We must ensure that employment and social security policies do not undermine our shared efforts to empower communities and support volunteering. We are determined to listen and respond effectively to people’s experiences of welfare benefits.”