Volunteering while on benefits

You are free to volunteer while you are receiving benefits. This is as long as the work you do is unpaid and you meet the rules of your benefit. Always check with your work coach before you start volunteering.

How volunteering affects your 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.

There are no limits on the amount of time you can volunteer for, as long as you continue to meet the conditions of the benefit or tax credit you are receiving.

For example, if you receive Jobseekers Allowance you must:

  • still be actively seeking a full-time job
  • able to go to job interviews at 48 hours' notice
  • be available to work at one week’s notice

However, in most cases, if you volunteer full-time and receive an allowance from your volunteering organisation you won't usually be eligible to receive benefits. It is always advisable to discuss your choice of voluntary work with your work coach or contact the Jobs and Benefits office that pays your benefit, before you start.

How voluntary work is defined

In terms of benefits and tax credits, you will be considered as being a volunteer if you:

  • do not receive any money for the work you do (this does not include expenses)
  • are not legally obliged to volunteer
  • do something for a not-for-profit organisation
  • do something for someone who is not a family member

If you receive any money apart from expenses this will usually be treated as income. It will be taken into account when assessing your benefit. This includes payment in kind and ‘pocket money’. If you are not sure about anything you are given above your expenses, contact the Jobs and Benefits office that pays your benefit.

If you choose not be paid for any work you do, this is not the same as volunteering. The wage you would normally receive could be counted as ‘notional earnings’. If you receive an income-related benefit, such as Income Support, Jobseekers Allowance, Employment Support Allowance, Universal Credit or Housing Benefit, it could affect the benefits you receive.

Expenses and allowances

As a volunteer, you may receive money to cover expenses connected with volunteering. These may include the cost of:

  • travel to and from the place you volunteer
  • any special equipment you need, such as waterproof clothes
  • any meals taken away from home during the voluntary activity
  • childcare if you have children

You must declare all your expenses to your Jobs and Benefits office. If the only money you receive is to cover the cost of your expenses from volunteering, your benefit will not be affected.

Some full-time programmes give their volunteers allowances to cover basic living costs and travel. In the case of most benefits (excluding Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment and Carer’s Allowance), you will not be entitled to receive any other benefits.

More useful links

Share this page

What do you want to do?
What is your question about?
Do you want a reply?
Your email address
To reply to you, we need your email address
Your feedback

We will not reply to your feedback.  Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

This feedback form is for issues with the nidirect website only.

You can use it to report a problem or suggest an improvement to a webpage.

If you have a question about a government service or policy, you should contact the relevant government organisation directly as we don’t have access to information about you held by government departments.

You must be aged 13 years or older - if you’re younger, ask someone with parental responsibility to send the feedback for you.

The nidirect privacy notice applies to any information you send on this feedback form.

Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.
Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.

What to do next

Comments or queries about angling can be emailed to anglingcorrespondence@daera-ni.gov.uk 

What to do next

If you have a comment or query about benefits, you will need to contact the government department or agency which handles that benefit.  Contacts for common benefits are listed below.

Carer's Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912
Email 
dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Discretionary support / Short-term benefit advance

Call 0800 587 2750 
Email 
customerservice.unit@communities-ni.gov.uk

Disability Living Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912 
Email dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Employment and Support Allowance

Call 0800 587 1377

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Contact your local Jobs & Benefits office

Personal Independence Payment

Call 0800 587 0932

If your query is about another benefit, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

Comments or queries about the Blue Badge scheme can be emailed to bluebadges@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk or you can also call 0300 200 7818.

What to do next

For queries or advice about careers, contact the Careers Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Child Maintenance, contact the Child Maintenance Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about claiming compensation due to a road problem, contact DFI Roads claim unit.

What to do next

For queries or advice about criminal record checks, email ani@accessni.gov.uk

What to do next

Application and payment queries can be emailed to ema_ni@slc.co.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about employment rights, contact the Labour Relations Agency.

What to do next

For queries or advice about birth, death, marriage and civil partnership certificates and research, contact the General Register Office Northern Ireland (GRONI) by email gro_nisra@finance-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries about:

If your query is about another topic, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

For queries or advice about passports, contact HM Passport Office.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs), including parking tickets and bus lane PCNs, email dcu@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about pensions, contact the Northern Ireland Pension Centre.

What to do next

If you wish to report a problem with a road or street you can do so online in this section.

If you wish to check on a problem or fault you have already reported, contact DfI Roads.

What to do next

For queries or advice about historical, social or cultural records relating to Northern Ireland, use the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) enquiry service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about rates, email LPSCustomerTeam@lpsni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about  60+ and Senior Citizen SmartPasses (which can be used to get concessionary travel on public transport), contact Smartpass - Translink.