Volunteering on Benefits – November 2015

Here is some current information from Jobcentre Plus, which you might find useful when engaging volunteers that are on benefits.

1.         The rules and regulations surrounding volunteering will not change with the introduction of Universal Credit.

2.         There is no 16 hour rule to volunteering. A customer can volunteer for as many hours as they wish to as long as they can prove they are actively seeking and available for work. Obviously if they are volunteering for 40 hours a week then actively seeking may be harder to prove.

3.         Once a customer informs their Work Coach that they are thinking of volunteering the work coach issues them with form VOLWORK1JP. On its return the work coach looks at the information and notes the volunteering activity or sends to a decision maker if there is a question on the activities undertaken / organisation /company it is with.

4.         Customers must still take steps to seek work in the weeks they are volunteering. These steps will be agreed with their work coach and recorded on a claimant commitment. The claimant commitment is a joint document that highlights agreed steps and actions to move the customer closer to or into work. E.g. to research an employer, ready for job application / interview, writing a CV, registering on internet jobsites etc.

5.         A customer who volunteers must be available for work of at least 40 hours each week unless their availability is restricted for some other reason e.g. has caring responsibilities. Availability for someone involved in volunteering can be accepted so long as they are willing and able to:
•           Attend a job interview on being given 48 hours’ notice
•           Start work on being given a week’s notice
•           Rearrange or give up volunteering to start a job if it overlaps with their pattern of availability
•           Attend an interview in connection with their job-search.

6.         Work coaches will consider whether the steps a customer has taken in a week are sufficient to meet the actively seeking employment condition. They will take into account any time during which they were doing volunteering and the extent to which it may have improved their prospects of securing employment. E.g. a customer who has undertaken volunteering for 3 days every alternative week must take sufficient steps to find work in each week.  It would be acceptable for the customer to take fewer steps during the weeks in which they volunteer than during the weeks they were not volunteering. Again this approach to how volunteering is viewed is discussed with the customer so they understand expectations placed on them whilst volunteering.

‘Time banking’ is sometimes referred to as time exchange schemes. In the Budget the Chancellor announced that Jobcentre Plus would be signposting claimants to time banking. This was in response to a review into the Sharing Economy and was agreed by the Minister for Welfare Reform and the Minister for Employment.

Time banking is an exchange of time where everyone’s time is equal regardless of the activity involved. It is reciprocal and informal with local people helping others in the community, building community cohesion, helping to improve confidence and making people feel valued in a way that they may find enjoyable and rewarding.

People undertaking time banking exchanges benefit from their involvement by increased self-esteem and self-confidence, which can lead to the person undertaking more formal volunteering or training courses.

Work Coaches will be required to signpost claimants to digital platforms/websites

November 2015

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