Frequently Asked Questions

How much time do I need to give as a volunteer?

How much time you give as a volunteer is entirely up to you – you just need to find an opportunity that matches your chosen time commitment. Some opportunities have specific time requirements, whereas others are flexible. Some opportunities are one off or short term, whereas others require a longer term commitment at sign up. It needs to work for you, otherwise the volunteering experience won’t be a positive one for you or those you are volunteering for.

The BBW Volunteer Network offers a range of different types of volunteering. If you would like some help finding the right role for you. Get in touch.

Can I leave if I don’t like it?

Yes of course. Unlike a job, volunteering is exactly that – ‘voluntary’. However it is best to speak to someone before stopping – whether that be your named supervisor if volunteering for an organisation or us at the Volunteer Network if you are volunteering on the Community Exchange or as a one off. You can discuss with them what you are unhappy about and whether any measures can be put in place to make things better for you. If you feel that something is seriously wrong or someone is treating you badly, it is worth checking whether the organisation has a complaints procedure. Some organisations will take you through an induction process on signing up as a volunteer, and may provide you with a volunteer handbook or give you a volunteer agreement that should give you information on what you should do if you are unhappy or have a complaint.

Do I get my expenses paid?

Some organisations will cover your expenses which could include:

  • Travel to and from your place of volunteering or for travel that takes place during volunteering.
  • Meals taken while volunteering
  • Phone calls/postage
  • Clothing (such as protective/uniforms)
  • Training

Not all organisations will pay expenses. This could be because they don’t have the funds or may not realise that volunteer should be paid expenses.

It is worth checking this with an organisation before starting volunteering with them, particularly if the payment of expenses would affect your ability to volunteer for them.

Can I claim benefits while volunteering?

Yes. You can volunteer while receiving benefits as long as you continue to meet all the conditions of your benefit. It would be worth telling the office that pays your benefits about any volunteering that you are planning to do before you start.

You can volunteer for as many hours as you like, as long as you continue to meet the conditions of the benefit you get. If you get Universal Credit your volunteering can count up to half the time you agree to spend looking for and preparing for work in your ‘Claimant Commitment’.

If you have a health condition or disability, you can still volunteer. You will not need to have a Work Capability Assessment just because you start volunteering, and you don’t need to provide evidence from your doctor about your volunteering. You will still need to let Jobcentre Plus know about any volunteering that you are planning to do before you start.

For further information visit:

Do I need any qualifications?

You do not normally need any qualifications to volunteer.

However there may be some more specialist roles that ask for qualifications such as a volunteer counselling, and some organisations may ask that you complete a qualification on sign up such as a first aid certificate for a volunteer first aider.

Some organisations may say that certain qualifications or skills are an advantage but not a necessity. The volunteer recruiting organisation should make any qualification requirements clear in their advert. It is worth checking this information out before making an application.

Can I get a qualification or award?

Some organisations may offer volunteers qualifications but it is unusual.

There are some awards available for volunteering, such as the Borough’s annual ‘Volunteer Awards’ and Essex County Council’s ‘Who will Care’ awards for which you would need a nomination. Additionally there are some awards for young people who volunteer such as the ‘Jack Petchey’ Awards and the ‘Duke Of Edinburgh’ Awards.

However, by volunteering you will gain valuable experience, develop your skills and be able to ask the organisation for a reference.

Will I get training?

This will vary depending on the volunteer role and/or organisation you are volunteering for.

Some roles won’t require any training but others may require some in depth training so you may want to check this out before making a commitment. Most volunteering opportunities should provide some basic induction training to give you an overview of the organisation you are volunteering for and information about the role. Training may be online or face to face.

How old do I have to be to volunteer?

You can be any age to volunteer – however many opportunities do have age restrictions such as only being suitable for those over 18. This is typically due to the type of opportunity, or due to health and safety or insurance purposes. Any age restrictions are often shown on the opportunity advert but if not it is worth checking with the organisation on initial contact.

Can I volunteer together with my family or friends?

Yes you can. There are less opportunities for group volunteering, but some examples of where it can work best is for one off opportunities such as fundraising or at events. Check out our ‘one off opportunities’ page for some ideas.

Can you help me find work experience?

The BBW Volunteer Network does not generally advertise short term voluntary work experience, however some of the formal opportunities advertised on our website may be appropriate for longer term work experience. If you are under 18 you would need to check whether the opportunity is suitable for under 18’s.

I’ve got a criminal record – can I still volunteer?

Yes, you can. There may be some limitations – depending on the nature of your criminal record, you may not be able to take up some volunteering roles but a variety of others would still be open to you.

Some voluntary roles will require a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check due to the nature of the role such as those that include volunteering with children or vulnerable adults. There should always be a very clear reason why you are being asked for such check.

For further information on volunteering with a criminal record visit:

Will I need a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check to volunteer?

This will depend on the voluntary role you are applying for. If the role involves volunteering with children or vulnerable adults a DBS check will most likely be made during the application process.

Volunteers will be eligible for a DBS check if their role:

  • is listed in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA) 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975 (this entitles the position to a Standard DBS check)
  • is specified in The Police Act 1997 (Criminal Records) Regulations (this entitles the position to an Enhanced DBS check)
  • involves working in ‘regulated activity’ with children and/or vulnerable adults (this entitles the position to an Enhanced DBS Check with a check of the relevant barred list)

None of these FAQ’s answer my question, what do I do now?

If we haven’t covered your question. Please get in touch.

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