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Volunteering is working without pay for an organisation or group. Through volunteering, you can learn
valuable skills to change jobs or help you get back into work. As with any decision, you'll make the best choice
if you give a little thought beforehand to what you want.

What you can offer

Even if you don't have any formal qualifications, you will have skills to offer. Think about what you're good at,
or enjoy doing: maybe you like working with your hands, or enjoy caring for people. It will be useful for the
organisation if they know what skills you have and which ones you want to improve.

Why do I want to volunteer?

If you're clear about what you want to get from your volunteering you're more likely to choose the right
opportunity for you. You might want to get skills that will help you get into paid work; meet people and have
fun or work for a cause you feel passionately about. Whatever your reason, be upfront about it to the
volunteer organisation. It will benefit both you and the organisation if the opportunity is right for you.
If you are looking for a different job, volunteering is a good way of seeing whether you would like to do it
more long term. It also puts you in the right place to hear of job vacancies before they are advertised and
may give you the opportunity to take a qualification.

Which skills can I offer?

For some volunteering opportunities you may need specialist skills, such as book-keeping if you want to
manage the finances of an organisation. However, for many opportunities you don't need any particular skills
or experience - you just need to be enthusiastic, and willing to work hard and learn.
If you're unsure what you've got to offer, think about the skills you've developed in your personal life, such as
looking after children or organising social events. There is likely to be a volunteering opportunity where you
can use these skills. Many volunteer organisations will offer you training when you start, so you won't be
thrown in at the deep end.

How much time can I spare?

Be realistic about how much time you can commit to - how many hours a week, which days of the week and
for how many weeks, months or years. This will help the volunteer organisation plan their time and resources
so their work gets done. Generally, you'll be able to get more involved if you can commit a fair bit of time.
But you can still gain a lot even if you volunteer for just a couple of hours a week or month.

Learning through volunteering

If you haven't done any formal learning for a while, you could try volunteering as a way to improve your skills.
There are so many volunteering opportunities; you're bound to find an organisation which can help you
towards your learning goal.
As well as work-based skills, you'll learn many other things while volunteering. Your confidence and people
skills will improve, and your ability to take responsibility. You will also be able to learn how an organisation
works at first hand. You may also get to learn about an area of work you would like to move into, and what
this would involve. It could be a first step to a new career.

I'm unemployed - will volunteering affect my benefits?

You can do as much volunteering as you like and still claim benefits. Also, if you claim expenses for lunch it
won't be taken out of your benefits. However, if you're claiming Jobseeker's Allowance you'll still be expected
to look for paid work and attend interviews. You can read more about the rules about volunteering and state
benefits on the Volunteering England website. You will need to talk to your JCP adviser about any
volunteering you are planning.

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Where can I find volunteering opportunities?
You can find your local Volunteer Centre on the Volunteering England website. Volunteer Centres can put you
in touch with local organisations that do the kind of work you want to do. Or you can search through
volunteering opportunities yourself on a database on the Do it website.

Through TimeBank you can register your details, what you're interested in doing and how much time you
have to spare. They'll send you details of your local Volunteer Centre or an application form if you showed an
interest in a particular campaign or volunteer opportunity.

REACH is a charity that helps professionals use their skills and experience in voluntary roles. Their volunteers
have skills in areas such as management, entrepreneurship, marketing, IT, administration, HR, finance and
If you want to volunteer overseas you could check out these websites:

Volunteering in the health sector

If you're a good listener, like helping people and have time to spare, why not think about volunteering in the
health sector? Although the situation may vary within different hospital trusts, here are some of the roles
that could be available in your area: Administration and Clerical Volunteer; Chaplaincy Volunteer; Clinic
Volunteer; Community Befriender; Group Therapy Helper; Hospital Befriender; Hospital Radio Volunteer;
Newspaper and Trolley Service Volunteer; Patient Advice and Liaison Service Volunteer; Ward and
Department Helpers.

What do I need to know before I accept an offer of volunteering?

Don't be afraid to ask questions. Find out as much as you can about the volunteering opportunity before
committing to it. You want to make sure you get what you want out of it, so tell staff what you're looking for.
The more open you are, the more likely you'll find an opportunity you're happy with. You could find out
exactly what your role will be; whether the organisation will pay your expenses (most will) and whether there
is any training or support.

Criminal Record Check

If you apply to work with children or vulnerable adults you will have a Criminal Records (CRB) Check.

For more information or advice please contact the National Next Step helpline on 0800 100 900 or visit

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