Volunteering and Benefits
One common myth about participating in a voluntary activity is that it might affect any social security or disability benefits you receive.
One school of thought is that people who receive sickness or disability benefits cannot participate in volunteer work because it then proves they are fit enough either to take part in full employment or are clearly fit enough not to be receiving sickness or disability benefits.
The fact is that volunteering is generally viewed as a less-stressful activity, clearly different from a normal paid employment setting, and is in most instances viewed as therapeutic to long term sick or disabled persons receiving benefits.
Volunteering should not affect anyone’s benefits as a result. If any individual has any issues or queries surrounding volunteering and their benefits, please contact VANL for advice and assistance.
Out of Pocket Expenses
Most good volunteer-involving organisations with offer out-of-pocket expenses to their volunteers.
It may be expenses incurred in travelling to and from your volunteering placement from home, either by bus or car. Once you start a volunteering placement, it is a good idea to ask your volunteer supervisor about expenses.
The provision of out-of-pocket expenses is entirely up to the particular volunteer group though – it might be the case that there is not enough funds to offer volunteers expenses or that you want to donate any expenses back to the organisation.
Starting in a Placement
Once a possibly suitable placement has been identified for a volunteer by VANL, the next step will usually involve either your adviser or the volunteer themselves arranging a suitable time to go down and chat with the person recruiting new volunteers.
Unlike a paid employment situation, very rarely will a volunteer have to go for a formal interview to get involved in a placement. It is more likely that a time will be arranged to have an informal chat with the supervisor and other volunteers or staff at the identified placement.
On the other hand, like a paid employment situation, it is up to the discretion of the supervisor whether you would be a suitable volunteer for that particular opportunity. There may be specific requirements such as training, particular time commitments, police checks, trial periods, inductions, etc that you may be required to go through.
However, don’t be put off by those procedures - generally volunteer-engaging groups and volunteer supervisors are delighted to have people willing to give their time to help their cause and expectations of volunteers are not too high, which is usually why volunteering is such an enjoyable and refreshing experience for most who participate.
Training and Inductions
Some volunteering opportunities will require you to have specific skills or knowledge to perform your volunteering. For example, volunteers who work in serving or advising the public should have good customer care and listening skills, and be able to deal with difficult customers, or volunteers who befriend elderly people should be understanding and sympathetic to the needs of elderly people.
Many of these skills can be learned through working with staff and other volunteers over a period of time, but some volunteering organisations who require their volunteers to carry out specific tasks might induct their volunteers by putting them through a training course, possibly along with other new volunteers.
One good example is the Advisers Training Course provided by the Citizens Advice Bureau, training volunteers to be able to advise the public in specific issues such as benefit advice, legal matters, debt, etc.
The time that you commit to your volunteering placement should be discussed with your volunteer supervisor.
Some placements might request that you commit a certain number of hours per week, or month. If this proves to be quite difficult for you to meet it is a good idea to discuss what days or hours might suit you better and work out an alternative.
Naturally, you can be relatively flexible because you are effectively doing someone a favour by volunteering your time, and it is only right that you are respected for doing this and given leeway with timing.
Generally, a suitable schedule can be worked out by having a chat with your volunteer supervisor or coordinator.
Some volunteer opportunities involve dealing with personal or sensitive issues, particularly when volunteering in an advice giving, befriending, caring or disability setting.
One thing that volunteer-engaging organisations who work with vulnerable clients will stress is that you respect the confidentiality of those you are helping with your volunteering work. Certain groups or organisations may ask you to sign a document verifying that you will maintain client confidentiality.
Higher Support Needs Volunteering
One of the great things about volunteering is that because there are less pressures and expectations involved than there would be in a paid employment setting, there are tremendous opportunities for people who have higher than average support needs to get involved and make a difference in their community.
When VANL is sourcing a placement for any individual, utmost in our consideration is any support need (this can range from learning or physical disabilities to particular illnesses or diseases) that the individual has. So, the message is don’t be put off, reluctant or discouraged if you think your support need will affect your volunteering - there is a suitable volunteering placement in North Lanarkshire for everyone.
Getting Registered With VANL
When you first contact VANL about volunteering, you may hear the Adviser you speak to ask you about “registering” with the organisation.
This simply refers to you being logged as a VANL client and allows the Adviser to complete a registration form, which will help us find you a suitable volunteering placement. By registering, you will have the chance to ask questions and gain information about volunteering locally.
When you are registered your details are added to VANL’s database. This means if any suitable local volunteering placements arise in the future that would be suited to your interests, skills or needs, an Adviser can contact you with information about that placement.