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Volunteering FAQ's

This page should answer your immediate questions about volunteering for CACE.

Will I have to complete an application form or have an interview?
Yes, but remember the application form and interview is a two-way process. It enables us to find out more about you, to ensure that you are suitable for the role, but also enables you to ensure that the volunteering opportunity meets your needs and interests.
I've got specific skills and experience, can you use them?
One of the strengths of the Citizens Advice service is the diverse range of backgrounds, skills and experiences our volunteers bring to their roles. Naturally, different offices have different opportunities available according to their needs. We will be able to tell you more about the specific opportunities we can offer you, but you can read what our volunteers do to find out more about some of the typical opportunities available across the service.
Are there certain skills I need to be a Citizens Advice volunteer?
It will depend on which role you are interested in. All advisers receive comprehensive free training so do not need any previous qualifications or experience. However, you will need to be open-minded, non-judgemental, be able to listen, learn, and work in a team. In most other roles, volunteers will usually need some form of prior experience. However, we have an excellent learning environment and volunteering in any role will give you the chance to develop your skills.
What will I get out of Citizen Advice volunteering?
All our volunteers get something slightly different from the experience. Some of the most common benefits reported are:
  • making a difference to an individual’s life
  • changing the way things work for the better
  • receiving highly respected training
  • getting invaluable work experience
  • developing new skills
  • putting existing skills to good use
  • getting involved with the community
  • making new friends.
Do you provide training?
All advisers receive comprehensive free training, which is recognised and respected throughout the country. The training programme consists of observation, working through self-study packs, and a three day course run by Citizens Advice. You will be supported throughout your training by an in-bureau Guidance Tutor. Most bureaux have several trainees at any one time, so you are likely to be training with other new volunteers. We find that most people complete the adviser training programme in 6-12 months, although this will, of course, depend on how much time you are able to commit to it.
Do you always need volunteers?
Generally, the Citizens Advice service needs around 5,000 new volunteers every year to meet the constant demand for advice, although each office will have their own specific needs.
What support will I get as a Citizens Advice volunteer?
All volunteers are fully supported and supervised throughout their involvement with CAB. There will be a paid member of staff that you can turn to for extra support if you feel you need it. There is an Advice Supervisor on duty at each advice session to guide and assist volunteer advisers. We make sure that you are not put in situations that are beyond your abilities, and will work with you to help ensure that you find volunteering with us both challenging and rewarding.
How much time do I need to give?
There is no minimum time requirement to volunteer. You should discuss with us the time you have available, your interests, and skills, and how they fit with our needs.
When / what times can I volunteer?
We tend to be open during office hours. If you work full time and are therefore never available during the day it is unlikely you will be able to train as an adviser, although some bureaux do run weekend and evening sessions. Other roles are more flexible in the times that you can volunteer. Some roles even allow you to volunteer from home for part of the time, e.g. trustee, fundraiser, PR officer. You'll need to discuss the details with us when we contact you.
Will I get my expenses paid?
We ensure that all volunteers are not out-of-pocket.
When can I start?
We will contact you to talk through options. Discuss with us the role you are interested in and when you can start. We will generally want you to start as soon as possible. If you are interested in training as an adviser, there may be a slight delay before we are able to take on new trainees – simply to ensure that you receive the highest quality resources, support and personal attention.
What are the chances of getting a job afterwards?
Citizens Advice volunteering provides skills and experience that is valued by many employers. A lot of paid staff, for example managers, case workers and administrators, started out as volunteers.
What age restrictions are there on Citizens Advice volunteering?
Citizens Advice volunteers need to be 16 or over. There is no upper age limit for volunteers.
I work full time, can I still volunteer?
There are opportunities in some offices for evening and weekend work, though volunteering as an adviser generally needs to be done during normal office hours. Trustee board members tend to meet in the evenings so trusteeship can be particularly suitable for people who work full time.
What volunteering opportunities are there for students with Citizens Advice?
Many students (e.g. social policy and law) find Citizens Advice volunteering complements their course and provides them with valuable work skills for the future. Speak to us to see how you can fit in your time with that of the bureau. It is possible to move to another Citizens Advice elsewhere after you leave college.
Will volunteering for Citizens Advice affect my jobseekers's allowance?
Citizens Advice volunteering will not affect jobseeker's allowance (JSA) provided you:
  • remain available for and are actively seeking a full time paid job
  • take reasonable steps to find a job (e.g. answering adverts, signing up with an agency and taking other steps required by the Jobcentre Plus office)
  • inform the Job Centre/ Jobcentre Plus office that you are volunteering
  • can attend interview within 48 hours and take up work within one week.

Citizens Advice can help you by providing a standard letter stating that the volunteer:

  • receives no remuneration, only reimbursement of actual out-of-pocket expenses, which does not count towards the JSA ‘earnings disregard’
  • can be contacted whilst volunteering at the bureau if a job opportunity becomes available
  • can be available at a week’s notice to start work or attend an interview with 48 hours’ notice.

Volunteering should not affect income support as long as you are not receiving any money other than reimbursement of expenses.

Will volunteering for Citizens Advice affect my other benefits?
You should notify the relevant agency before starting at Citizens Advice if you receive Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement.

You should notify the relevant agency before starting at Citizens Advice if you receive incapacity benefit (IB), severe disablement allowance, employment and support allowance (ESA), carer’s allowance, industrial injuries disablement benefit, or invalid care allowance (ICA).

ICA is not affected by volunteering unless it prevents you providing care for at least 35 hours each week. There is no limit to the number of hours someone can volunteer whilst in receipt of IB, though in the past some benefits agencies have claimed that volunteers who volunteer regularly and for a substantial (in their view) amount of time could be seen as fit for work.

ESA was introduced on 27 October 2008 and, for new claimants, replaces both IB and income support paid because of disability or incapacity (although all claimants will be reassessed for ESA by spring 2014). The regulations for ESA clearly state that claimants will be allowed to volunteer. The regulations also recognise that reasonable expenses can be reimbursed to claimants who volunteer.

Citizens Advice can help by providing a letter for the volunteer confirming the number of hours, that these hours are unpaid, and that volunteering is far more flexible and cannot be regarded as the same as paid work.

There are some benefits that are not affected by volunteering and where the relevant agencies do not need to be informed that the person is volunteering. These include; state retirement pension, council tax benefit, housing benefit, statutory maternity pay, maternity allowance, war widow's pension and widow's pension.

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