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Volunteering whilst unemployed

The government would like you to believe that, particularly for the long term unemployed, doing volunteering work will speed up getting into paid work.

Some volunteer work has seen to directly reducing the numbers in paid work e.g. libraries have been cut back, funding reduce and are now often manned by volunteers. Unpaid volunteers are doing the job that was once a paid position.

Although some of the restrictions on jobseekers doing voluntary work have been removed you can not do so full time and you must continue to comply with the ever growing list of requirements added to the new agreement  in the document "My Claimant Commitment" JSACC 04/14 which make it virtually impossible to take any time of looking for work as a full time job.

The Jobcentre Plus might provide the cost of transport on the grounds the unpaid work might help you into paid employment but will usually only cover the cheapest form of transport - a bus ticket. Even if a fuel allowance is given they will not include parking costs. The organisation you volunteer for may also pay some expenses, but perhaps not cover the full costs. If you are employed and on a decent amount of pay then there could be many benefits to working in a different sector or applying your skills to help others and that personal choice is to be applauded even if really the work should be paid for at the going rate - just like you and I are charged for nearly everything we need.

The research on whether volunteering increases your prospects of paid work is often funded by those who make the claims without supported evidence. For others it is clear that even those tasked with doing research are at great pains not to bust the myth that doing volunteer work boost your chances of paid permanent employment. There a huge numbers of employment agencies, Universities and government bodies who make the claim for improving skills and gaining experience without backing it up with any research. For every one who is shown to have gained employment because of the work they did as a volunteer there are many more who have not and if becoming employed would have done so anyway.

Students and young people may volunteer because of the lack of any paid part-time or week end work. This may allow them to see what goes on in a business or for a career. e.g. working in a hospital for those wanting to work in a hospital as a nurse, doctor or researcher. They may however never get the change to observe anything of value. With a lack of any job this allows them to put something on a CV beyond the straight academic and examination results.

Older people who perhaps can not continue in there original careers may become long term unemployed. Volunteering may get them to apply their skills to something else and to get them regularly out of the house and perhaps a new reference. However if this was true it would be easy to back it up with more than anecdotal evidence.

For others, like stay at home mothers or fathers with young children at school it could provide many advantages but not necessarily anything that would see them return to work or career when their children grow up.

Third Sector Research Centre Working Paper 100 Does volunteering improve employability? Evidence from the British Household Panel Survey Angela Ellis Paine, Stephen McKay and Domenico Moro July 2013

"There is considerable support in the literature for the idea that volunteering helps improve employability and acts as a route to employment. Policy initiatives are consistent with this message. We analysed longitudinal evidence from the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) to test this theory. Our analysis found that volunteering has a significant, but weak, effect on employability in terms of entry into work. The frequency of volunteering, however, makes a difference to its effects on employment outcomes. The effects also vary according to demographics. The evidence on job retention is weaker, and volunteering appear s to have zero or even negative effects on wage progression. While the BHPS has limitations for this kind of analysis, we suggest that too much has been made of the link between volunteering and employability, and indeed that intention is infrequent among volunteers"

Volunteering for Employment Skills – A Qualitative Research Study

"Nottingham Council for Voluntary Service wanted a small study of their project Volunteering for Employment Skills. This work was done by Anne Corden and Roy Sainsbury who are researchers at the Social Policy Research Unit at the University of York.

Staff in V4ES were keen to know if and how this service helps people, and whether they could improve it.

In the first set of research interviews nobody said they had done any paid work since their contacts with the volunteering project. Some people told the researchers they were getting help and advice from employment advisers or personal advisers at Jobcentre Plus. New skills learned during volunteering included computer skills, business management skills, food hygiene, first aid and people handling. "


"The assumption that volunteering during unemployment is a stepping stone to paid work is behind several policy initiatives of the UK government aimed to improve employability through volunteering. This paper questions the extent to which empirical evidence supports this assumption. After systematising and evaluating the empirical evidence I conclude that - for a significant proportion of the unemployed - volunteering does not raise a jobseeker’s chances of securing paid work. However, volunteering has benefits other than getting a job: it enhances employability skills and attitudes and it can be a productive alternative for individuals who cannot secure employment because of various barriers in the labour market. The policy implication of this conclusion is that including volunteering in policy initiatives might not be an effective immediate solution for high levels of joblessness . However, volunteering can be used to enhance the national skill base or to aid social inclusion of people who find it hard to secure a paid job. "

Help to Work? Britain's jobless are being forced into workfare, more like making the unemployed attend a jobcentre every day, or work unpaid, isn't a helping hand, it's a punishing one. ( )

The coalition's "Help to Work" won't help the jobless. The DWP's own study found that forcing claimants to do community work or attend daily jobcentre meetings made almost no difference to employment levels. (


As an alternative view, the figures for interns are more well defined. An intern is either paid or not. They are expecting to get on the job training, to see what the people do in the business, to observe learn and practise and hope that at the end of the internship to be offered a job in the same firm or another. The studies indicate that if the intern gets paid then they significantly increase their chances for a job and will also be paid at a higher rate than those who did not get paid as an intern or were unemployed. If someone values your work enough to pay for it you are a better potential employee. Just think how that might apply to volunteering if the primary purpose is to gain paid employment.

Odds Are Your Internship Will Get You A Job :
If you are a college graduate and you are working at a paid internship, a new study shows, 60% of the time, that internship will turn into a job offer. For those who were working in unpaid internships, however, the news is much less encouraging. Thirty-seven percent of unpaid interns got job offers, according to the data. That’s just 1% better than graduates with no internship experience, 36% of whom got job offers.

See also  and


Last updated 11th August 2014