You can volunteer while claiming Universal Credit. Volunteering develops skills, confidence and experience which can help with finding work. Volunteering should not be used as evidence that you are capable of work.
Hours of Volunteering
How many hours you volunteer is up to you. 50% of your volunteering hours can be counted towards your work searching availability. So if, for example, you are expected to work search for 35 hours each week then decide to do 20 hours per week volunteering, your claimant commitment should be changed so that you are only expected to search for work for 25 hours each week.
Note however that UC rules state that anyone doing over 35 hours of voluntary work each week can have a maximum of 17 ½ hours taken off their work search availability.
You should inform your work coach that you have started volunteering so that you can amend your claimant commitment to reflect your new volunteering commitments.
If you are unable to attend your voluntary work (eg through illness or emergency) you should contact your volunteering co-ordinator. If your voluntary work is noted as part of your claimant commitment then you should also let your work coach know.
Volunteering and Job Interviews/Job offers
Typically, UC claimants are expected to take up paid employment or attend interviews almost immediately. However if you are volunteering you are allowed up to one week before taking up paid work. Volunteers who are offered an interview are allowed up to 48 hours to attend the interview.
If it is accepted that it’s reasonable for you to give your services free of charge then any expenses you receive from volunteering (such as travel or meals) are ignored for the purpose of calculating your Universal Credit payment.