FAQs

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Volunteering FAQs

How long does it take to start volunteering?
Do you guarantee to find everyone a suitable volunteering placement?
Will I definitely get a paid job after volunteering?
Can you help me find a work placement?
What kind of volunteering can I do?
How many hours do I need to volunteer each week?
How long do I have to volunteer for?
Will I get paid?
Will I be reimbursed expenses?
Can I volunteer near my home?
If I volunteer, will accommodation be provided?
Can I volunteer if I have a criminal record?
I work full-time. Can I volunteer in the evening or at weekends?
Are there any age restrictions?
Why do I need to live/work/study in Tower Hamlets to use your services?
Do I need particular skills or experience to volunteer?
I’ve looked on your website but can’t find the right volunteering opportunity for me. How can you help me?
I am an asylum seeker, how can you help me?
I’m claiming benefits, can I still volunteer?
Is childcare provided when I volunteer?
Can I volunteer from home?
Do I need training before I start volunteering?
Any other questions?

 



How long does it take to start volunteering?
If you want to volunteer for just 1 day at a fundraising event or an environmental clean-up, you can start almost straight away. For most other roles, you should expect to wait a few weeks before you can start, as you may need to complete an application form and/or attend an interview. It might take a few months to start in a volunteering role with a lot or responsibility, or one that involves access to children and vulnerable adults. This is because the organisation will need to carry out more checks, and may ask you to complete a training course before you start volunteering.

Some organisations take a while to get back to potential volunteers. This is generally because they are under-resourced. We encourage you to leave more than one phone message, and send them an e-mail. If you don’t hear back from the organisation within 10 days, be gently persistent and contact them again.

Do you guarantee to find everyone a suitable volunteering placement?
We have a huge range of different volunteering roles, so there is usually something to suit everyone. We will try our best to help you find a volunteering placement, but we can’t guarantee this.

If you see one of our advisors, they will tell you about any skills, experience or availability you need for a particular volunteering role, and they will guide you towards the most suitable vacancies. However, if you have very specific requirements, such as extremely limited time availability, or you are unable to travel to another part of Tower Hamlets, it can be more difficult to suggest a suitable placement.

Individual organisations decide who to accept as volunteers, so sometimes you may apply for a particular volunteering role and be unsuccessful. If this happens, please feel free to come back to us at the Volunteer Centre for more suggestions.

Will I definitely get a paid job after volunteering?
There is plenty of evidence which shows that volunteering significantly increases your employability. This is because you will gain experience in a workplace, develop your skills, and become more aware of job vacancies in the voluntary sector. Most organisations will provide you with a reference, once you have completed a reasonable amount of regular volunteering with them. However, most organisations operate open selection procedures for paid staff, so it is unlikely that they will be able to employ you just because you are a volunteer.

Can you help me find a work placement?

No, we do not arrange traditional work placements (2 or 3 week full-time placements with employers). All of the volunteering roles we offer are in non-profit organisations, such as charities and community groups. We have some one-off and short-term vacancies, but the majority of the volunteering placements we advertise are for between 3 and 12 months. We are happy to work with students seeking medium to long-term volunteering roles that will complement their studies.

What kind of volunteering can I do?
We try to maintain a very wide range of volunteering opportunities throughout Tower Hamlets to suit all interests, skills, experience levels, and time availabilities. To see our current vacancies, please visit the 'Volunteer' section of our website.

How many hours do I need to volunteer each week?
It is entirely up to you how much time you give, and this will depend on your availability. You can do a couple of hours per month, 1 or 2 days a week, or even full-time volunteering. There are usually opportunities to volunteer in the evenings or at weekends if you work most of the time. Some volunteering opportunities require a minimum number of hours, but most are pretty flexible.

How long do I have to volunteer for?
It depends on the opportunity. We have some short-term/one-off opportunities, where you can just volunteer for 1 day. However, most volunteering roles will require a commitment of at least 3 months. As a volunteer you are free to leave whenever you like. If things don’t work out or your circumstances change, talk to the person in charge and try to give them advanced warning that you will be leaving. If you are happy in your volunteering role, the longer you stay, the more you and the organisation will get out of the experience.

Will I get paid?
The simple answer is no. Volunteering is always unpaid. However, your expenses should be reimbursed.

Will I be reimbursed expenses?
You should not be left ‘out-of-pocket’ through volunteering. Most organisations will reimburse your travel expenses. Some will reimburse the cost of a light meal, depending on how many hours you volunteer. Any necessary protective clothing or postage/telephone costs should also be reimbursed. A minority of organisations can also reimburse costs for dependents (eg childcare), but this is quite rare. Occasionally, very small organisations that are volunteer-led have no budget to reimburse expenses. You should always check which expenses an organisation can reimburse before you start volunteering with them.

Can I volunteer near my home?
Yes you can. We have hundreds of volunteering opportunities in Tower Hamlets, spread across the borough. You can search for volunteering roles by distance from your preferred postcode. Visit the 'Volunteer' section of our website to find out more.

If I volunteer, will accommodation be provided?
Most volunteering opportunities do not provide accommodation. Some organisations, especially those that ask you to volunteer full-time for several weeks or months, will provide you with somewhere to live. This is known as “residential volunteering”.

Can I volunteer if I have a criminal record?
We welcome ex-offenders, and recognise that volunteering can help people to rebuild their lives. A criminal record can sometimes prevent you from volunteering with vulnerable adults or children, but many other volunteering roles will still be open to you. Most organisations will consider the type of offence and sentence, how recent the conviction was, any pattern of offending, and your attitude to the offending now. It is always best to be honest about your record, especially if you need to undergo a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check .

I work full-time. Can I volunteer in the evening or at weekends?
Yes you can. We recognise that people have different time availability. However if you are only free at evenings and weekends, it may restrict the volunteering you can do. For example, it is unlikely that you would be able to volunteer in an office, as they tend to only be open during normal working hours, Monday to Friday.

Are there any age restrictions?
Anyone can volunteer. There is no upper age limit. Here at Volunteer Centre Tower Hamlets, we can help anyone aged 15 or over. If you are under 15, please talk to your teacher or youth worker about how you and your friends can volunteer.

Why do I need to live/work/study in Tower Hamlets to use your services?
There is a Volunteer Centre in almost every London borough. These centres have details of volunteering opportunities in their local area. Volunteer Centre Tower Hamlets only receives funding to help Tower Hamlets residents (and people who work or study here). If you do not live, work, or study in Tower Hamlets, we will put you in touch with your local Volunteer Centre.

Do I need particular skills or experience to volunteer?
Many volunteering roles are designed to help you gain skills and experience, so you will not need to have them before you start volunteering. However, there are some volunteer roles that require relevant skills, experience or qualifications. Many organisations will have a written role description that describes what, if any, experience or skills you should have before starting to volunteer.

I’ve looked online but can’t find the right volunteering opportunity for me. How can you help me?
At the moment we can offer one-to-one appointments to very specific groups of clients. To find out if you are eligible for an appointment call us on 020 7377 0956.

 
I am an asylum seeker, how can you help me?
We welcome asylum seekers and refugees. We recognise that you may have lots of relevant experience and qualifications, and that you are keen to make a contribution to your community. Provided that you live or study in Tower Hamlets, we can help you to find the volunteer opportunity of your choice. You can look for volunteering opportunities online.

I’m claiming benefits, can I still volunteer?
Yes. Claiming state benefits should not usually prevent you from volunteering for as many hours a week as you choose. If you claim Jobseekers Allowance, you must be available for paid work within 48 hours, but this should not prevent you from volunteering. We recommend that you tell the relevant Benefits Agency that you are volunteering. Sometimes Benefits Agency staff misinterpret the rules and tell you by mistake that you cannot volunteer. If this happens, please tell us at Volunteer Centre Tower Hamlets, so that we can help put this right.

Is childcare provided when I volunteer?
It is very rare to find a voluntary organisation that has its own crèche. A few larger organisations may be able to reimburse your childcare expenses. However, most voluntary organisations don’t have enough money to do this. Sometimes you can apply to the Government for funding to cover your childcare costs, but these schemes depend on your personal circumstances.

Can I volunteer from home?
Yes you can. If you prefer not to leave the house, or are unable to do this due to ill health or disability, there are always organisations looking for volunteers to help from their own homes. The range of volunteering opportunities will be more limited, but examples include volunteering on a helpline, writing funding applications or updating a website or database. Volunteering from home is sometimes called “virtual volunteering”.

Do I need training before I start volunteering?
It depends on the volunteering role you choose. For example, if you want to be a mentor or give advice it is likely that the organisation will provide you with training before you start volunteering. Most organisations will offer you brief introductory training called an induction. This will introduce you to relevant people, describe your tasks, and outline any expectations.
Any other questions?
If you have a question about volunteering that we have not answered on this FAQ page, please e-mail it to
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