The job market is increasingly challenging to navigate, with many low-level roles asking for experience. As a disabled person, you can face even more scrutiny.
If you have found yourself in a position where you have a dream job in mind, but need more experience or training to qualify, volunteering might be your solution.
What is volunteering?
Becoming a volunteer includes giving your time, expertise or labour to an organisation without taking payment. The role should be rewarding in other ways, notably in the form of work experience or training.
Volunteering is not a way of employers accessing free labour. You should be gaining as much out of the role as your organisation is.
If you want to know more about your rights as a volunteer, check the government website for guidance.
First, consider why you are looking to take a volunteering position. If it is for more experience or training, have you made sure that there are no available paid alternatives, such as internships or apprenticeships? Or, if you can’t get paid for what you want to do, have you tried searching for a traineeship?
If volunteering is your only option, you should make sure it is serving your needs. You don’t want to spend weeks or months volunteering somewhere, to find out the experience doesn’t apply to the paid role you were hoping to acquire.
Once you find an appropriate volunteering position, make sure to ask your employer for further information. This includes asking if they are accessible for you, if the role involves any training, and if you will gain a reference for future employment opportunities.
If you are claiming any benefits, you must inform your local Jobcentre Plus to report the change. You will need to report the details of the role, so to find out what information you need, you should go to the government website on volunteering and claiming benefits.
While you are volunteering
The most important part of a volunteering role is communication. You should try your best to have an open and transparent dialogue with your employer. This will include asking for feedback, asking for any necessary adjustments, and making sure you feel supported and involved in the team.
If you ever feel like the role is not providing an equal share of benefits between yourself and the employer, you must voice your concerns. This could include not receiving any training, experience or promises that were made before you started the volunteer role.
If you have any issues, you should go to our page on finding help in your area for further support.
Trying to move into a paid role
Some volunteer positions are even more fruitful than simply giving work experience. If you feel like you suit the company culture well and enjoy the role, or that you feel ready to take on more responsibilities, try asking to move into a paid position.
Suppose your employer explains that a paid position is not currently available, but may be soon, you should request for specifics. This includes asking exactly when the job may come available, and what responsibilities you should prove you are capable of taking on. Should the employer fail to stick to these assurances, it indicates that they are trying to keep you on in an unpaid role. At this point, it is time to try and relocate to a different organisation for paid work.