Volunteering means giving up your time to do something which helps your local community or area. Volunteers do not get paid.

Volunteers do lots of different things, including:

  • helping and supporting people (for example, older people, asylum seekers, etc.)
  • picking up litter and tidying up their local area
  • raising money for a charity

You can find out more about what volunteering is on the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) website.

Looking online for volunteering positions is a good place to start.

Benefits of volunteering

Volunteering has lots of benefits, like better physical and mental health. It can help you improve your confidence and learn new skills. It can also help you to feel more connected to people in your community.

Volunteering can also give you work experience, which will help when you are looking for a job.

No matter what your interests, skills, experience, or how much time you can offer, volunteering can be suited to you.

There are a huge range of volunteering opportunities available across the North East – from short, one-off activities like helping out at a community event to regular voluntary roles in administration, and everything in between. You can search and register for local opportunities using the links below.

Volunteering as an asylum seeker

Volunteers are those who give their time for free to charitable or public sector organisations without any contractual obligation or entitlement. They are not employees or workers as defined by various statutory provisions.

Volunteering can be undertaken at any stage of the asylum process, but such activities must not interfere with scheduled events such as a substantive asylum interview, regular reporting event or re-documentation interview.

Volunteering must also not undermine the effective removal of those who do not need protection and do not qualify to remain in the UK on any other basis.

Asylum seekers can volunteer whilst their claim is considered without being granted permission to work. It is Home Office policy to support asylum seekers volunteering for charities or public sector organisations. However, this must not amount to engagement as an ’employee’ or a ‘worker’ and it is the responsibility of the individual and the organisation they are volunteering for to check that such activity does not mean they are working in breach of conditions.

The organisation should also undertake all relevant safeguarding checks required. Any personal details provided by the applicant as part of the immigration process cannot be confirmed by the Home Office for use in any other context other than immigration matters.

Key elements in establishing whether someone is a volunteer rather than an employee or worker are whether there is an obligation on the individual to perform the work, and an obligation on the organisation to provide it; and whether the individual is rewarded for the work, through money or benefits in kind. Volunteers may be reimbursed for expenses incurred whilst volunteering, for example, for travel and food but should not receive any other payment.

To summarise, the principal difference is that volunteering must not amount to unpaid work, or job substitution. In particular:

  • there should be no payment, other than reasonable travel and meals expenditure actually incurred (not an allowance for the same)
  • there should be no contractual obligations on the volunteer and they should not enjoy any contractual entitlement to any work or benefits
  • the volunteer is helping a registered voluntary or charitable organisation, an organisation that raises funds for either of these, or a public sector organisation
  • volunteering is not a substitute for employment, that is fulfilling a role that a salaried worker would normally fulfil

You can find out more in the government’s permission to work and volunteering for asylum seekers document.

Volunteering opportunities

National Trust – volunteering opportunities at historic homes and gardens

British Heart Foundation

Sreepur Village, Bangladesh

The Children’s Society – volunteer to help children

Volunteering in Middlesbrough

Volunteering in Redcar and Cleveland

Volunteering in North Tyneside

Volunteering in Hartlepool

Volunteering in Durham

Volunteering in Sunderland

Volunteering in Newcastle

Volunteering in Gateshead

Volunteering in Northumberland