Guidelines for Asylum Seekers
This factsheet was developed in partnership with the Scottish Refugee Council.
What is Volunteering?
Volunteering is something a person does in their own time, without pay or pressure, and which is for the benefit of the community, the environment or other people, outside one’s immediate family.
Volunteers are involved in every aspect of life in Scotland. This includes:
- working with children and elderly people
- environmental and conservation work
- working with people who have physical and learning disabilities
- office work
- work with drug users and people with HIV
- advice work
- mental health work
Volunteering benefits both organisations and volunteers. Organisations gain the valuable skills, time, experience and energy of volunteers.
Volunteers gain experience and skills, and a sense of satisfaction from doing something worthwhile. Volunteering is unpaid, but you will normally receive expenses equal to the cost of travel to the voluntary work.
What can I get out of volunteering?
- learn new skills
- develop existing skills, including English language skills
- contribute ideas, skills and experience - maybe recent skills from a college or training course
- gain work experience and a reference to add to your CV
- increase your confidence
- make new friends
- gain useful knowledge of a type of employment in which you may eventually wish to work
Volunteering is an excellent way of using and developing your English language skills. Remember that you will need a basic command of English before getting involved. Volunteering is an ideal way of using existing skills which may have been developed through previous work or training. However, you will never be asked to do work which should be the responsibility of a paid employee.
Rules on volunteering: your legal position as a volunteer
Asylum seekers are free to do voluntary work, though caution should be exercised. Be aware that:
- the work should not be able to be regarded as ‘unpaid employment’
- the activity should be something normally undertaken by volunteers
- only genuine expenses should be refunded to volunteers
- meals, and expenses for meals will not normally be available to
asylum seekers unless unavoidable for religious or cultural reasons.
This is because such payments might be construed
by the Home Office as ‘disguised wages’
- ambiguous situations, e.g. claiming travel expenses for travel that would have been undertaken anyway, outside of voluntary work, should be avoided.
The Home Office recommends that if there is any doubt whether a type of work is volunteering or employment, the asylum seeker, their representative, or the organisation concerned should seek legal advice.
Telephone or drop in to Volunteer Centre Edinburgh to see the information on display, or make an appointment to meet with one of our advisors.
You will get advice about organisations that might be suitable for you to volunteer with. It is then best to arrange a visit to the organisation. This gives you a chance to meet the staff, find out more about their work, and to see how volunteers are involved.
Organisations depend on their volunteers. They need people who will be reliable and able to contribute to the work of their project. To ensure this, many organisations will ask you to complete an application form, and may ask for references. For voluntary work with children and young people, more detailed checking of potential volunteers may be required.
When you have found an organisation that suits you, and to whom you can offer a real contribution, your voluntary work can begin. We hope that you find the experience enjoyable and rewarding.