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Social Welfare

Volunteering and Social Welfare Payments

Claiming benefit should not prevent you from volunteering, if you so wish. The following are the guidelines issued by the Department of Social Welfare regarding claiming benefits and volunteering.
If you are aged 18 or over and unemployed, you may be paid either Jobseeker’s Allowance (JA) or Jobseeker’s Benefit (JB). Both payments are paid by the Department of Social and Family Affairs (DSFA). Jobseeker’s Allowance was called Unemployment Assistance; the name of the payment changed in October 2006. For further information see:

The Department of Social and Family Affairs provide a range of payments for people who are ill or have a disability. These range from the insurance based Illness Benefit and Invalidity Pension to the means-tested Disability Allowance to the Occupational Injury Scheme for those who suffer an accident at work. For further information see:

According to the Department of Social and Family Affairs you may volunteer if you are receiving the following payments. Please read the paragraphs carefully as certain conditions may apply.


Job-seeker Allowance / Job-seeker Benefit

A jobseeker who engages in voluntary work within the State may continue to be entitled to a jobseekers payment provided that, in engaging in the voluntary work, they continue to satisfy the statutory conditions of being available for and genuinely seeking work.

Examples of voluntary work in which jobseekers may engage include:

  • helping the sick, elderly or persons with a disability
  • assisting youth clubs, church groups, sports groups, cultural organisations, local resident associations

The groups involved may be nationally organised groups or local voluntary or community groups.


Aims of the Voluntary Work Option

The aim of the Voluntary Work Option is twofold, namely – to encourage voluntary organisations to involve jobseekers to the greatest extent possible in their existing activities by creating new opportunities for voluntary work and to inform jobseekers of their freedom to involve themselves in voluntary work and to encourage them to do so.

Applying for the Voluntary Work Option

The jobseeker or the voluntary organisation/group involved should request an application form VW1 from their Local Office or downloaded here. The completed application form should be sent to the Local Office and a Deciding Officer will determine whether the jobseeker may take up the work in question without affecting entitlement to their jobseekers payment.


Decisions in relation to Voluntary Work

In considering an application, the Deciding Officer will determine whether the work concerned is voluntary within the meaning of the scheme and whether the jobseeker would continue to satisfy the statutory conditions for getting the jobseekers payment. The Deciding Officer will need to be satisfied that the jobseeker is available to take up employment, if offered it, and that they are making genuine efforts to find work. This applies whether the voluntary work is full or part-time.

While it is not possible to lay down hard and fast rules as to what constitutes voluntary work the position should be clear in most cases. Factors to be taken into account will include:

  • the type of work involved
  • the aims and standing of the voluntary body
  • the weekly hours worked
  • the amount of any payment received by way of out-of-pocket expenses

The voluntary work would normally involve only a few hours a day or a few days a week but full-time involvement in voluntary activities would not necessarily be ruled out. However, there should be no implication of job replacement or cheap labour.

Any payment for the voluntary work should generally be limited to out-of-pocket expenses such as travelling expenses or meal allowances.


Illness benefit or disability benefit

If you are receiving illness or disability benefit, according to the Department of Social and Family Affairs the you are allowed to engage in:

  • work for which you do not get paid,
  • work you do as part of treatment while you are a patient in hospital or a similar place,
  • work you do as an out-worker under a charitable scheme, as long as your weekly earnings are under a certain limit.

You must first get permission from the Department of Social and Family Affairs before doing work of any kind. Contact 1890 66 22 44.

Disability allowance

Please contact the Disability Allowance section of the Department of Social and Family Affairs on 1809 66 22 44 or contact your local office.

Invalidity Pension

A person receiving an invalidity pension may volunteer, with the prior written permission of an officer of the Minister. For further information contact the Department of Social and Family Affairs on 1890 66 22 44 or phone your local office.

Blind Person’s pension

Please contact the Department of Social and Family Affairs on 1890 66 22 44, or phone your local office.

Volunteer Development Worker Scheme - SW 15

The Department of Soical Protection operates a scheme whereby VDWs can qualify for Credited Contributions, or ‘VDW Credits’, in respect of a period spent working in a developing country and any preparatory period beforehand. More information is available on their website.

All information in this fact-sheet is taken from the Department of Social and Family Affairs web site at If you have any queries about any of the information above, please contact the Department of Social and Family Affairs on 1890 66 22 44.


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