Voluntary work

The Home Office advises asylum seekers to consult with their caseworkers before taking voluntary work and issues the following guidance:

Voluntary activity should not amount either to employment or to job substitution.

Asylum seekers should not be expected to be out of pocket as a result of volunteering, and reimbursement may be made for meal or travel costs but should not be made as a flat rate allowance.

Care must be taken when dealing with assertions from asylum seekers that the nature of the continuing or proposed activity does not contravene their conditions of support.

Asylum seekers should not be led to believe that voluntary activity is regarded as a
step towards refugee status.

Here are some of the jobs which are open to asylum seekers:

ART HOUSE GALLERY-CAFÉ – 178 Above Bar St – tel 02380 238582 
This is a community café, run entirely by volunteers.

BRITISH HEART FOUNDATION 70 Shirley High Street, Southampton SO15 3NE, Tel.023 8051 3485  and  78 East Street, Southampton SO14 3HQ  Tel.023 8023 6665

CLEAR, City Life Education and Action for Refugees: 02380 221111
Through CLEAR, several clients help with Friday activities at the Multi-Cultural Centre at Avenue St Andrews.

JUBILEE SAILING TRUST want volunteers to carry out maintenance on their old ships.   Tel: 023 8044 3113

LEAGUE OF FRIENDS, SOUTHAMPTON GENERAL HOSPITAL Tel. 023 8079 6314 Chairman : Sallyanne Hurst sally.hurst@suht.swest.nhs.uk or friendssgh@yahoo.co.uk
One client works one morning a week at the hospital,  taking a trolley of newspapers, journals and snacks around the wards.

OXFAM – general shops in East St, Shirley High St 02380 773192, record shop on corner East St/High St, furniture shop in Shirley , bookshop on London Rd 02380 710406

ROPEWALK COMMUNITY GARDEN,  St Mary’s.  Please contact Thea at www.ropewalkgarden.btik.com

SOUTHAMPTON VOLUNTARY SERVICES can advise on other jobs www.southamptonvs.org.uk


Some clients have had good experience there. It’s out at Netley Marsh but bus fares are paid.

John Wyllie writes: 
My client, who is a young man and very interested in sport, asked about voluntary work in gyms in Southampton. He was prepared to do any type of work, including cleaning etc, but had little experience. 
I spoke to a couple of voluntary organisations before speaking to Becky Spake (02380216001) at Southampton Voluntary Services. She links with the Council’s Sports Development Team who use volunteers to help with sports events/training in the City. As this work often involves children, volunteers  usually are required to have a CRB check. Becky is happy to give one to one interviews if that helps.
She told me about the website www.do-it.org.uk where volunteers can register for local voluntary work. My client and I had a look at the website together which wasn’t as tedious as it may seem, as we were able to chat about what we liked/disliked. Although we weren’t successful in registering for gym type work we had a look at what’s available and he’s registered to do maintenance work on the Jubilee Trust sailing ships in August!

I also spoke to the University Sports Centre Manager but the University was  unable to help directly. They do have student placements but these are already taken for at least a year. Cleaning work is put to outside contractors.
Although I haven’t given up on finding gym work, I’m not too optimistic as the university, public and private organisations seem to be bound by contractual procedures which are too inflexible to deal with individual cases. However people have generally been helpful and there haven’t been any gasps of shock when asylum seekers have been mentioned.

Rachel Robertson writes:
My client has done a lot of volunteering over the past few years, mostly in charity shops around Southampton. He has been very pro-active and generally approached the shops directly himself and, although he’s often put me as a reference, I have never been contacted. Unfortunately his comments are negative, but he has continued to volunteer despite them.
1) He feels health and safety is an issue – volunteers not taken care of like employees – he hurt his back lifting and carrying furniture and felt there was an element of bullying to get this heavy work done.
2) The charity shop staff seem to feel they are doing the volunteer a favour, rather than the other way around, even though the jobs he has been doing are not great life experiences (e.g. sorting clothes).

3) In some jobs he felt there was a tendency not to rotate the tasks fairly so he sometimes got very bored and felt alienated just sorting and preparing donations while others got to work in the shop and on the till.

Jenny Cuffe writes:
A client from Zimbabwe has three voluntary jobs and his favourite is taking newspapers and confectionary round the wards of Southampton General Hospital.   He has been teamed up with an elderly volunteer and they have become such firm friends that, when his NASS accommodation came to an end, she invited him to stay in her house.  He gives her help and companionship in return for a room.

I accompanied him on one of his rounds and watched as he joked with the patients and dealt with their requests with disarming courtesy.  He says that the job takes him out of himself and helps him forget his problems.  He is dealing with people who see him as someone providing a service, not as a failed asylum seeker and a burden on the state.

Last Updated: 04/03/2020 – Next Update Due: