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Ever considered being a volunteer driver?

Maria McCarthy / 01 February 2017 ( 05 November 2019 )

If you enjoy driving and want to help your community, the opportunities are many and varied.

A volunteer driver picks up an elderly lady

Volunteer driving for the elderly or ill

Volunteer drivers are welcomed by charities such as The Red Cross to take elderly people or ill people to day centres or medical appointments. 

Cancer charities are also keen to recruit drivers who can transport patients receiving treatment and spare them the stress and difficulties of driving or using public transport.

Five top ways to volunteer in retirement

Volunteer to pick up donated goods

And charities that run shops are in need of drivers to collect donated goods. 

Ray Gross, 70, a retired forensics officer from London has been volunteering with the British Heart Foundation for three years. "My father died of a heart attack in 1977," says Ray, "and I heard they were looking for drivers through a friend who volunteered in one of the shops. I spend one day a week picking up donations and I can honestly say it's the best job I've ever had. 

"Everyone in the shop is lovely and I enjoy getting to meet people in the local community – I often get asked in for tea and a biscuit! I feel part of an extended family, like when I was in the police. BHF are very supportive of their volunteers. I got invited to the House of Lords for a reception to thank volunteers and also featured in a video on the BHF website on volunteer driving."  

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A drive to rescue animals in need

If you're an animal lover, then maybe working with the RSPCA would suit you.   

"We transport animals to and from re-homing centres, to veterinary appointments and also support Pet Retreat, a scheme run by the RSPCA which provides foster homes for pets belonging to families fleeing domestic violence," says Gordon Dunham, 66, a retired HGV driver from Hampshire now working as a regional network volunteer driver for the charity. 

"As well as cats and dogs I've transported badgers, pigs, goats and snakes. Recently I took a baby otter from Taunton to a wildlife park near Southampton – you never know what will be next!"

Details of different volunteer driver opportunities can be found on the RSPCA website. The Guide Dogs charity also needs volunteers to transport puppies, dogs and owners.

Travelling in the car with your dog

Volunteer bikers

The Nationwide Association of Blood Bikes is an umbrella organisation for the various Blood Bike groups throughout the UK. 

They run a courier service providing transport for blood and other medical supplies for local hospitals. Each group is run independently and whilst the main focus is on motorbiking volunteers, some groups have volunteer drivers too. 

Whether a biker or driver, Blood Bike volunteers must be willing to take an advanced skills qualification.

Buying your first motorbike

Costs and training for volunteers

If you're using your own vehicle most charities will reimburse volunteer drivers at the standard mileage rate of 45p per mile and provide any additional training that might be required. 

However, it's important to clarify this at the initial interview. Some organisations might also want to carry out additional checks such as eyesight tests on potential drivers. 

Check your car insurance

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) offers guidance about volunteer driving and your car insurance. 

The majority of of motor insurers have signed up to the ABI's commitment on volunteer driving, meaning they will cover people doing volunteer driving in their own vehicle at no extra charge. However you should still contact your insurer and inform them and also include the mileage you do as a volunteer when giving your annual mileage. 

One clause in most car insurance documents requires you to state if you are 'driving for hire or reward'. However, if the charity is just reimbursing you the standard HMRC rate of 45p a mile then that wouldn't be an issue. 

Other legitimate expenses such as lunch are also fine.

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If you're driving a vehicle which belongs to the charity then you should be covered by their insurance. But as it's always the driver's legal responsibility to ensure they have the correct insurance always important to check. 

Another option maybe to use your own cover if it includes an option for driving other vehicles – however, this can be a complex area (for example, some policies only cover driving other vehicles in an emergency), so it's important to get written clarification in this instance.

Getting behind the wheel for a good cause can be a rewarding way to spend your free time, and whatever your interests, there will be a charity that will welcome you.

Next article: How to donate your old car to charity >>>

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