Listening volunteers are there for anyone who needs someone. They answer more than five million calls for help each year and they can change the course of someone’s life.
Now I take quiet comfort in knowing that by answering the phone, I can help someone feel better about themselves
Jamilia - Samaritans volunteer
Listening volunteers can change the course of someone’s life but many calls to Samaritans go unanswered because we don’t have enough volunteers. That’s where you come in. Find out if being a listening volunteer is right for you.
Help people at difficult times
Every six seconds someone contacts us. Every six seconds we can help someone turn their life around. As a listening volunteer you get the chance to make a real difference to someone’s future.
Get support every step of the way
You’ll receive full training to prepare you for the kinds of conversations you’ll have. And when you start out, you’ll have a mentor with you, to give you confidence you’re doing the right thing.
Learn to do something valuable
You’ll gain a range of new skills and the confidence to use them, including the ability to understand people and manage difficult conversations. Many employers value these kinds of skills.
What it’s like being a listening volunteer
- It’s always different and always interesting – no two conversations are the same.
- It feels like a privilege to have people confiding in you.
- You’re never on your own, and there’s a fun, supportive atmosphere in our branches.
- You can offer support on the phone, email or text.
- You can take a break between conversations whenever you need to.
- Spending a few hours helping other people can make you feel good about yourself.
I was blown away by how prepared I felt to enter the phone lines and how helpful everyone was once I began taking calls.
Lexy - Samaritans volunteer
Who are we looking for?
You’re willing to understand someone else’s point of view, even if it’s different from yours.
You’ll help maintain a friendly and supportive atmosphere.
You’re comfortable with your own feelings and able to share another person’s feelings.
You’ll be careful with any information you're told, and never share it outside Samaritans.
You won’t discriminate against anyone for any reason, including gender, race, sexuality, disability or political views.
You’re able to tell the truth even when it’s difficult – for example about the type of support we can offer people, even when they want more.
Can anyone be a listening volunteer?
Samaritans welcomes applications from a wide range of applicants.
Anyone has it in them to be a Samaritan. You won’t need to have previous experience or qualifications, but you will need to be non-judgemental and accepting of others.
It doesn’t necessarily matter if you’ve gone through difficult times yourself, what matters is that you want to help people – all kinds of people, from all walks of life.
You need to be 18 or over, and because we'll invest in you (our training is really high quality), you need to see this not just as a short term role but something you're likely to do more long term.
Serving police officers and special constables can’t be listening volunteers because they have a duty to report crimes, which might conflict with our policies, although they can volunteer in any other role.
In order to safeguard our volunteers and callers the listening role requires a criminal record check. If you have a criminal record it won't necessarily stop you from becoming a volunteer. We’ll consider each case individually. For more information you can read our Criminal Records Vetting Policy [link].
And we have zero tolerance for anyone who tries to take advantage of the vulnerable people who contact us.
What kinds of conversations might I have?
What sort of person is a listening volunteer?
How much time will I need to give?
Samaritans is proud to offer its services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We rely on our volunteers to offer their time to ensure we can achieve this. Listening volunteers typically do one shift of about 3 to 4 hours a week and a regular shift during the night. The exact amount of time depends on the branch, but we really rely on everyone to ‘do their bit’ so that we can be there for people when they need us.
Will I need to volunteer at night?
We need more volunteers at night so we're there whenever people need us – and often they need us most in the middle of the night, and there's nowhere else to go. Our volunteers often say that the conversations they have during the night are the ones they feel have made the biggest difference. A night shift is usually 4 to 6 hours every 4 to 8 weeks, but if nights are particularly difficult for you we can be flexible. We’ll cover your travel expenses so you can get home safely.
“It does feel, I think you get more of a sense of privilege. You are there on the phone at 4am with somebody and you think, there are very few other places they can go at that point and that increases the feeling that you are there right beside them.”
Samaritans light up the night
What support and training will I get?
You'll be given high quality training to prepare you for the role. The training usually takes place during weekday evenings or weekends. It typically takes a few months before you're ready to start volunteering.
You’ll also receive ongoing training several times a year to keep building your skills.
Towards the end of the training, you’ll be given a mentor – an experienced volunteer who will be with you during your first few shifts.
They’ll give you feedback and support, answer your questions, and help develop your confidence.
You’ll never be on your own as a listening volunteer. And there’s always time to talk through anything.
Sharing what’s happened with other Samaritans is a good way of dealing with anything you find difficult. (Our volunteers don’t share anything outside of Samaritans and that’s really important).
How do I become a listening volunteer?
You'll go through an enquiry and selection process, followed by in-depth training.
- Complete the enquiry form online
It's quick – we just need a few details.
- Have an interview
This is an opportunity for you to find out if the role is right for you as well for us to get to know you.
- Complete a criminal record check
If you have a criminal record it won't necessarily stop you from becoming a volunteer. We’ll consider each case individually.
- Provide references
We'll ask you for the details of two people who are happy to give you a reference.
- Start your training
This takes place over 5-10 sessions depending on if it’s being run as group sessions face to face or online, along with some digital topics and covers everything you’ll need to feel comfortable in the role.
- Be paired with a mentor
You’ll have an experienced volunteer with you for your first few shifts.
- Start your role
You’ll start your shifts with your mentor alongside you. And you’ll be given ongoing support and training as time goes on.
Our recruitment and training is all done by volunteers. It can take a few months from when you make your first enquiry, but we value everyone who is interested in volunteering with us. We have social media guidelines for our volunteers which includes asking trainee volunteers not to disclose they are volunteers until they are fully trained. We would therefore suggest that you don’t mention on social media that you are applying to become a volunteer. This protects you from being asked to help someone when you may not have completed the training.
Enquiring won't take long, but make sure you've read everything on this page first.
Do you have more questions?
Our team of experts are on hand to answer any questions you may have about becoming a volunteer.
Contact us for more information