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For many years there has been no separate scheme in Poland that could be considered as fulfilling the criterion of a national programme for youth volunteering. Documents containing elements of a strategic nature in this area are discussed in Section 2.3. Some themes regarding youth volunteering are contained in “The Long-Term Policy for the Development of Volunteering in Poland” (Długofalowa polityka rozwoju wolontariatu w Polsce) One of its Strategic Objectives is “to strengthen volunteering as a form of civic activity leading to the socio-economic development of Poland”; it consists of three Operational Objectives, two of which include activities related to the development of youth volunteering:
- Operational Objective 1 (“development of a volunteering culture”) aims to: “educate teachers in developing the social competences of children and young people”; “organise, support and promote volunteering in educational institutions”; “facilitate and encourage the acquisition of experience in volunteering by children and young people”; and “promote a diversity of volunteering (diverse forms of volunteering, volunteering for people in different age groups, including children and youth)”;
- Operational Objective 3 (“Strengthening of Public Policies for the Development of Volunteering”) intends to “create a Youth Volunteering project”.
In 2018, the programme Solidarity Corps - a programme for support and development of long term volunteering 2018-2030 has been established and as of 2019 is fully operational and therefore can be considered as a national scheme for volunteering, where youth is one of the tarhet groups. It is implemented by the National Freedom Institute - Civil Society Centre. The main goal of the programme is to support a long-lasting and long-term relationship between volunteers and organisations that need their work. The target groups are the following: volunteers, volunteering organisations, volunteering coordinators and local communities.The programme stipulates also the development of educational activities for young people and establishement of a national system facilitating the contact between volunteers and volunteering-seeking organisations.
The long lasting lack of a national programme for youth volunteering, results in the increased importance of strategies created at the level of individual regions or cities. It is worth pointing out the Warsaw City Volunteering project, “Warsaw Volunteers 2.0 for the years 2016-2020” (Ochotnicy Warszawscy 2.0 na lata 2016–2020), which is often referred to as a model and inspiration for activities undertaken in other localities. In the project, the youngest volunteer group is treated as one of the target groups: “It is necessary to organise, support and promote volunteering in institutions of education of all levels. It is important to encourage children and young people to gain volunteering experience from the pre-school stage through the successive stages of general education.” The document highlights the importance of volunteering as a means of “strengthening intergenerational solidarity through the involvement and co-operation of youth and older people at the same time”.
Because Poland does not have a separate scheme that could be considered as fulfilling the criterion of a national programme for youth volunteering, no budget assumptions can be identified in this respect. (Very general budgetary assumptions concerning strategic documents or containing general volunteering-related themes are discussed in Section 2.3 National Strategy on Youth Volunteering.)
The budget of Solidarity Corps - a programme for support and development of long term volunteering 2018-2030 has been established and as of 2019 is 13,4 mln Euro (54,77 mnl zloty).
According to a 2016 study by the National Bureau for Drug Prevention (Krajowe Biuro Przeciwdziałania Narkomanii), one in three young respondents declares their affiliation to informal groups, associations, organisations, clubs, fan groups, unions or religious movements. This, of course, does not mean that they are volunteers, as the greatest number of students are affiliated with sports and fan clubs, unions and associations (17%), or culture and hobby clubs (9%). Organisations and associations related to social activities come third (6%). According to data released by the Central Statistical Office of Poland (GUS), the overall proportion of adults (aged 15 and over) engaged in voluntary activities is decreasing (from 10.3%, or 3.3 million, in 2011 to 8.5% in 2016) and is still the lowest in Europe; an alarming trend is also shown in the number of hours worked in this way: in 2011 it was an average of 12 hours in four weeks per person, and in 2016 it was only an average of 8 hours per volunteer. Unfortunately, this downward trend is also related to youth volunteering: in 2011, in the 15 to 24 age group it was, on average, 15.4% (in the youngest study group aged 15 to 17 – 18.9%, and in the group aged 18 to 24 – 11.8%). According to data from 2016, the level of volunteering activity for people aged 15 to 24 was at only 9.5%. Those results are also confirmed by studies (carried out in three provinces: Lubuskie, Zachodniopomorskie and Wielkopolskie) by the Youth Activity Factory (Fabryka Aktywności Młodych- FAM) in 2013 concerning the perception of volunteering as a form of spending one’s free time among lower secondary school students: although 87% of the respondents have had some experience of volunteering in their lives, having, for example, participated once in some action, 82% of the respondents viewed volunteering as an unappealing form of spending time, and only 7% of the young people declared willing and regular involvement in actions organised by local NGOs. The respondents have repeatedly stressed that the voluntary groups in their schools were not particularly visible and that in their opinion they were not functioning very well. On the other hand, young people are more likely than older people to call their social involvement ‘volunteering’, as indicated by the answers to the question: “Did you work as a volunteer last year?”; the percentage of affirmative responses across the population is 6%, and in the 18 to 24 age group is as high as 14%. This is probably due mainly to the mass involvement of young people in one-time voluntary work during the finale of the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity and activities like the “Noble Box”. Young people are more likely to engage in voluntary activities within their immediate surroundings, which is supported by the fact that “especially pupils and students, more often than others, talk about volunteers in their circle of friends and colleagues in school or college”, and that there is also a growing number of youth organisations. More than 6% of the respondents declared themselves to be active participants of said youth organisations in 2016 (Boguszewski, 2016). In terms of preferred places and means of action (again, this does not necessarily mean volunteering only), “the youngest respondents (aged 18 to 24), mainly pupils and students, are distinguished by their activity in sports unions, clubs and associations as well as in youth organisations (scouting, student clubs and associations, etc.), in art groups such as choir, dance and theatre groups, and scientific societies”. (Boguszewski, 2016). In turn, the Regional Volunteering Centre in Łódź points to youth clubs of the Polish Red Cross and Caritas and the School Volunteer Clubs (initiated by the national network of Volunteering Centres in 2006, aimed at voluntary activation of youth from lower secondary and upper secondary schools, and attempting to take young people’s spontaneous willingness to act and put it into a more solid and systematic organisational framework) as the main places where youth volunteering is happening.
The provisions of the Act on Public Benefit and Volunteer Work indicate that an institution using the work of a volunteer must provide them with safe and hygienic conditions for their services as well as personal protection equipment and personal accident insurance, and also – if the volunteer is working in the territory of another country in the area of an armed conflict or a natural disaster – personal accident insurance and medical treatment abroad insurance, unless those benefits arise from other provisions. The volunteer has the right (which they may voluntarily waive) to receive reimbursement of travel expenses and subsistence expenses, and the relevant agreement should also lay down rules for covering other costs of the volunteer’s work, such as training costs or liability insurance.
There are no regulations in Poland for quality assurance of youth volunteering or volunteering in general. There is no national registry of organisations that offer the opportunity to work voluntarily. For those looking for such opportunities and for institutions and organisations looking for volunteers, the main source of knowledge and contacts is the network of Volunteering Centres (described in Section 2.2 Administration and Governance of Youth Volunteering), which consists of regional and local volunteering centres and some infrastructural (umbrella) non-governmental organisations. The only way to withdraw support for an organisation that is not properly running its volunteering programs is an inspection by sponsors during the funding period. The Act on Public Benefit and Volunteer Work also provides for the possibility of withdrawing the status of Public Benefit Organisation (a status which includes, among other things, the right to participate in the 1% tax donation mechanism), however, this only occurs if an inspection carried out by the minister shows that the organisation is guilty of the irregularities described in the Act, but they include formal irregularities (lack of reports, unreported public collections, or inadequate accounting of grants), rather than irregularities that are identified on the basis of an in-depth evaluation of the quality of the activities carried out.
The available information regarding volunteering in Poland comes primarily from surveys by the Centre for Public Opinion Research (Centrum Badania Opinii Społecznej - CBOS) and the Klon/Jawor Association, but it is mostly quantitative data and does not in any way constitute a source of knowledge about the quality of youth volunteering programmes.
Between 2016 and 2019 the departmental programme “Youth Joined in Action 2016-2019” was in force. It identified specific target audiences among young people whose participation is preferred. These were: young parents, youth with disabilities, youth from dysfunctional families, excluded young people or those threatened with social exclusion, persons gaining independence upon leaving a care institution, family custody, or prison..” However, as of 2020 the programme is no longer continued, hence there are currently no target groups whose participation is preferred and fostered.