2.4 Youth volunteering at national level
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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. Document containing elements of a strategic nature in this area are discussed in Section 2.3.
Assumptions laid down in the following documents should be considered of key importance when it comes to the development of youth volunteering:
- Solidarity Corps („Korpus Solidarności. Program wspierania i rozwoju wolontariatu długoterminowego na lata 2018–2030”) focuses on four main target groups: volunteers, volunteer work organizers, volunteer work coordinators, and the community around volunteer workers. The programme designed 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 target groups. The strategic goal of this programme is to “help the development of the civic society through creation and introduction of solutions encouraging systemic and long-term engagement with volunteer work”. The programme calls for the increase of the number of volunteer workers in long-term volunteer work, increase in efficacy of volunteer work coordinators, increasing the number of volunteer work organizers, improving the public perception of volunteer work, and educating the society on volunteer work. The programme also includes various courses, holiday retreats and masterclasses, as well as the creation of the benefit programme “Volunteer worker’s card”, or handing out micro-grants for volunteer initiatives. A database of volunteers and organizations offering opportunities for them is also supposed to be created, as a national tool for finding volunteers and places where one can take on volunteer work.
- The main goal of the „Government Programme for the Support of the Scouting Movement for Years 2018-2030” („Rządowy Program Wsparcia Rozwoju Organizacji Harcerskich i Skautowych na lata 2018–2030” ) is “strengthening the scouting movement within the context of institutional potential, as well as empowering its functioning through the increase in abilities, competences, and qualifications of pedagogues and children and youth engaged in the scouting movement. Volunteer work within the scouting movement organizations is also to be supported”.
The importance of actions aimed at developing pro-social attitudes among students is also being highlighted, volunteer work included. To this end, support is extended to schools. Schoolmasters are obliged to create conditions for the development of volunteer work in their units. Students, through their councils, and in coordination with schoolmasters, can take on volunteer work tasks and establish the so-called volunteer work councils.
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 run since 2016, “Warsaw Volunteers” (Ochotnicy Warszawscy), 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. Budget for the enactment of the Strategy for the Development of Human Capital has been set in a very general way, without being divided between particular goals of the strategy.
The budget of Solidarity Corps - a programme for support and development of long term volunteering 2018-2030 has been established at 54 million PLN (around 12.6 million Euro). Those funds will come from the Civic Society Development Fund.
The tentative budget for the “Government Programme for the Support of the Scouting Movement for Years 2018-2030” („Rządowy Program Wsparcia Rozwoju Organizacji Harcerskich i Skautowych na lata 2018–2030” ) has been set at 197 million PLN for years 2018-2030.
Young people are a group that engages in volunteers relatively more often compared to other age groups. According to a report prepared by the Centre for Public Opinion Research (Centrum Badania Opinii Społecznej - CBOS), when asked directly whether they are a volunteer, only 5% of Polish men and women responded affirmatively (in 2020). Such low rates have been holding steady for over a decade – since 2006, they oscillate between 4% and 9%. Relatively highest rates can be found in lowest researched age group – in 2020, 10% of people aged 18 to 24 have had at least a single experience with volunteer work. Those rates also oscillate – volunteering experiences in 2016 have been admitted by 14% of people aged 18-24. Several factors may contribute to this. According to a 2016 study 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 or culture and hobby clubs. 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’. 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” (Szlachetna Paczka). 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. 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”.
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, since 2023, the value of this tax rebete was increased to 1,5%), 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 (Stowarzyszenie Klon/Jawor), 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 2022 the programme is no longer continued, hence there are currently no target groups whose participation is preferred and fostered.