2.4 Youth volunteering at national level
The main national program for the promotion of values of solidarity and social participation is the Universal Civic Service accessible to young people in the age group 18 to 28.
The National Civic Service was set up in 2001 with Law 64/2001. In 2017, with the Reform introduced by legislative decree 40/2017, the national civic service became "universal". The legislator used the term “universal” to stress the importance of guaranteeing access to volunteering to all young people who wish to do so. However, accessibility depends on the amount of funds, which are available yearly.
The responsible authority for the implementation and coordination of the programme is the Department for Youth Policies and the Universal Civic Service of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers.
The Universal Civic Service is a programme that includes several actors:
- the volunteers, i.e., young people who decide to dedicate a period of their life to the Country and to others, carrying out the civic service activities in the intervention sector of their choice;
- the sending organizations, which promote the projects. They are public or private entities enrolled in the Civic Service Register;
- the entire community, which reaps the benefits thanks to the implementation of the civic service projects;
- the State, through the Department for Youth Policies and the Universal Civic Service, the Regions and the autonomous Provinces that manage the entire system.
The sectors of intervention of the civic service projects, which are implemented in Italy and abroad are the following:
- Civil protection;
- Environmental heritage and urban regeneration;
- Historical, artistic and cultural heritage;
- Cultural, landscape, environmental, sport, sustainable and social tourism promotion and education;
- Agriculture in mountain areas, social agriculture and biodiversity;
- Promotion of peace among peoples, nonviolence and unarmed defense; promotion and protection of human rights; cooperation for development; promotion of the Italian culture and support for Italian communities abroad.
Since 2001, about 500,000 young volunteers have been involved in civic service projects and out of these, about 7,000 have taken place abroad. It started in 2001 with the placement of 181 young people, reaching a peak of over 53,000 in 2018.
For 2019-2020, nearly 40,000 positions have been made available in approximately 3,800 projects. In 2021, 49.367volunteers were enrolled in Civic Service activities. and 64.331in 2022.
In 2022 nearly 64.331 places have been made available.
For 2023 is currently active a call for the selection of around 71.550 volunteers to be deployed in Universal Civic Service projects in Italy and abroad, including Youth Guarantee projects. It’s the highest number ever recorded for the Universal Civic Service in recent years.
All sending organizations participating in the programme are registered in the Universal Civic Service Register, which is continuously updated. The database contains information on the organizations, on the project activities and on the deployed volunteers. Annually, the Department publishes a Report to the Parliament which contains the main summary of data regarding the performance of the civic service programme.
The reform introduced a number of innovations, some of which will produce results in the years to come. Among them, it is worth mentioning the three-year programming, which became operational in 2019.
The reform also introduced the possibility of availing, during placement, of 3 months deployment in a European member State or of 3 months of tutoring aimed at facilitating access to the labour market.
The programming document of the Universal Civic Service for the years 2023-2025 was introduced on January 20th, 2023.
According to the Legislative Decree 40/2017, the Universal Civic Service is financed through an ad hoc National Fund (established by law 230/1998, art.19) and managed by the Presidency of the Council of Ministers. In addition to the national resources, the Fund also receives European financing.
The amount of financial resources allocated in 2022 for the implementation of the intervention programs for the civic service was of 311,581,036.00 Euro, in accordance with art. 24 of the aforementioned legislative decree 6 March 2017, n. 40 (legislation in force).
200 million euros related to "PNRR resources for existing projects" and 17 million euros related to "PNRR resources for new projects" are included within this amount.
In relation to the PNRR funds, the art. 2, paragraph 6bis of decree law 31 May 2021, n.77 is applied, converted with amendments by law 29 July 2021, n. 108, which allocates to the regions of the South at least 40% of the resources that can be territorially deployed.
The picture of the resources available at the presentation of the Universal Civic Service intervention programs for the year 2022, published on 25 January 2022, is completed by the funds pertaining to the PNRR and dedicated to the "Digital Civic Service''. These are mentioned in the 'Agreement between the Department for Youth Policies and the Universal Civic Service and the Department for Digital Transformation, signed on 14 December 2021 and that consist in 55 million euros for the three-year period 2022-2024, as well as in the budget dedicated to the "Environmental Civic Service'' referred to in the Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry for Youth Policies and the former Ministry for Ecological Transition (now Ministry of the Environment and Energy Security), signed on the 6th of August 2021, which allocates 10 million euros for the first year.
According to the 2023-2025 plan, the resources assigned for the year 2023 amount to 106,581,036.00 euros, gross of any shelving and reductions, to which 5 million euros must be added, as destined for the "National Center of the Universal Civic Service" , based in L'Aquila.
The PNRR establishes that the Department for Youth Policies and the Universal Civic Service, in the context of Mission 5, is responsible for the implementation of the line of intervention in the Measure 2 - Investment 2.1 - Universal Civic Service, having a total amount of 650 million euros to invest for this purpose in the years 2021-2023, with 400 million euros for existing projects and 250 million euros for new projects.
For 2023 the resources for new projects are of 216 million, while for the years 2024 and 2025, the resources allocated under current legislation amount to 145,581,036.00 euros, to which 5 millions per year must be added to support the"National Center of the Universal Civic Service", thus opening a scenario that forecasts a significant reduction in overall funding (due to the lack of PNRR contributions) and which will require important systemic efforts in order not to deviate from the trajectory undertaken, which aims towards an ever greater universality of the civic service.
As we can see in fact, the funding allocation for 2021 was €299,286,531.00, higher than the € 224,133,221.11 of 2020 (of which € 41,806,354.11 were for operating costs) and of the €231,765,320.00 of 2019 (of which €44,050,000.00 were coming from management savings).
Characteristics of youth volunteering
According to the latest data made available by the Department for Youth Policies and the Universal Civic Service, 63.45% of the 49,367 volunteers sent to service in Italy in 2021 (31,322 people) are female and the remaining 36.55 %, (corresponding to 18,045 people) are male.
In 2021, the South (53.72%) in addition to significantly lead ahead of the North and the Center for the number of male volunteers, also exceeded the percentage of female volunteers (50.62%). For the male representation the Center comes second (23.34%) while the North third (22.94%).
For the same year the South (including the islands) with 50.62% ranks ahead of the North and the Center also for the total number of volunteers.
Going to the regions, the ones with the highest percentage of volunteers are Campania (17.12%) for the South, Lazio (8.50%) for the Center and Lombardy with 7.88% for the North, keeping the ranking also when it comes to the presence of male volunteers, Campania (20.32%), Lazio (9.11%) and Lombardy with 6.67%.
The Universal Civic Service is open to citizens of EU countries and to non-EU citizens legally residing in Italy.
The reform of the Universal Civic Service introduces additional measures to support the participation of specific target groups of young people with fewer opportunities (young people with recognition of disabilities; young people with low education and young people with economic difficulties). It provides for the possibility of carrying out a period of civic service, of a maximum duration of three months, in one of the countries of the European Union or, alternatively, to take advantage of the same period of tutoring aimed at facilitating access to the labour market.
As anticipated (see Funding), with ad hoc European resources, further target groups were also reached: unemployed young people and NEETs and young citizens of third countries who are under international protection.
Support to young volunteers
Young civic service volunteers receive the following benefits:
- training (minimum 80 hours);
- training credits;
- certificate of participation in the civic service;
- recognition of acquired skills;
- recognition of the placement for the pension fund (redeemable);
- monthly allowance of around €440.00; an additional daily allowance of €13 to €15 for placements abroad;
- for placements abroad: free food, accommodation, and 2 round trips;
- leave in proportion to the placement period (20 days over 12 months);
- up to three months tutoring to facilitate access to the labour market (for placements in Italy);
- preferential access in some Universal Civic Service projects, for young people with fewer opportunities.
Furthermore, mentoring is an important supporting measure for volunteers. The Local Project Operator is a volunteer, employee or other contract staff of the sending organization, who possesses specific skills related to the activities and objectives established by the project. They are available on the project site for at least 10 hours per week.
The Universal Civic Service provides for a participation certificate which can be used to obtain credits in public procurement exams. In addition, Universities may recognize volunteering as educational credits.
In the Universal Civic Service, the recognition and enhancement of the skills acquired is envisaged with reference, in particular, to the knowledge of an area of intervention of the Universal Civic Service, to greater knowledge of the territory, social and civic skills and the ability to manage the time, through the issue of: a Standard certificate/Specific certificate and a Competence certificate.
Universities can recognize educational credits in favour of students who have carried out certified volunteering activities in voluntary organizations or other third sector entities relevant for professional growth and the curriculum of studies.
The Universal Civic Service is open to EU or non-EU citizens legally residing in Italy in the age group 18 to 28, not having reported convictions in Italy or abroad.
Additional specific target groups are the NEETs and third-country nationals with international protection; both target groups are financed through European funding (see Funding).