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The Department for Families and Youth at the Federal Chancellery and the Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection are responsible for governing, funding and promoting youth volunteering at the national level. An online platform(Freiwilligenweb) has been established to provide guidance for volunteer organisations and volunteers. The Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection maintains this platform. Volunteer organisations are either to be found at national or at the local level.
Within the last years, measures were taken at various levels to support and promote voluntary engagement, thus, to further improve the framework for volunteering.
With the Federal Law to promote voluntary engagement (Freiwilligengesetz), a regulatory framework has been established in 2012 to support this socially important and invaluable contribution.
Furthermore, the Department for Families and Youth at the Federal Chancellery is responsible for youth volunteering specifically. The strategic goal aims for 50 % of young people taking the initiative on their own to do voluntary work. Voluntary work plays a large role in Austria at the communal level. As of the 3rd Report on Voluntary Engagement in Austria (2019) (3. Bericht zum freiwilligen Engagement in Österreich), 46% of the population over the age of 15 are involved in formal or informal voluntary labor. There are numerous organisations and projects involved in different areas such as emergency relief, culture, the environment, religion, social work, politics, local communities, education and sport. Volunteering makes it possible to experience being in a position of responsibility for society. It offers people the chance to acquire valuable skills that could be relevant in the workplace.
With the Federal Youth Promotion Act (Bundes-Jugendförderungsgesetz), the financial support of youth organisation is given and thus, an appropriate infrastructure for voluntary engagement is provided. Particularly the organised youth work is managed by volunteers.
In accordance with the youth strategy, processes for an improved quality assurance in youth work have been launched. aufZAQ certifies training courses for people working in extracurricular youth work.
Four main governance actors regarding youth volunteering
- Federal government
- Austrian Council for Voluntary Work (presented in the Section cross-sectoral cooparation)
- Regional Level: federal state's youth units
- Non-governmental actors
TheDepartment for Families and Youth at the Federal Chancellery, responsible for youth affairs, and the Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection, responsible for voluntary engagement, are the main actors responsible for voluntary activities on the federal level. Their cooperation with each other and other Ministries and actors of youth and voluntary affairs sets the foundation for a successful youth volunteering policy.
Regional Level: federal state's youth units
Youth volunteering is furthermore co-determined and promoted by the competent Departments of the Federal States.
- Vienna: Federal state government - MA 13 (Education and extracurricular youth services) – Department of youth and education
- Lower Austria: Federal state government – Department of youth
- Upper Austria: Federal state government – Department of education and Society
- Burgenland: Federal state government – Department 2
- Styria: Federal state government – Department 6A (youth, women, family and generation)
- Carinthia: Federal state government – Department of youth
- Salzburg: Federal state government - Department 2/07 (youth)
- Tyrol: Federal state government – Department of education, culture and sports – JUFF
- Vorarlberg: Federal state government – Department of youth and family
There are many different nongovernmental actors in every field of voluntary activities of young people in Austria, which range from emergency response to sports. The main youth NGOs are member organisations of the Austrian Youth Council(Bundesjugendvertretung). A list of these youth NGOs can be found on the webpage of this umbrella organisation.
The cooperation of the main actors responsible for youth volunteering depicted above is critical to enhance youth volunteering in Austria. In an institutionalised form, this takes place within the Austrian Council for Voluntary Work.
Austrian Council for Voluntary Work (Österreichischer Freiwilligenrat)
The Austrian Council for Voluntary Work pursues the aim of eliminating the hurdles and barriers that obstruct voluntary engagement. It develops recommendations for measures so that people of all age groups will continue to carry out voluntary work in the future. The establishment of the Austrian Council for Voluntary Work in 2003 fulfilled one of the main demands of the International Year of Volunteers in 2001. It meets at least once a year. The Volunteer Council, which forms part of the Ministry of Social Affairs, pursues the goal of upgrading voluntary work as a supporting pillar of society and further improving the conditions for volunteer activities. Pursuant to the Federal Volunteer Act, the Austrian Volunteer Council was established by law on December 14, 2012.
It represents an institutionalised forum for an ongoing dialogue and serves as a body for counselling, networking, representing stakeholder interests and developing further volunteer policies. The Council consists of delegates of the federal government, the federal provinces, the association of Austrian cities and towns and the association of Local Authorities, the social partners (employers' and employees' organisations, farmers' representatives), the political parties as well as volunteers' organisations from all areas of voluntary engagement. In total, the Austrian Council for Voluntary Work has 53 members, whose period of office is five years. Its Management is the responsibility of the Department of Senior Citizens' Policy, Population Policy and Voluntary Work Policy in the Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection.
Further tasks of the Austrian Council for Voluntary Work are:
- Making recommendations on questions which affect voluntary work and the interest of volunteers themselves
- Making proposals for the development of a modern model for voluntary work and unpaid engagement
- Making proposals for networking among volunteers' organisations and on specific projects for voluntary work
- Involvement in the setting of priorities and the conception of the Austrian Voluntary Work Report, which has to be presented to Parliament once per legislative period
- Issuing statements on draft bills and regulations, which affect the interests of volunteers' organisations and volunteers themselves.