2.3 National strategy on youth volunteering
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The youth volunteering strategy is part of the Austrian Youth Strategy(Österreichische Jugendstrategie), which is both an official policy and an ongoing process that has been introduced in 2012. One of the four fields of action, participation and initiative particularly promotes voluntary activities of young people. Under the motto 'Commitment pays off', both participation in democratic processes and voluntary engaging are to be promoted. The Youth Goals (Österreichische Jugendziele) for this particular field of action include youth-relevant support measures in the field, the contributing to the political engagement of youth through civic education and education for sustainable development, utilising the commitment of young people to achieve our climate and energy goals together, and recognising voluntary work as a component of young people's qualification,
There is no stand-alone law on youth volunteering, but several paragraphs within the Federal Act Promoting Volunteer Work (Bundesgesetz zur Förderung von freiwilligem Engagement, Freiwilligengesetz, Federal Law Gazette, Nr. 17/2012 as amended in 2016) only address young people. The Act came into force in 2012 and was last updated in 2016. A clear strategy, an appropriate legal framework, smart co-operation, a broadly based dialogue as well as readiness for action have created a solid basis and a favourable climate for general voluntary commitment in Austria. In this regard, the Federal Ministry implements the Federal Volunteer Act. This federal act stipulates the framework conditions for formal voluntary activities serving the public interest with a view to promoting such activities and fostering participation in voluntary work.
Voluntary work is widespread among young people in Austria. At 43% the rate of youth participation is nearly equal to that of adults, which means that more than 500,000 young people are engaged in voluntary work. Specifically, 30% of young people are formal volunteers (in organisations, societies) and 26% of young people are informal volunteers (in neighbourhood associations, for instance). A number of these young people (11.4 %) are active in formal and informal volunteering.
The Federal Act Promoting Volunteer Work (Bundesgesetz zur Förderung von freiwilligem Engagement, Freiwilligengesetz) contains provisions relating to the conduct of the Voluntary Social Year, the Voluntary Environmental Protection Year as well as Holocaust Memorial Service, Peace-related and Social Services abroad. It governs the preconditions for volunteer work, such as the recognition of providers (acting as placement agencies), the areas in which volunteers are engaged, the obligations of providers and institutions relying on the services of volunteers, the duration of voluntary work, the implementation mode as well as quality assurance. In addition, the Act also provides for the protection of volunteers under the social law (insurance cover), the payment of pocket money, pedagogical support and continuous assistance as well as payment of family allowances to young volunteers. With this law, a regulatory framework has been established in 2012 to support this socially important and invaluable contribution.
Since the entry into force of the amendment to the Act on Community Services on October 1, 2013 and 2016, it has become possible to earn credits that are counted towards the regular civil service by acting as a volunteer during the social year, the environmental protection year, holocaust memorial service, peace-related and social services abroad as defined in the Federal Volunteer Act. One of the prerequisites for earning such credits is, amongst other things, ten months of continuous practice for a recognized provider.
Financial funding is provided on the national level, but the organisation of voluntary activities is rather operated on to the federal state level. Most volunteer organisations are under the autonomy of the non-governmental sector but additionally funded by the government.
The Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection and the Department for Family and Youth at the Federal Chancellery are mainly responsible for the Austrian Strategy on Youth Volunteering. Chapter 2.2 details further relevant actors in the field.
In general, the voluntary organisations are responsible for evaluating technical supervision, practical supervision and educational guidance and have to present their QA reports to the Ministry either every three years or by request. The Health and Safety Executive investigates all organisations.
As an ongoing process the Austrian Youth Strategy and thus the included youth voluntary strategy are subject to continuous improvements and updates.