2.6 Quality assurance
As there is no uniform framework programme for youth volunteering in Austria, there is also no uniform system for quality assurance (QA) in this field. The Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection is mainly responsible for QA of voluntary activities. In general, however, the voluntary organisations are responsible for evaluating technical and practical supervision and educational guidance. Quality management in volunteering has become a central concern for many institutions and organisations working with volunteers and is also a topic of professional discourse between organisations. Many NPOs have already developed quality management systems that are based on a dynamic design and improvement process and pursue a comprehensive range of quality objectives (Löffler 2015:102). Every three years or by request, volunteer organisations and institutions have to present their QA reports to the Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection. The Health and Safety Executive investigates all organisations.
The Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection in co-operation with the Austrian Volunteer Council (Österreichischer Freiwilligenrat) periodically draws up a report on the status and development of a commitment to voluntary work in Austria. Three reports (Freiwilligenberichte) have been published so far.
In addition to the Volunteer Reports, the internet portal (www.freiwilligenweb.at) of the Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection serves as a central Austrian information and networking medium - thus contributing to the networking of the Austrian voluntary sector with the various regional and local initiatives.
There is no common feedback mechanism for young volunteers.
The following QAs apply to specific volunteer programmes in Austria and abroad that are aimed at young people:
QA Voluntary Social Year (§11 Volunteer Act)
The Voluntary Social Year can only be completed with recognised providers (zugelassene Träger) that are selected by the Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection according to a strict admission procedure. These recognised providers are obliged to carry out regular evaluations, in particular of the professional guidance and the pedagogical support and supervision.
In order to evaluate the Voluntary Social Year and to check the recognition requirements of the providers, the umbrella organisations of the social insurance institutions are obliged to inform the Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection about the number of volunteers in the respective placement sites, their age, gender and the duration of their placement.
Another part of quality assurance is to instruct the providers to categorise the assistance for activities (§7 Volunteer Act) in activity catalogues as well as descriptions depending on the field of assignment. The executing agencies must submit reports on the implementation and evaluation of the Voluntary Social Year to the Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection and the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research every three years. These reports are to provide an overview of the development (utilissation, family allowance expenditure) and enable the coordination of quality assurance.
Conducting interim and final evaluations provides information on weaknesses, but also on good experiences in implementation, including the educational programme, including the impact of the Voluntary Social Year on participants' further education and career choices.
QA European Voluntary Service and European Solidarity Corps
Organisations participating in volunteer programmes abroad must have a valid accreditation certifying that they meet the criteria of the Charter ESC. To obtain the quality label, different requirements (Voraussetzungen für Qualitätssiegel) must be met depending on the type of project.Organisations and companies implementing projects under the ESC (ESK) must either have this quality label themselves or cooperate with a corresponding accredited organisation that acts as an intermediary. For organisations based in Austria, the seal can be applied for at the Austrian National Agency (OeAD). Currently, organisations accredited for volunteering projects under Erasmus+ can also apply for volunteering projects in the ESK. There are regional offices in all nine federal provinces that offer information and advice for both young people and organisations (Spreitzer 2019:50f.).