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EACEA National Policies Platform: Youthwiki
Belgium-Flemish-Community

Belgium-Flemish-Community

2. Voluntary Activities

2.2 Administration and governance of youth volunteering


Governance

Voluntary work of young people is not exclusively a youth policy theme (or any other policy area). Youth volunteering is regulated at federal level and further promoted on community-level. 

Most relevant policy domains:

At federal level:

At Regional (Flemish) level:

  • Funding of voluntary activities and volunteer groups (organized volunteer work) in many sectors: welfare and health, sports, culture, education, environment, integration… (Flemish Government)
  • Youth volunteer work opportunities through the recognition and funding of youth (work) initiatives (Department of Culture, Youth and Media – Departement Cultuur, Jeugd en Media)

In the following we focus on the regional level and describe for each of the domains the relevant responsibilities.

 

Main public bodies at the community-level (Flemish Community)

FLEMISH GOVERNMENT

In the Flemish Community, the Flemish Government is the voluntary work's main funding source. Grants are allocated to a number of (semi)public and private organizations that support voluntary activities. The funding of voluntary activities and volunteer groups (organized volunteer work) in the welfare and health sectors is laid down in the Flemish Parliament Acts of the Flemish Community. In other sectors volunteer work is less regulated.

 

MINISTRY OF CULTURE, YOUTH AND MEDIA

The Division Subsidising and recognising - embedded in the Department of Culture, Youth and Media - helps to create youth volunteer work opportunities through the recognition and funding of youth (work) initiatives.

On 8 July 2016, the Flemish Government approved a coordinated policy plan on voluntary work (Gecoördineerd Vlaams Vrijwilligersbeleid). The Division Knowledge and Policy is responsible for the coordination of the cross-sectoral policy on volunteering in Flanders. In 2016 an action plan was made built on 6 pilars: 1) Keeping volunteer work 'pure'; 2) protecting volunteers; 3) focus on support and information for volunteers; 4) support association life; 5) give everyone the opportunity to volunteer and 6) promote and make volunteer work visible. The horizontal consultation on volunteering policy monitors the plan. This plan aims to install an improved and well-coordinated policy on volunteering across different sectors, including the youth sector.

The focus is on three major issues:

  • the administrative burden for (young) volunteers and voluntary (youth) organizations
  • provision of information
  • common rules applicable to volunteers

The Flemish Government approved a revised and updated version of the coordinated policy plan on voluntary work on 10 July 2020.

In the Flemish Youth and Children’s Rights Policy Plan 2020-2024 (Jeugd- en Kinderrechtenbeleidsplan).  ‘Commitment in society through voluntary efforts’ is one of the five priority themes. By choosing this priority, the Flemish government wants to encourage children and young people to voluntarily engage in society. With the Youth and Children's Rights Policy Plan, Flanders commits itself to concrete, feasible and achievable objectives that have an impact and an observable effect on the lives of all children, young people and young adults in Flanders. Its operationalization takes place through a measurable set of actions.

 

Non-governmental actors promoting volunteering

THE FLEMISH SUPPORT POINT FOR VOLUNTARY WORK

The Flemish Support Point For Voluntary Work (Vlaams Steunpunt Vrijwilligerswerk) - established in 1977 as 'Platform voor Voluntariaat' - is the community's central, national volunteer centre. It receives an annual financial support from the Flemish Ministry of Culture and form the Flemish Ministry of Welfare, Public Health and Family. It is flanked by a number of regional volunteer centres and provides support to voluntary activities and initiatives launched by Flemish people.

It aims to obtain favourable legislation and regulations for volunteers from the Belgian Government as well as from the Flemish Community, and to make voluntary work accessible to all. The Support Point provides support to voluntary activities and consists of advice, information and training.

Up to 2017 five provincial supported centres and one Brussels (‘het punt’) based support centre coordinated voluntary activities in the Flemish provinces and Brussels. They managed a decentralised database, acted as a mediator between organizations and candidate volunteers, got more people involved in volunteering and helped organizations enhance the quality of their activities by providing information and training and by setting up certain initiatives. Finally, there were local support centres for volunteering. Since 2018 Flanders has taken over the tasks of the provinces. The Flemish Support Point for Voluntary work became a Flemish knowledge center and received new tasks within the Coordinated Policy for Volunteering. For instance, they developed a central insurance for volunteers in small organizations without a legal ground.

THE KING BAUDOUIN FOUNDATION

The King Baudouin Foundation (Koning Boudewijnstichting) was founded in 1976. It is an independent public benefit foundation which is active at the regional, federal and international level. For the King Baudouin Foundation, volunteers as well as the associations and institutions that provide opportunities for volunteering are important target groups. For many years, the Foundation has developed various projects and programmes for stimulating, rewarding and recognizing voluntary work, a.o. by means of research.

CERA

CERA is a cooperative financial group, whose mission is to invest in wealth and prosperity. It supports projects with social objectives and has created tools to support voluntary action in Belgium. CERA also intends to create debate and reflection on the theme of volunteering.

ORGANISATIONS WITH A SPECIAL FOCUS ON YOUNG PEOPLE

Many organizations with a special focus on young people are commissioned to set up, support and monitor volunteer work within youth work: the 'Ambrassade' (support centre for youth work and youth information, secretariat of the Flemish Youth Council), JINT (Co-ordination body for International Youth Work), nationally organized youth associations, NGOs in the field of development co-operation,…These youth organizations or youth associations usually receive funding by the Flemish government and funding is based on specific funding regulations or grant schemes. Voluntary organizations are relatively independently.

Voluntary organizations are relatively autonomous (e.g. concerning their policies on volunteering or the quality of their work), as long as they meet the regulations on the legal status of volunteers.

General distribution of responsibilities

The legal status of volunteers is regulated at the federal level and further supported and promoted by the Flemish Community. The regional level is also responsible for the subsidisation and recognition of voluntary work and supports organizations that set up voluntary activities. Organisations at the local level then support and monitor voluntary work.

 

Cross-sectoral cooperation

As mentioned in 1.5 Cross-sectorial approach with other ministries, youth policy is a transversal policy. It is envisaged that each ministry takes its own responsibilities and defines tasks linked to the implementation of specific goals within the Youth Policy Plan, while the Minister for Youth is in charge of overseeing the process and reporting on the Plan’s implementation to the government.

Besides the Flemish Youth and Children's Rights Policy Plan, the Act on Flemish Youth and Children’s Rights Policy envisages three more instruments of youth policy:

  • Impact study of new legislation on children and youth (JoKER)
  • Contact points for youth and children’s rights and a coordinating administration
  • Youth Progress Report

The Flemish Government decided to develop a cross-sectoral policy on volunteering. The Minister of Culture who is also the minister-president, is in charge. In the Horizontal consultation group on volunteering policy (Horizontaal Overleg Vrijwilligersbeleid – HOV) the administrations that work with volunteers are represented: a.o. Education, Welfare, Culture, Youth, Sports, Integration. Besides them the Flemish Support Point for Voluntary work takes part and there is a representation of the organization Verenigde Verenigingen, this is an umbrella-organization for all organizations in the non-profit sector.