2.2 Administration and governance of youth volunteering
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Youth volunteering is regulated at federal level and further promoted on community-level.
The legal framework of volunteering is set out at the Federal level. The Law of 2005 (and revised version of 2019 – see 2.3) establishes a common framework for everyone involved in volunteering throughout Belgium.
Main actors at the federal level
Most relevant actors at federal level are:
- The Federal Public Service for Social Security is responsible for all regulations on the legal status of volunteers)
- The High Council of Volunteers (Hoge Raad voor Vrijwilligers) is the Federal advisory body dealing with volunteering. It has been established at the end of 2002 by the Ministry of Social Affairs. Its missions are:
- to collect and analyze information related to volunteering and volunteers ;
- to examine specifics issues about volunteering ;
- to issue notices about volunteering.
- The High Council of Volunteers is composed of 25 members from the three communities.
Main actors at community-level (Flemish Community)
Most relevant actors at the community level concerning volunteering in general are:
- 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 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 favorable 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.
Most relevant actors at the community level concerning youth volunteering are:
- the Department of Culture, Youth and Media (Departement, Cultuur, Jeugd en Media)
- helps to create youth volunteer work opportunities through the recognition and funding of youth (work) initiatives
- recognizes and evaluates training programs to obtain a (main) animator or instructor certificate (volunteering in youth work)
- finances research on youth volunteering
- coordinates the drawing up of the Youth and Children's Rights Policy Plan (where voluntary engagement of young people is one of the priorities in the 2020-2024 legislature) and is responsible for coordinating and supervising the implementation of the selected projects within this plan
- Many organizations with a special focus on young people are commissioned to set up, support and monitor volunteer work within youth work:
Youth Work Organizations recognized and supported by the Youth Department of the Flemish Community, are mostly volunteering associations dedicated to young people. Youht work organisations that rely strongly on young volunteers are:
- Youth Movements (e.g. scouting), they are composed of local groups of children and young people engaged in activities and animation projects supervised by voluntary youth leaders;
- Youth Houses, these are meeting places for young people. Youth centers are run by young people themselves , who keep the youth center open and organize activities. Activities mainly take place for and by young people between the ages of 14 and 30
- Volunteer organizations for youth with disabilities (see 2.7 for more information)
These 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.
Policies that provide opportunities, support and protection for volunteers in Belgium are fragmented. There is the institutional context of federal Belgium, the Flemish level, the provincial and local governments and each sector or domain in which volunteers are called upon is virtually on its own. That is why the Government of Flanders decided in 2016 to approach the volunteer policy in a more coordinated way with the aim of intersectoral cooperation and thus achieve an improved environment, support and appreciation of volunteers.
The then Minister of Culture and Youth, Sven Gatz, was appointed as coordinating minister for the entire Flemish government and in the current legislature (2020-2024) the minister responsible for Culture, Prime Minister Jan Jambon, assumes this task. That is why the Department of Culture, Youth and Media takes charge of coordinating policy preparation.
In addition, a Horizontal Consultation on Volunteering Policy was set up for coordination with the other policy areas within the Flemish government that represent a strong voluntary sector (supplemented by representatives of the Flemish Support Center for Voluntary Work (see below for more information, Vlaams Steunpunt Vrijwilligerswerk) and the United Associations (an umbrella-organization for all organizations in the non-profit sector – Verenigde Verenigingen).
On 23 June 2023, the Flemish Government ratified the decree on the coordinated Flemish volunteer policy (Decreet over het gecoördineerd Vlaams Vrijwilligersbeleid). This new decree lays down the cross-policy domain approach to the volunteer policy. The aim of the decree on the coordinated Flemish volunteer policy is to tackle the volunteer policy in Flanders across policy domains (see 2.3 for more information).
This decree is not specific directed towards volunteering among young people, but as mentioned in 1.5 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.