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EACEA National Policies Platform: Youthwiki
Belgium-Flemish-Community

Belgium-Flemish-Community

2. Voluntary Activities

2.3 National strategy on youth volunteering


Existence of a National Strategy

There is no stand-alone national strategy on youth volunteering.

However, in the Flemish Community, volunteering has been mentioned in different policy plans set up by the Flemish Government. For example, in the most recent Policy Paper on Youth (Beleidsnota Jeugd 2019-2024), the Minister of Youth commits himself to maximally support volunteers in the context of youth work.

There is a general law on volunteering at the Federal level: The Act on the rights of volunteers (2005), which entered into force in August 2006 (Vrijwilligerswet).

The Act on the rights of volunteers (2005) is a wide-ranging law which applies to volunteering throughout Belgium and to volunteering activities abroad that are organized from Belgium.

  • It provides a precise legal framework and ensures formal recognition of the status of volunteers;
  • It protects individuals from certain abuses, promotes volunteering and gives newly defined responsibilities to volunteering organizations.

More specifically, the law on volunteering regulates the following aspects of voluntary work:

  • the legal definition of volunteering
  • issues of liability and insurance
  • the relation between the law on volunteering and other legal areas
  • the reimbursement of expenses
  • the access to voluntary work

As mentioned under point 'A political evolution' (2.1), the law on the rights of volunteers of 2005 has been revised on its tenth birthday by the Minister of Social Affairs Maggie De Block and Minister of Work Kris Peeters, because it led to some interpretation- and other problems for volunteers and/or voluntary organizations. The Ministers therefore approved a new law on volunteering at 20 July 2018. This new law aims to better protect both volunteers and organizations that unite volunteers and tries to give them a clearer statute. The renewed law:

  • Mentions that voluntary managers of non-profit associations fall under the scope of the law on volunteering.
  • Clarifies the professional secrecy of volunteers.
  • No longer refers to ‘a reimbursement’ but ‘a cost reimbursement’.
  • Stipulates that volunteers get a cost reimbursement for the use of their own car or bike. This cost reimbursement is similar to the cost reimbursement received by civil servants.
  • No longer limits the allowances for expenses or mileage.
  • Explicates that occasional gifts received by volunteers cannot be used to determine the maximum amount of allowances for expenses.
  • Gives the High Council of Volunteers a more prominent role.  

 

Scope and contents  

The Policy Paper on Youth 2019-2024 (submitted on September 8, 2019; Beleidsnota Jeugd 2019-2024) as well as the Flemish Youth and Children’s Rights Policy Plan (2020-2024) mention an engagement to support volunteering in youth work, mainly through:

  • relieving the administrative burden for volunteers and voluntary organizations by trying to cut back on the regulations that prevent young people to take initiative;
  • strengthening the competences of youth volunteers, for example through training initiatives. A specific attention should be paid to an appropriate training of volunteers working with special target groups, for example youth volunteers working with children in poverty;     
  • recognising the competences resulting from volunteering.

In the Policy Paper on Youth (2019-2024) Flemish Minister of Brussels, Youth and Media Benjamin Dalle  argues that youth work should be able to fully engage in the core of its mission: to empower and connect children and youth. Supporting the engagement of children and young people is a key challenge for youth and children's rights policy. Volunteers are the linchpin of youth work. The Minister will actively recognize the importance of volunteers from his Youth competence and continue to look for new levers of support.

Responsible authority

Flemish authorities campaign for the promotion of volunteer work in Flanders in collaboration with the Flemish Support Centre for Volunteer Work (Vlaams Steunpunt Vrijwilligerswerk) and the Provincial Support Centres (the Provinciale Steunpunten).

Revisions/ Updates

18 November 2016, the Flemish Government approved a coordinated policy on volunteering across different policy domains, including youth.

The Flemish Minister of Youth pays attention to (1) the status of volunteers and the legislation for volunteers, (2) the fragmentation of information about and for volunteers and (3) the over-regulation. For youth in particular, the administrative simplification and the problems with volunteer work abroad are important in the coordinated policy plan on volunteer work.