2.7 Social inclusion through volunteering
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Act on the rights of volunteers (Vrijwilligerswet)
To ensure that volunteering remains accessible to all, the Act on the rights of volunteers (Vrijwilligerswet) has provided the possibility of a compensation. Volunteers are either reimbursed for their expenses on presentation of supporting documents (invoice, receipt, train ticket, etc.) or with lump-sum reimbursement. In the first case, there is no maximum limit. In the latter, there is no need to provide documentary evidence of actual expenditure (maximum: €40.67 per day and €1,626.77 per year (amounts valid from 1 January to 31 December 2023).
Free volunteer insurance (not specific for young volunteers, gratis Vrijwilligersverzekering)
To value volunteers and to protect them, the Flemish Government offer free volunteer insurance. De facto associations and non-profit organizations without employees that fall under the Volunteers Act can have 1,000 volunteer hours insured per 12 months. This insurance benefits volunteers active in voluntary organizations throughout Flanders and Brussels (if the working language is Dutch). The insurance is intended for de facto non-profit associations, led by at least 2 people, for example a neighborhood committee, a walking club, ... a non-profit organization or foundation without paid staff. The policy covers all activities performed by volunteers under the terms of the Volunteer Act and in function of the organisation's objectives. These are unpaid, non-compulsory activities that fit within the goals of the organization. The volunteer insurance offers guarantees for civil liability, legal assistance and physical accidents.
JINT was founded in 1989 by the Flemish government and was given the assignment to stimulate and support the international mobility and cooperation of young people and youth organizations. JINT is the National Agency for the implementation of the European subsidy programs Erasmus+ Youth and European Solidarity Corps in Flanders, and is responsible in Flanders for the implementation of the Belgian subsidy program Bel'J . JINT is also firmly embedded in various networks in Flanders and abroad.
Bel’J is a programme of the three Belgian communities, that is to say of the Flemish, French and German-speaking Community. With this programme young people between 16 and 30 years can do a volunteering service in one of the other Belgian communities. The volunteering service can last between 10 days and 3 months and can be spread over 6 months. Examples of possible offers for the volunteers include working in the childcare, accompanying camps or the cultural sector. The volunteering service does not need to be focused on an inclusive dimension, but it can be, for instance there are also offers for being active in the area of refugee aid.
In all aspects JINT tries to take into account sustainability. Therefore, they make specific policy choices and take action in the areas of ICT, finance, purchasing, energy, mobility and housing. JINT has written down a sustainability vision and includes several actions in an annual action plan. Some examples:
- JINT strives to make at least a quarter of international journeys by train .
- JINT puts its vision on sustainability into practice during (inter)national events , training courses or study visits. Information, tips and examples for youth organisations can be found in the online publication 'Guidelines for sustainable events' .
Also, inclusion and diversity are very important to JINT.
- On the one hand, they want to lower thresholds and make their offer more accessible in all its aspects: physical accessibility, accessible language, accessible administration for project applicants, etc. The instruments with which they inform and support young people and organizations aim to increase the accessibility of the subsidy programs, e.g.:
- helpdesk for technical questions, accessible manuals for application forms or coaching for the administrative side of a project.
- collecting and disseminating inspiring practical examples and projects that work with specific target groups of young people.
- in collaboration with other stakeholders, raising legal or regulatory barriers with the competent political authorities.
- On the other hand, they want to contribute to the inclusion of young people with fewer opportunities in society with their programs and activities through e.g.
- extra support for organizations and young people with fewer opportunities.
- stimulating projects that work with specific target groups of young people, as well as projects that work thematically around inclusion
- Annual initiatives with a focus on a specific theme or threshold, bringing together organizations that deal with the same theme or threshold. During such a process, the participating organizations are offered training, intervision and an international study visit for a period of time.
Also, JINT built up the SALTO Inclusion and Diversity Resource Center. SALTO-YOUTH stands for 'Support, Advanced Learning and Training Opportunities' within the EU programs for youth and youth work, namely Erasmus+ Youth and the European Solidarity Corps. SALTO-YOUTH is a network of seven Resource Centers working on EU youth priorities and cooperation with neighboring regions. SALTO organizes training and contact activities for organizations and the National Agencies. It develops non-formal methodologies and tools for youth workers and youth leaders. It also supports policy making in the areas of their expertise. Each SALTO center specializes in a specific theme or neighborhood region. In Flanders this is “Inclusion and Diversity”. The SALTO Inclusion & Diversity Resource Center is part of JINT. This Resource Center specializes in international projects with young people from vulnerable and diverse groups. An overview of all training courses, publications and information material can be found on the SALTO-YOUTH Inclusion and Diversity website .
Voluntary organizations for youth with disabilities (Vrijwilligersorganisaties voor jeugd met een handicap)
The Flemish Government annually awards project subsidies to volunteer organizations to organize a supra-local youth work offer for children and young people with disabilities during the school holidays or during the school year. This subsidy line falls under the decree on supra-local youth work, youth centers and youth work for special target groups and the subsidy is maximum € 5,000.
From 1 January 2024 (date subject to change), this subsidy line falls under the new Youth Decree (or the decree on youth and children's rights policy and the support of youth work), and Article 28 of the decision of the Flemish Government implementing the Youth Decree.
To be eligible, the volunteer organization must
- be located in the Dutch language area or in the bilingual area of Brussels-Capital;
- have a non-commercial character;
- be an existing organisation that relies entirely on volunteers where no professionals are employed.