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The occupational field of facilitation is currently undergoing profound changes; this is resulting in a broadening of the field in which facilitators operate and changes in how they work. These changes are redefining the role and functions of youth facilitators.
Universel National Service
The Government is leading a new volunteering scheme: the SNU - Universel National Service (Service national universel). Its aims are: “social and territorial cohesion, creating awareness within each generation of the issues of defence and national security, and developing a sense of commitment”. Currently being rolled out throughout France following its announcement in 2019, the SNU will eventually become compulsory and involve an entire age group, i.e. around 800,000 young people per year.
The scheme consists of two initial phases: the first of these includes a period spent in shared accommodation, during which young people live communally and attend training modules (introductions to the Highway Code, self-defence, etc.) and presentations (how national and European institutions operate, etc.) mainly given by youth workers, with additional support. The second phase consists of a mission that serves the public interest. A third phase entails a longer voluntary commitment.
A number of non-formal education associations have signed partnership agreements with the Ministry of National Education and Youth. These associations are using their expertise to help develop the scheme along the lines of the student association network Animafac and the Network of Junior Associations (réseau Junior-association), which seek to promote the creation of youth associations by young people themselves, within the framework of the SNU.
Recent educational and Youth Policy reforms — such as the reform of educational rhythms (réforme des rythmes éducatifs) and the creation of “Educational Cities” (“cités éducatives”) — have had an impact on the youth work sector.
Educational Cities (cités éducatives)
Launched in 2018 by the Government and supported by the Ministry of the City and Housing, Educational Cities (cités éducatives) are intended for the residents of deprived urban areas covered by City policy (see Glossary). These are close partnerships between various State services, communities, associations and residents designed around providing educational support for children and young people aged between 3 and 25 “before, during, around and after school”. They aim to strengthen cooperation and coordination between an area’s various stakeholders in order to attain the status of "Area of High Quality Education” (“Territoire à haute qualité éducative"). Their 3 main aims, which can be broken down into various measures, are:
- Strengthening the role of schools
- Promoting educational continuity
- Opening up the field of possibilities
The scrapping of the BAPAAT - Assistant Technical Facilitator for Youth and Sport Certificate of Aptitude (brevet d’aptitude professionnelle d’assistant animateur technicien de la Jeunesse et des Sports)
The Assistant Technical Facilitator for Youth and Sport Certificate of Aptitude (brevet d’aptitude professionnelle d’assistant animateur technicien de la Jeunesse et des Sports) is open to anyone aged 16 and over; no previous qualifications are required. The BAPAAT has Level 3 status in the list of levels of qualification contained in the RNCP – National Register of Professional Qualifications (Répertoire National des Certifications Professionnelles). Training takes place between training centres and the workplace and includes 1,500 to 2,000 hours of general, technical and vocational education.
Initial remark: the debates presented here are just examples.
A fall in the numbers of children attending summer camps (colonies de vacances)
For a number of years, the take-up of holidays that provide accommodation, including holidays known as “summer camps” (“colonies de vacances”), has been falling. 1.4 million children and teenagers go on these holidays each year, compared to almost 4 million children in the 1960s. This fall in numbers is even more significant given that 3 million children do not go on holiday at all. This decline in numbers is due to various political, cultural, economic and social factors, including a decline in the number of infrastructures that cater for children and young people and are owned by local and regional authorities and associations, and the development of a commercial holiday camp (colonie de vacances) market which has resulted in an increase in the price of such holidays. There are other reasons for this fall in numbers, such as reductions in the allowances paid to families and the fact that certain families prefer family holidays. Overall, rising costs have made it harder — and in some cases, impossible — for children from poorer families who do not receive financial support to go “off to camp”.
At the same time, the number of places available at scouting centres has greatly increased, reaching over 132,000 new places in 2018-2019 (+ 27% in 9 years).
To address this fall in the number of children going off “to camp” (“en colonie”), in 2015 the Ministry of Youth launched an annual awareness and information campaign on the subject of the camps, which included a summary of the security arrangements on these holidays.
It is worth mentioning that between 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 there was a slight increase in the take up by minors of holidays that provide accommodation (including organised holidays (séjours de vacances)).
Source: BACOU, M. and RAIBAUD, Y. Les jolies colonies de vacances, c’est fini ? [Are the wonderful summer camps over?] CNRS le Journal, 2016. https://lejournal.cnrs.fr/billets/les-jolies-colonies-de-vacances-cest-fini
The casual status of jobs in the activity sector
The lack of recognition and appreciation of professions in the activity sector is the subject of debate amongst facilitators themselves. The latter — and more specifically those without professional qualifications* — are protesting against their casual status, due mainly to the unstable nature of their work and their low pay. Most jobs in the activity sector are “low paid”; this is highlighted in a report on the activity industry that was published by the Higher Council for the Territorial Public Service (Conseil supérieur de la fonction publique territoriale) in 2016. This demand for appreciation and professionalisation may conflict with certain demands from non-formal education federations who are seeking to reform the status of facilitators by bringing it closer to that of volunteers.
Indeed, the issue of the status of voluntary facilitators* is also the subject of debates within non-formal education federations, some of which are calling for voluntary facilitation to be recognised, and demanding the creation of volunteer status within facilitation, far removed from labour law, as highlighted by recent research (M. Bacou, C. Dansac, P. Gontier & C. Vachée, 2014)
*Voluntary facilitators generally hold “non-vocational qualifications” such as the BAFA – Facilitator’s Certificate of Aptitude (Brevet d’Aptitude aux Fonctions d’Animateur) and the BAFD - Director’s Certificate of Aptitude (Brevet d’Aptitude aux Fonctions de Directeur).