2.10 Current debates and reforms
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Forthcoming policy development
The policies currently being developed are designed to increase rates of youth community volunteering by developing programmes such as the civic service and the civic reserves.
Universal National Service
The French president wanted to implement a Universal National Service (SNU) system, with the aim, amongst others, of “encouraging a culture of engagement among young people”, “promoting citizenship and a sense of belonging to a community unified around its values” and “strengthening social cohesion”.
Universal National Service is aimed at all young people between 15 and 25 years old and comprises three stages:
- a two-week residential project.
- a general interest project aiming to develop a culture of involvement and to encourage young people to take part in society.
- the option of a volunteering commitment of three months or more, which aims to allow those who want to commit to taking part in existing volunteering projects: civic service, operational Army reserves and national gendarmerie reserves, volunteer firefighters, European Solidarity Corps, etc. This voluntary commitment can be undertaken between 18 and 25 years old.
Due to COVID-19, the structure of SNU has been modified for 2020:
- The first two stages have been switched and the general interest projects were started from July 2020.
The rise in civic service projects
In order to bolster youth volunteering and community engagement, the French government has planned 100,000 additional civic service projects (20,000 in 2020; 80,000 in 2021). Civic service is a volunteering measure that allows young people from 16 to 25 years old (or 30 years old in some cases) to participate in general interest projects in associations for 6 to 12 months.
The civic reserves
Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the French government launched a campaign to recruit volunteers to specific projects as part of the “Civic reserve”.
The civic reserve was set up in 2017 and allows public bodies and associations to offer general interest projects. During the public health crisis, especially quarantine and post-lockdown, a wider range of civic reserve projects have been available on the online platform. New projects have been suggested that involve staying in contact with vulnerable persons, providing food aid, making protective masks, providing remote support with school work and even helping to look after children.
The impact of COVID-19 on the non-profit sector
To mitigate the negative impacts of the health crisis on the non-profit sector, the authorities have put in place support measures for (employer) associations and non-profit employees, similar to those for companies. As an example, these measures are (non-exhaustive list):
- “Extensions in social and/or fiscal payment deadlines”
- “Loan mediation by the state and the Banque de France to negotiate with your bank on restructuring bank loans”
- “Maintaining employment in companies through simplified and increased furlough”
- “The French government acknowledging coronavirus as a case of force majeure for its public markets. As a result, for all state public markets, late payment penalties will not be applied”.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of non-profit associations have had to temporarily suspend their activities or postpone their projects, some of which are subsidised by public institutions.
On 6 May 2020, the Prime Minister distributed a memorandum to reiterate the rules applicable to all administrative authorities and to define best practice for managing public subsidies during a crisis. In addition, any association that committed costs before the pandemic, but was unable to implement their planning, will be able to either postpone or cancel the project. In neither case can an administrative body hold to account or impose sanctions against an association.