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EACEA National Policies Platform


2. Voluntary Activities

2.7 Social inclusion through volunteering

Last update: 28 November 2023

Support to young volunteers

Volunteers receive cash or non-cash benefits for accommodation and meals for participating in the following schemes: the Federal Volunteer Service (BFD, in compliance with the Federal Volunteer Service Act); the two youth voluntary services Voluntary Social Year (FSJ) and Voluntary Ecological Year (FÖJ) (in compliance with the Youth Voluntary Services Act); the weltwärts programme (in compliance with the 'Guideline for the development volunteers service “weltwärts”); and the German-French Voluntary Service (DFFD),.      

In most cases, the costs of transport to the placement site are also covered and the BFD provides any necessary work clothing. In the weltwärts programme, any vaccinations necessary for work at the placement site are also reimbursed. In addition, people with special support needs may claim costs for resources, medical care or personal assistance.

Participants in the Federal Volunteer Service receive a certificate stating the nature and duration of the voluntary service (in compliance with the Federal Volunteer Service Act (BFDG)). For the youth voluntary services, a certificate is issued at the request of the volunteer (JFDG). For both, the certificate includes specific professional qualifications.

Specific arrangements have been made to allow easier access to youth voluntary services and the Federal Volunteer Service for certain target groups (in accordance with No. 11.4.a.(3) of the funding rules for youth voluntary services (Nr. II.4.a.(3) der Förderrichtlinien Jugendfreiwilligendienste, RL-JFD). These include:

  • School students with poor academic performance, early school leavers, school truants, “street kids”
  • Young people who leave compulsory education without a secondary school qualification, young people attending special schools for those with learning disabilities, young people with dyslexia
  • Young people who were or are in receipt of socio-educational support services (Hilfen zur Erziehung) as defined in the Child and Youth Services Act (Kinder- und Jugendhilfegesetz) (Book 8 of the Social Code); former drug addicts; those convicted of a criminal offence; ethnic German late-resettlers (Spätaussiedler) with language difficulties, members of the immigrant community, single parents.

In addition, special assistance is given to foreign volunteers with weak German language skills (under level B2) (cf. Federal Youth Ministry’s guidelines concerning Section 17 of the Federal Volunteer Service Act (Richtlinien des BMFSFJ zu § 17 des Bundesfreiwilligendienstgesetzes).

In addition, the pilot project to promote the participation in voluntary service of people with disabilities has been set up for the youth voluntary services (FSJ, FÖJ) and the Federal Volunteer Service (BFD) (for FSJ/FÖJ; for BFD). The project term runs from 1 October 2021 to 30 September 2024. The aim is to remove access barriers for people with disabilities. Services eligible for funding include essential resources, assistance services in the context of educational support (seminars, professional guidance), training for teaching staff, measures for digital accessibility and the use of simple language, as well as additional staff expenses should a new voluntary service position become necessary. In the long term, these services are to be mainstreamed in the funding guidelines beyond the duration of the project.

As a competence centre for inclusion in the weltwärts programme, the association “Behinderung und Entwicklungszusammenarbeit e.V.” (BEZEV) is committed to ensuring that a weltwärts voluntary service can also be performed by people with disabilities. To this end, BEZEV offers training and counselling services for people with disabilities, as well as organisations that offer inclusive voluntary services. BEZEV also works politically in networks and committees to ensure that framework conditions for voluntary services abroad are inclusive.

Community building

EuroPeers are alumni of the European Voluntary Service and other Erasmus+ funded projects. They share their experience with their peers, encourage intercultural understanding and motivate other young people to take part in an exchange in another country and culture. As such, EuroPeers also form a networking platform for former volunteers, where they can continue their training and exchange experiences. The EuroPeers network was established in 2005. On average, there are around 200 active EuroPeers each year.

The European Solidarity Network (European Solidarity Network EuSN) brings together young people who have participated in the European Solidarity Corps. Young volunteers share their experiences and continue their involvement with the network.

Tackling societal challenges

The Voluntary Social Year (FSJ), engages young people to work with target groups exposed to social challenges and discrimination: the elderly and infirm, people with disabilities, children and young people. As part of the project “Volunteers as cultural companions for people with dementia”, volunteers get involved by working in institutions for the elderly during their FSJ, developing, organising and implementing projects in the cultural field.

In line with the Youth Voluntary Service Act (JFDG), the Voluntary Ecological Year (FÖJ) specifically contributes to nature conservation and environmental protection as well as education on sustainability. During their voluntary service, volunteers take on practical work to protect nature and the environment and in so doing tackle the challenges of climate change mitigation. Possible fields of engagement are in practical ecological agriculture, horticulture, animal care and welfare, as well as landscape and forest management. Volunteers can also get involved in nature conservation and environmental protection activities on behalf of associations, clubs and educational institutions, or in environmental communication and corporate environmental protection.