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National Programme for Youth Volunteering
There is no national programme for youth volunteering in Ireland. However, there are a range of programmes and initiatives targeting young people which promote youth volunteering.
Young Social Innovators
Young Social Innovators (YSI) provides a range of services to youths, including the Junior and Senior Innovation Action Programmes. Their programmes and initiatives target young people in second level schools, Youthreach or youth organisations. YSI programmes and initiatives support young people and their educators to develop innovative solutions to tackle social issues in their communities and the wider society. These programmes promote education for social innovation by empowering and supporting young people to realise their potential as social innovators, giving them the skills and confidence to tackle the social issues facing them, their communities and wider society. YSI programmes and initiatives often include volunteering.
YSI’s last strategy was called ‘Social Innovation Thinking Differently, A Plan to Develop Ireland’s Innovators and Entrepreneurs who will Build a Fairer, Inclusive and Sustainable World’. The strategy featured YSI's vision, history, and impact stories from young social innovators across Ireland. It also outlined YSI goals and actions for 2017-2020, and provided commentary on Ireland's potential to be a leader in social innovation, including what steps should be taken to ensure this can happen.
An Gaisce – President’s Awards
Gaisce, or ‘great achievement’ in Irish, is a self-development programme for young people between the ages of 15-25 in Ireland.
There are three levels of Gaisce awards – Bronze, Silver and Gold:
- The minimum starting age for the Bronze award is 15 years and the average length is 26 weeks;
- The minimum starting age for the Silver award is 16 years and the average length is 52 weeks;
- The minimum starting age for the and Gold award is 17 years and the average length is 78 weeks.
The core values of Gaisce are empowerment, inclusion and equality, respect and excellence. There are four different challenge areas in the Award Programme. Participants must participate in each challenge area for at least one hour per week to earn an Award.
The four challenge areas are:
- Community involvement
- Personal skills
- Physical recreation
- Adventure journey
The community involvement aspect of the programme usually involves volunteering.
Young people are supported in their journey to achieving their Gaisce Award by an adult supervisor called a President’s Award Leader (PAL). A PAL can be any adult (other than a family member) who is involved in supporting the personal development of young people.
Over 300,000 young people have participated in the Gaisce programme.
Other youth volunteering programmes
There are a number of other youth volunteering programmes operating in Ireland in various areas including:
Youth work programmes:
Localise is a youth volunteering programme. The programme engages young people aged 11 and over in local community work. Localise is a not-for-profit company, supported by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, and the Office of Migrant Integration within the Department of Justice. Localise run the Volunteering for All award. This is a nationwide initiative that recognises and affirms volunteering and charitable work undertaken by young people from all backgrounds and circumstances. This initiative is supported by the Department of Justice through the Office for the Promotion of Migrant Integration.
Young Social Innovators is funded through several public and private sponsors, including the Department of Rural and Community Development.
Gaisce is a charitable organisation that receives funding from a number of public and private sponsors. The main public sponsor is the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.
Characteristics of youth volunteering
Recent information on youth volunteering in Ireland is limited. The National Volunteering Strategy sets out that by 2026 there will be an “increase in the evidence base of the quantity and demographic breakdown of volunteers, contribution of volunteers and the value and benefits of volunteering individuals, groups and communities” (pg. 40). To achieve this, the Strategy includes the medium-term action of establishing a National Survey on Volunteering to provide baseline data on volunteers.
Statistics from the national database of volunteering opportunities, iVol, show that of the over 13,148 volunteers registered in 2016, 418 (3%) were aged 16-17 years and 2,428 (18%) were aged 18-22 years.
In 2013, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS) found that over a quarter of adults aged 15 years and above volunteered in Ireland (28.4% of persons), with a slightly higher percentage of females (28.7%) than males (28.1%) volunteering. Those aged 15-24 years volunteered the least amount of hours (6.9%) of all age groups.
2013 is the last year where the CSO collected and published this data. However, at least one question on volunteering will be included in the 2021 Census. This is further discussed in Chapter 2.8 Current debates and reforms.
A Report on Young People and Volunteering in Ireland by the National Youth Council of Ireland (2011) found that the Transition Year (TY) programme in schools is the main place where young people get involved in volunteering activity. This is usually through national volunteering programmes such as An Gaisce (the President’s Award) or the Young Social Innovators Initiative Programme.
Support to young volunteers
There are no top-level policy measures to support young volunteers established in Ireland, to cover indirect expenses participants might incur. However, individual organisations may cover volunteer’s expenses. Legal rights protecting volunteers are covered by the Civil Law Bill 2010.
Volunteer Ireland manages Investing in Volunteers (IiV), the national quality standard for good practice in volunteer management, in the Republic of Ireland. The standards provide organisations with a framework to benchmark the quality of their volunteer programme.
- Guiding organisations in putting the necessary steps in place to improve volunteer retention;
- Helping organisations manage volunteer programmes more easily and effectively;
- Helping organisations with their reputation so volunteers want to be involved; and
- Helping organisations deliver a quality service to their clients.
Volunteer Ireland also develops and supports best practice in volunteering and Volunteer Centres. This includes the evaluation of Volunteer Centres according to a quality standard framework.
Young Social Innovators targets secondary schools students. The Gaisce Awards targets young people between the ages of 15-25 in Ireland.
The National Volunteering Strategy 2021 – 2025 states that it will “further promote, develop and nurture the role of volunteering across all youth age categories, from 12 to 25 years of age, and wider society” but does not target specific groups within the youth population.