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National Program for Youth Volunteering
The main national program for the promotion of values of solidarity and social participation is the Universal Civic Service accessible to young people in the age group 18 to 28.
The National Civic Service was set up in 2001 with Law 64/2001. In 2017, with the Reform introduced by legislative decree 40/2017, the national civic service became "universal". The legislator used the term “universal” to stress the importance of guaranteeing access to volunteering to all young people who wish to do so. However, accessibility depends on the amount of funds, which are available yearly.
The responsible authority for the implementation and coordination of the programme is the Department for Youth Policies and the Universal Civic Service of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers.
The Universal Civic Service is a programme that includes several actors:
the volunteers, i.e. young people who decide to dedicate a period of their life to the Country and to others, carrying out the civic service activities in the intervention sector of their choice;
the sending organization, which promote the projects. They are public or private entities enrolled in the Civic Service Register;
the entire community, which reaps the benefits thanks to the implementation of the civic service projects;
the State, through the Department for Youth Policies and the Universal Civic Service, the Regions and the autonomous Provinces that manage the entire system.
The sectors of intervention of the civic service projects, which are implemented in Italy and abroad are the following:
Environmental heritage and urban regeneration;
Historical, artistic and cultural heritage;
Cultural, landscape, environmental, sport, sustainable and social tourism promotion and education;
Agriculture in mountain areas, social agriculture and biodiversity;
Promotion of peace among peoples, nonviolence and unarmed defence; promotion and protection of human rights; cooperation for development; promotion of the Italian culture and support for Italian communities abroad.
Since 2001, about 500,000 young volunteers have been involved in civic service projects and of these, about 7,000 have worked in foreign territory. It started in 2001 with the commissioning of 181 young people to reach a peak of over 53,000 in 2018. At the beginning of October 2020, just under 32,000 young people were in service. For 2019-2020, nearly 40,000 places have been made available in approximately 3,800 projects.
All sending organizations participating in the programme are registered in the Universal Civic Service Register, which is continuously updated. The database contains information on the organizations, on the project activities and on the deployed volunteers. Annually, the Department publishes a Report to the Parliament which contains the main summary data on the performance of the civic service programme.
The reform introduced a number of innovations, some of which will produce results in the years to come. Among them, it is worth mentioning the three-year programming, which became operational in 2019. The 2020-2022 three-year plan drafted by the Department with the involvement of all the stakeholders was developed taking into account the objectives of the 2030 Agenda for the sustainable development of the United Nations and the Conclusion of the Council of the European Union of 9 April 2019, where the importance of the youth dimension in the 2030 Agenda and the key role that young people can play in achieving the objectives of sustainable development are recognized.
The reform also introduced the possibility of availing, during placement, of 3 months deployment in a European member State or of 3 months tutoring aimed at facilitating access to the labour market.
According to the Legislative Decree 40/2017, the Universal Civic Service is financed through an ad hoc National Fund (established by law 230/1998, art.19) and managed by the Presidency of the Council of Ministers. In addition to the national resources, the Fund also receives European financing.
In 2019, the financial endowment of the Universal Civic Service was equal to € 231.7 million (departmental decree 355/2019), i.e. the equivalent of 40,651 voluntary placements.
At present for 2020, the National Fund for the Civic Service has an allocation of approximately 202 million, subject to adjustments.
The European financing for 2020 are the following:
€53 million from the Youth Guarantee Programme (European Social Fund 2014-2020) in favour of NEETs;
€1.7 million from the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) aimed at promoting the inclusion in Italy of young immigrants who are under international protection.
The government is currently busy raising additional funds for 2021 and 2022.
The volunteers of the Universal Civic Service have the following characteristics (profiles of 2017 contingent):
Gender: females are slightly more than males (62.40%);
Age: the most represented is the age group between 24 and 26 (31.78%), while the least represented is the age group between 18 and 20 (16.48%);
Education: the majority have a high school diploma (59.74%), followed by those who have a bachelor’s degree (25.25%); only a few have a junior high school degree (14.61%) and a primary education licence (0.39%).
The Universal Civic Service is open to citizens of EU countries and to non-EU citizens legally residing in Italy.
The reform of the Universal Civic Service introduces additional measures to support the participation of specific target groups of young people with fewer opportunities (young people with recognition of disabilities; young people with low schooling and young people with economic difficulties). It provides for the possibility of carrying out a period of civic service, of a maximum duration of three months, in one of the countries of the European Union or, alternatively, to take advantage of the same period of tutoring aimed at facilitating access to the labour market.
As anticipated (see § Financing), with ad hoc European resources, further target groups were also reached: unemployed young people and NEETs and young citizens of third countries who are under international protection.
Young civic service volunteers receive the following benefits:
training (minimum 80 hours);
certificate of participation in the civic service;
recognition of acquired skills;
recognition of the placement for the pension fund (redeemable);
monthly allowance of around €440.00; an additional daily allowance of €13 to €15 for placements abroad;
for placements abroad: free food, accommodation, and 2 round trips;
leave in proportion to the placement period (20 days over 12 months);
up to three months tutoring to facilitate access to the labour market (for placements in Italy);
preferential access in some Universal Civic Service projects, for young people with fewer opportunities.
Furthermore, mentoring is an important supporting measure for volunteers. The Local Project Operator is a volunteer, employee or other contract staff of the sending organization, who possesses specific skills related to the activities and objectives established by the project. He/she is available on the project site for at least 10 hours per week.
The Universal Civic Service provides for a participation certificate which can be used to obtain credits in public procurement exams. In addition, Universities may recognize volunteering as educational credits.
In the universal civic service, the recognition and enhancement of the skills acquired is envisaged with reference, in particular, to the knowledge of an area of intervention of the universal civic service, to greater knowledge of the territory, social and civic skills and the ability to manage the time, through the issue of: a Standard certificate/Specific certificate Competence certificate.
Universities can recognize educational credits in favour of students who have carried out certified volunteering activities in voluntary organizations or other third sector entities relevant for professional growth and the curriculum of studies.
The civic service system has inherent quality standards that are verified when sending organizations enrol in the Register of Universal Civic Service. In particular, sending organizations must meet certain criteria regarding their management, training, communication, selection of volunteers and monitoring. If the organizations do not meet these requirements, they are not admitted in the Register.
In addition, the sending organizations must guarantee the following:
Youth friendly and transparent application process;
Mentoring during placement;
Adequate non formal learning for volunteers during placement;
Social value for the beneficiary community.
Finally, quality is guaranteed by the following additional tools:
Post placement evaluation by volunteers;
A constant dialogue between the Department and the representation of former volunteers, who are organized at national and territorial level;
Administrative monitoring procedures, and on-site inspections carried out by the Department.
The Universal Civic Service is open to EU or non-EU citizens legally residing in Italy in the age group 18 to 28, not having reported convictions in Italy or abroad.
Regarding the participation of specific target groups, the reform promotes the inclusion in the Universal Civic Service of youngsters with fewer opportunities (i.e. disabled and youth with low standards of education or low economic background).
Additional specific target groups are the NEETs and third-country nationals with international protection; both target groups are financed through European funding (see Funding).