2.4 Youth volunteering at national level
National Programme for Youth Volunteering
There is not a single National Programme for Youth Volunteering in Slovakia. The topic of youth volunteering has been included in the content of the Youth Strategy 2021 – 2028 and Programme on Support of Volunteering and Volunteering Centres (2013).
The Ministry of Education, Research, Development and Youth of the Slovak Republic provides specific financial support to youth work development through the Programmes for Youth. Being one of the key topics of the Youth Strategy 2014 – 2020, youth volunteering has also become one of the Programmes’ objectives. Yearly financial allocation for the Programmes, reserved to support the entire Programmes’ goals, including youth volunteering, represents 2.3 million Euro in 2019 and 3,2 million Euro in 2020 and the same amount in 2021.
The specific subprogram within the Programmes for Youth supporting the development of volunteering at the national and regional level is called „Service for Youth in Volunteering“.In 2021 according to the final protocols within the subprogram, the amount 325.300 Eur was allocated for organizations developing youth volunteering. Part of financial allocation within the programme „Support of Youth Organisations“ was also given and targeted at the support of Volunteering as well as education towards Volunteering (Volunteering is a natural part of youth work in youth organisations). Other financial sources for youth volunteering support are represented by the Erasmus+ program, European Solidarity Corps, private foundations, and donors.
Characteristics of youth volunteering
There are no official statistics on youth volunteering in Slovakia. Slovak Statistics Office gathers the data on volunteers every year, but with no reference to their ages. Thus the only information source provides the representative research from 2017 focused primarily on youth volunteering (Brozmanová, Siekelová, Šolcová, 2018), and the latest research on participation in civil society in Slovakia conducted in 2019 as a part of the National project “Better public policies thanks to the better understanding of civil society“ which also focused partly on youth volunteering (Čavojská, Feherpataky-Kuzmová, Fishbone Vlčková, 2020).
Compared to 2011, the participation of young people has increased in formal as well as informal Volunteering. Over the last 12 months, according to the representative research in 2019, 36.0% percent of young people have been involved in formal Volunteering, and 70.0% have been providing help to neighbors or friends (informal Volunteering). (Čavojská, Feherpataky-Kuzmová, Fishbone Vlčková, 2020). Young people who are active in formal Volunteering are also active in informal Volunteering and vice versa.
7.0 percent of young people were involved in formal Volunteering a minimum once a week, 8.0 percent participated once or two times for a month, and 22% less than once for a month. 52.0 were not involved. (Čavojská, Feherpataky-Kuzmová, Fishbone Vlčková, 2020)
The largest areas in which young people volunteer are the environment, sport, health, social services and children and youth organizations. More than half of youth volunteer assistance is provided by non-governmental, non-profit organizations, 12.2% are engaged in volunteer activities within schools.
The most frequent activities carried out in Volunteering are the organization and coordination of leisure activities for children, youth, senior citizens, clients in social services facilities, organizing or assisting in the realization of activities or events (e.g. promotion of the organization, its mission, selected topic) and activities related to the preservation, protection and the restoration of the environment, animal welfare and wildlife protection. Youth volunteering is differentiated in terms of education, socio-economic position, housing and membership. Formal Volunteering significantly involves more young people with a university education, from towns, secondary and tertiary school students, and members of organizations. Informal Volunteering involves mainly young people with higher education, and members of organizations. The older the young volunteer, the length and frequency of volunteer activities increases. (Brozmanová, Siekelová, Šolcová, 2018),
In the sources of information on volunteer opportunities, direct resources predominate. The most common form of getting information about volunteer opportunities is information from people with whom a young person is in close contact, i.e. friends, family, acquaintances, and relatives. For young people involved in Volunteering, teachers were the source of information on the possibility of volunteering in 16 percent of cases. (Brozmanová, Siekelová, Šolcová, 2018),
Young people are motivated to volunteer for altruistic, egotistic, and normative motives, with no significant differences between them. The most important barriers to engage young people in Volunteering are lack of time, lack of information, and non-requests for help. (Brozmanová, Siekelová, Šolcová, 2018),
Support to young volunteers
Support to young volunteers is provided on the basis of the Act on Volunteering and the Act on Youth Work Support. There are obligations for hosting and sending organisations provided in both the acts:
• Ensuring equipment for volunteers (in particular work clothes, personal protective equipment and professional equipment);
Ensuring health insurance for volunteers, if agreed in a contract on voluntary service;
• Conclusion of the contract on professional indemnity insurance with respect to voluntary service.
The Act on Volunteering is even more specific and provides also the ways of ensuring volunteers diets, accommodation, transportation, etc. Except of these obligations, sending or hosting organisations after reaching an agreement with a volunteer may pay their voluntary insurances (sickness insurance, occupational pensions, unemployment insurance). The aforesaid options have not been applied in practice due to insufficient financial means in organisations.
Quality Assurance (QA)
There are no official mechanisms for monitoring and quality assurance of youth volunteering in Slovakia. Youth policy, including youth volunteering, is being assessed occasionally through the assessment of Youth Strategy (2010, 2014, 2021), but regular monitoring and quality assurance do not exist.
Minimum obligations of organisations, when sending and receiving volunteers have been defined by the legislation within the Act on Volunteering and the Act on Support of Youth Work. No public institution monitors whether and to what extent these obligations have been respected by organisations working with volunteers.
Thanks to the financial support provided by the Ministry of Education, Research, Development and Youth of the Slovak Republic, the Quality standards for the management of volunteers were created in 2014 by the Volunteering Centre in Banská Bystrica (NGO) in cooperation with the Platform of Volunteer Centres and Organisations (NGO). General standards have been defined relevant to work with any target groups, including young people. These standards were implemented in 120 (at 4.10.2021) organisations within a project of the Platform of Volunteering Centres and Organisations financed by the aforesaid ministry. The standards have been aimed at the following areas of work with volunteers:
• Coordination of volunteers;
• Legal and ethical framework;
• Financial and material resources for Volunteering;
• Team integration;
• Duties and profiles of volunteers;
• Recruitment and selection of volunteers;
• Training of volunteers;
• Communication with volunteers and their support;
• Appreciation and recognition of volunteers;
• Evidence, documentation and evaluation of a voluntary programme.
The procedures for external assessment of these standards have also been defined. But the implementation of standards has not been included in any legislation, it is rather a matter of individual organisations – their aspiration to acquire quality label and thus communicate their quality work with volunteers to the donors and general public.
Specific standards for the field of youth volunteering have been included in the process of accreditation for sending and hosting volunteers in the framework of the European Solidarity Corps. These standards are valid for all countries, and their assessment is guaranteed by the National Agency of the EU Erasmus+ Programme for the field of Youth and Sport established in Slovakia in NIVAM – Slovak Youth Institute.
Young people aged 30 years or less have been defined as a target group by official documents related to youth volunteering in Slovakia (Strategy for Youth for the years 2021 – 2028 in the Slovak Republic). Volunteering of young people with specific needs has been mentioned in the provisions of the aforementioned Strategy, but only as “worth to support”, with no particular measures included. Specifications for the term´young people with specific needs´ also have not been defined (or clarified) in the Strategy itself, but it is mentioned in the Programmes for Youth (Programy pre mládež) supporting youth work and youth volunteering as follows: ´ young people with fewer opportunities (mládež s nedostatkom príležitostí) are those young people who for various reasons do not have equal conditions for their personal development in comparison to most children and youth in the society. The lack of opportunities can be caused by educational, social, cultural, health, economic or geographic disadvantage or other form discrimination.´