Original publication: September 2017
Authors: BROEK Simon, BUISKOOL Bert-Jan
Short link to this post: http://bit.ly/2Akp8fG
This in-depth analysis assesses the Commission’s legislative proposal on the European Solidarity Corps (ESC). It reflects on the following key questions:
- Added value of the ESC: In what sense will the ESC add value for individual participants and at societal level? In particular, how does this compare to what is already done in the field of volunteering?
- Challenges linking programmes: What are the challenges to interlinking the ESC with Erasmus+ and other existing EU programmes which include(d) volunteering activities?
- Complementarity to paid employment: How can the ESC operate in a way that complements rather than replaces paid employment?
The European Solidarity Corps proposal
The ESC has as general objective “to enhance the engagement of young people and organisations in accessible and high quality solidarity activities as a means to contribute to strengthening cohesion and solidarity in Europe, supporting communities and responding to societal challenges” (EC, 2017c: p.25, Article 3). It enables young people between the ages of 18 to 30 to partake in the following types of solidarity actions both across-borders and incountry:
- Volunteering placements: full-time unpaid voluntary service for a period of up to twelve months;
- Traineeship placements: period of work practice from two to twelve months, which is remunerated by the organisation hosting the European Solidarity Corps participant;
- Job placements: period of work from two to twelve months, which is remunerated by the participating organisation employing the European Solidarity Corps participant;
- Volunteering teams’ placements: placements allowing teams of European Solidarity Corps participants from different participating countries to volunteer together for a common objective;
- Solidarity projects: a local initiative for a period from two to twelve months, which is set up and carried out by groups of at least five European Solidarity Corps participants;
- Networking activities: allowing participants and organisations to build up their network.
Within the solidarity placements, the ESC has two strands, namely the volunteering strand and the job-related strand. In both cases, the ESC is not providing wages. For volunteering activities, it does, however, provide pocket money to support living costs. If the ESC concerns a solidarity job/internship placement, the participating organisation will have to provide wages/compensation.
Besides these solidarity actions, the ESC offers quality and support measures, including support for participants, quality labels for organisations, a Resource Centre, and a Portal and other online services.
The European Solidarity Corps will use the existing management and implementation arrangements already in place under the Erasmus+ programme (EC, 2017c, p.12). By 2020, the ESC envisions to meet its goal in placing 100,000 participants. To achieve this objective, the Commission proposes to implement the ESC with a budget of EUR 341,500,000 in current prices for the period from 1 January 2018 until 31 December 2020.
The underlying assumption of the ESC is that through concentrating voluntary possibilities, and collectively branding the voluntary activities under one name, the supply and demand can be better matched. This coordination, in turn, results in a higher number of young people involved in solidarity activities and higher quality of services, leading to better outcomes.
Positive elements of the ESC as identified in the assessment are:
- The ESC mitigates some of the identified barriers for individuals to engage in solidarity actions, especially concerning providing information, visibility and support for disadvantaged young people. Moreover, by encompassing internships and jobs, and incountry solidarity actions the ESC also broadens the scope of the EVS;
- The introduction of the quality label can contribute to establishing a quality culture (if not already existing);
- The ESC, compared to other forms of volunteering, can provide equal opportunities for all young people in the EU, regardless of the national opportunities.
The assessment of the ESC proposal yielded concerns related to the three earlier mentioned key questions, that require further action in the negotiations concerning the legislative proposal of the ESC. These concerns can be divided into five categories:
1. Are participating parties sufficiently engaged in the ESC framework to (i) ensure their commitment to quality, and (ii) represent and protect their interests?
B. Objectives and Aims
2. Will the ESC be able to deliver 100,000 solidarity activities in three years?
3. Does differentiating opportunities lead to higher participation of disadvantaged groups?
4. Does the ESC create disparity between different volunteers doing the same job under different programmes?
C. Implementation and Funding
5. Will the creation of a European quality label introduce additional responsibility and accountability for the European Commission?
6. Given that the implementation of the ESC relies on the Erasmus+ infrastructure, do the NAs have sufficient resources to conduct all tasks?
7. Concerning the distribution of funding at MS level, what funding is allocated per MS?
D. Monitoring and Misconduct
8. Given that the monitoring framework is not yet developed, how will the ESC’s contribution to its general objective (strengthening cohesion and solidarity in Europe) be assessed?
9. Does the definition of ‘solidarity activity’ sufficiently clarify the requirements of the solidarity aspect in ESC supported activity?
10. Does the quality label include regulations to prevent replacing paid employment?
E. Policy option revisited
11. The choice for a separate initiative, above integrating the ESC in Erasmus+, could be better explained.
In relation to the above-mentioned concerns, the following recommendations are provided to the Members of the CULT Committee on the legislative proposal:
- Recommendation 1: Provide more specific direction in the proposal how partners are involved in the design, monitoring and implementation of ESC.
- Recommendation 2: The ESC proposal should elaborate how – as a matching mechanism – it operates in complementarity to national initiatives, and how national initiatives could benefit from the ESC, particularly in relation to the introduction of incountry solidarity actions. This also relates to rethinking how non-ESC volunteers will benefit from the matching mechanism and the additional services associated with the ESC training, assessment, etc.).
- Recommendation 3: The proposal should elaborate on the objective, scope and governance of the quality label. Given the wide definition applied to “solidarity actions” and “participating organisations”, the demarcation of the application and the procedures for assuring quality needs to be rethought. Similarly, the workload associated with quality assuring ‘any public or private entity’ that applies to the ESC needs to be taken into consideration.
- Recommendation 4: The proposal should include a clear mechanism on how budgets are distributed to MS and what tasks the National Agencies need to conduct in terms of quality assurance, implementation, outreach and support.
- Recommendation 5: To assess whether the ESC proposal contributes to its stated objectives, the proposal should better explain how the ESC contributes to the foreseen results. This includes as well that the indicator-set needs to be in place to monitor progress towards results and the extent to which the ESC contributes to the stated objectives of other programmes funding it. This means that the development of a monitoring system cannot wait till six months after the Regulation enters into force. The monitoring system also needs to monitor closely the implementation. This is especially for assessing whether the new activities also benefit young people from more disadvantaged backgrounds.
- Recommendation 6: The legislative proposal should further clarify what is understood by solidarity actions, unmet societal needs and participating organisations. The current definitions leave room for a wide range of organisations to engage in solidarity actions while conducting commercial activities. In addition, the proposal should make explicit how it prevents misuse and replacement of paid employment.
Link to the full study: http://bit.ly/601-999
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