Civic engagement through qualified volunteering
The member organisations of SAMARITAN INTERNATIONAL cannot perform their services without the contribution of their 150.000 volunteers in addition to the employed staff across all areas of activity: social services, first aid training or civil protection. While volunteers offer their time and engagement for free, the organisations themselves have to invest a lot of resources into the attraction, training and retention of volunteers. This investment is necessary to be able to provide a comprehensive service offer, in terms of the different services offered, the geographical and time coverage.
Today, the work of civil society organisations to provide social services in addition and complementary to the public offer is a necessity across Europe. The provision of comprehensive social services would not be possible without the work of committed and structurally engaged volunteers. In the care sector, for example, the approach has shifted from institutionalised care to person-centered care and home care, allowing the individual in need of care an autonomous and self-determined life as long as possible. This approach can only be implemented with the help of volunteers, who do not replace social service staff, but enable a coverage that would not be possible with staff alone.
In the field of civil protection, it is impossible to constantly employ the personnel needed for the peak demand during disaster response. Committed volunteers thus play a crucial role in enabling a quantitative and qualitative disaster response and facilitate community engagement and preparedness.
In addition to the need for service provision, structured and qualified volunteering is an important form of civic engagement and an indicator for societies’ resilience and social cohesion. Volunteers do not only receive important qualifications that are useful to them well beyond their specific voluntary engagement. They also have the opportunity to participate in initiatives, services and work for citizens by citizens, thereby giving them a direct stake and a participatory sense of responsibility for the democratic society and civic space which they live in.
Therefore, SAMARITAN INTERNATIONAL calls for the recognition and increased support for structured and qualified volunteering, including support to civil society organisations that offer such opportunities.
European Year of Skills 2023
The European Commission proclaimed the year 2023 as the European Year of Skills, with the aim to address skills gaps in the European Union and boost the EU skills strategy, which will help reskill people with the focus on digital and green technology skills.
While SAMARITAN INTERNATIONAL fully support the EU’s skills agenda, we strongly believe that skills beyond the job market are equally important and currently neglected in the skills debate at European level.
Social competences, democratic participation and other skills acquired through civic engagement are important pillars for the social cohesion of our societies. Volunteers active in the SAM.I. network do not only receive important qualifications that are useful to them well beyond their specific voluntary engagement. They also have the opportunity to participate in initiatives, services and work for citizens by citizens, thereby giving them a direct stake and a participatory sense of responsibility for the democratic society and civic space which they live in.
In the framework of the European Year of Skills, Samaritan International will host a debate on “Qualified volunteering – skills for resilient societies”.
More info here.
Revision of the Driving Licenses Directive
Volunteers constitute an important complementary element for the provision of 24/7 emergency and rescue services or medical transports and often play a role as first responders in rural areas.
The current revision of the Driving Licences Directive gives an opportunity to further enable and promote civic engagement in the emergency and rescue sector. As modern ambulances often exceed the weight limit for a normal category B driver’s licence, it is important to enable the lowest threshold possible to driving these vehicles, while fully safeguarding road safety.
SAMARITAN INTERNATIONAL strongly believes that the establishment of European rules for driving ambulances of up to 4,25t with the driver’s licence of category B would not compromise road safety, but on the other hand reduce unnecessary burden for volunteers to get engaged.