Young Berliners who complete a voluntary social year (FSJ) will receive additional pocket money of 120 euros per month from September 1st. This partially reverses unequal treatment that the Senate has been complaining about for years. Around 2,000 young people in the state of Berlin are currently completing an FSJ every year. The introduction of a state subsidy in the FSJ and the increase in pocket money was decided with the new Berlin double budget. All sponsors of the voluntary social year (FSJ) recognized in the state of Berlin can now apply for state funding. “With the increase in pocket money, we want to strengthen the FSJ in the state of Berlin and recognize the commitment of those doing voluntary service,” said Secretary of State for Youth Aziz Bozkurt from the Senate Department for Education, Youth and Family.
In recent years, many young Berliners in the FSJ have repeatedly complained about unequal treatment. The FSJ students receive between 250 and 300 euros per month for their full-time service. They also have to pay their monthly ticket for local public transport and any rental costs. An absurdity, represented the supporting organizations and the state youth council for a long time. And unfair too. Because volunteers in the Ecological Year (FÖJ) have always received 510 euros a month, says Tilmann Weickmann, Managing Director of the Berlin State Youth Council. However, the 28 Berlin sponsors of a voluntary social year do not receive any state funding. Incidentally, this is different from eight other federal states. In particular, the state youth council had campaigned publicly for a change. “A very good sign that something has changed,” said LJR spokesman David Spitzl, assessing the Senate administration’s announcement. However, it is not yet clear how the application will go and whether the payment can really be made as early as September 1st. The State Youth Council looks after 40 FSJ students. The carriers are asked to submit the applications by August 12, explained Jugendring employee Lisa Heiduck. She hopes that the decisions will be approved quickly and the money will be transferred so that the pocket money can really be paid out on September 1st. The Landesjugendring currently pays FSJ students 400 euros per month; other organizations in Berlin sometimes pay less – one organization only pays 250 euros a month. By treating FSJ students unequally and young people who do a better-paid FÖJ or the federal voluntary service, the Senate fuels competition between the voluntary services, Landesjugendring manager Weickmann had complained several times. In most cases, full-time FSJ students in Berlin have depended on additional financial support from their parents. As a result, according to FSJ representatives, young people from low-income households often do not do an FSJ or have to work part-time. Because the Berlin sponsors of a voluntary social year felt unable to increase the remuneration themselves. The parliamentarians in the Committee for Civic Engagement in the House of Representatives also discussed the problem in a hearing during the past electoral term. The commitment strategy of the state of Berlin, which was passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives in 2021, also included a call for an adjustment. It states that “a uniform pocket money for all volunteers should be made possible through a public grant from the state”.