Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion

SOS Kinderdorf semi-independent-living: supervised residential group in a students’ hostel in Salzburg

Rationale of practice

The goal of the SOS Kinderdorf semi-independent living programme is to equip young people (both boys and girls) with the necessary skills to lead independent lives and be self-sufficient, active participants of society. It has a particular focus on helping young adult asylum seekers.

In order to be admitted into the supervised residential home, the potential candidates (aged between 16 and 21) are interviewed. To be admitted to the residential home, candidates not only need to be successful in this admissions interview, but all different parties (SOS Kinderdorf, the student’s Hostel, the Youth Welfare service and the young refugees) need to agree. Once approved, the young person moves into one of the residential homes: these are usually two-bedroom apartments, but there are also two places in the SOS Kinderdorf students’ hostel in Salzburg.

The young refugees live on their own and receive 15 hours of mentorship per week from a trained professional (those living at the students’ hostel receive 10 hours per week of mentorship). During these mentorship sessions, the young person is helped to set personal targets that will enable them to gain the necessary skills and education to enter the workforce, with the ultimate goal of becoming active participants of Austrian society. It is important that house rules are followed, with the young person being asked to leave the house if such rules are breached. If the participant is asked to leave, however, they continue to be able to contact a member of SOS staff in cases of emergency.

The targets set for each young refugee are agreed in accordance with the national ‘Help plan procedure’ or ‘Hilfeplan,’ which requires that the young person’s targets are agreed in collaboration with them, SOS Kinderdorf (the institution implementing the practice), and the Youth Welfare service. In cases where one of the targets of the young person is family reunification, they are supported in this process.

Practice Category

  • Supporting Parenting and Assisting with Childcare
  • Helping Vulnerable Children
  • Facilitating Positive Transitions to Adulthood

Recommendation pillar

Pillar 1: access to adequate resources

  • Provide for adequate living standards through a combination of benefits,

Pillar 2: Access to affordable quality services

  • Provide children with a safe, adequate housing and living environment,

Pillar 3: Children’s right to participate

  • Support the participation of all children in play, recreation, sport and cultural activities,
  • Put in place mechanisms that promote children’s participation in decision making that affect their lives

Countries that have implemented practice


Age groups

  • Teenagers (age 13 to 19)
  • Adults (age 20+)

Target groups

  • Migrant/refugee children

Years in operation

2016 - Still operating

Scope of practice

  • Regional level

Type of organisation implementing practice

  • State/district or Other Sub-national Government
  • Private Education Organization

The organisation implementing the practice is SOS-Kinderdorf (SOS Children’s Villages) a not-for-profit association. Their main goal is to provide children, adolescents and young adults with a loving home in dignity and warmth, supporting them and their families in difficult life situations and helping them find ways improve their situation.

Mode of delivery

  • Telephone
  • Mobile apps
  • Individual sessions
  • Face-to-face

Two carers or mentors from SOS-Kinderdorf Salzburg Bewo take care of the young refugees for 10 or 15 hours a week (frequency is dependent on whether the person lives in the students’ hostel (10hrs) or the 2-bedroom apartment (15hrs)). Carers work with them on setting and meeting their goals. Contact takes place face-to-face in individual sessions, but also through phone calls and using a WhatsApp group.

Delivery dosage

  • Frequency: Between 2-6 times a week
  • Duration: More than 1-hour sessions

When a young person joins the programme they receive more contact hours with their carer/mentor. The intensity of contact hours reduces towards the end of the programme. However, the duration and dose of contact hours is determined on a case-by-case basis depending on individual needs, with the motto being ‘as much as necessary, as little as possible.’

Location of practice

The programme is delivered at the apartments or the students’ hostel, where participants can make use of all building facilities and meet with their mentors. The young refugees can also make use of the SOS-Kinderdorf office in town, an important place where they can use Wi-Fi, do their homework, and study.

Elements of Social Innovation 

This Austrian semi-independent living programme is innovative because it focuses on vulnerable groups (i.e. foreign students and refugees). While similar ideas have been implemented in the past, this concept is being piloted with vulnerable groups due to the recent influx in refugees. Moreover, this practice seeks to create new relationships. By living together, the adolescents and young adults benefit from a stimulating environment that facilitates cultural exchange in their daily lives. Furthermore, their acquisition of the German language is accelerated due to daily use. Finally, the programme enables them to test newly-acquired skills immediately. 

Outcomes of the Practice

A key element of the semi-independent living programme is the mentorship component, which ensures that the young refugee receives continuous guidance and support to pursue their targets and acquire personal responsibility and independence. Some of the key goals of the programme are to help the young persons to:

  • Learn the German language;
  • Develop talents and abilities and to get to know their own limits;
  • Discover personal strengths and weaknesses in a group setting;
  • Develop community awareness;
  • Overcome developmental blockades and gain mental stability;
  • Deal with their origin and their fate and learn to embrace it;
  • Find the right job.

Ultimately, the programme seeks to achieve the long-term goal of including young refugees in Austrian society through education and independent living.

Key lessons learned

Many lessons have been learnt since the first group of refugees participated in the programme. On the one hand, experience has shown that the bureaucracy of the Youth Welfare is not the most suitable for this programme because it can delay processes. However, experience does show that it is possible to have different systems working together.

It was also learnt that partners from beyond the Youth Welfare system are important. The students’ hostel, an external partner, made the programme feasible. Experience shows that the educational institution (hostel) is magnetic: it is a space where students learn by example and are incentivised by each other.

Furthermore, after the first two years of running the programme, it became clear that ‘inclusion’ rather than ‘integration’ is achieved by the programme.

Practice Materials

  • Practice materials are not available

Cost information

  • Implementation cost information is not available

Evidence of effectiveness

  • Evaluation currently underway or planned

The Department of Research and Development at SOS Kinderdorf will start an evaluation of the programme in the first quarter of 2018. Results of this evaluation are expected to be available in 2019.

Contact information


Susi Zoller-Mathies; Sabine Koeppl-Lindorfer









Last updated

February 2018

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