SFA: European Social Fund

Published 25 February 2014

1. How we spend ESF

For adults aged 19 and over, we buy and manage training and support through ESF that helps to develop a skilled and adaptable workforce in England to:

  • help unemployed people re-enter the labour market
  • support people with low skills in employment
  • engage with the hardest to reach individuals

For young people, who are aged 14-19 and are not in education, employment or training (NEET) and those at risk of becoming NEET, we buy and manage training and support through ESF. We do this as a shared service for the Education Funding Agency (EFA).

2. What we support through ESF

We have 6 main ESF projects to support adults and young people:

  1. Skills Support for the Workforce (SSW) meets the local skills needs identified by local enterprise partnerships. SSW aims to help employees in small and medium sized enterprises, to move on to higher levels of learning or on to apprenticeships. We have designed our SSW contracts to be responsive, so providers can adapt their ESF provision for emerging skills needs.

  2. Skills Support for the Unemployed (SSU) provides skills support to unemployed individuals on benefits, who are looking for work but are not able to get a job because of a lack of skills. SSU makes sure adults have the right level of skills and employability support that they need to improve their chances of finding work (including starting an apprenticeship).

  3. Skills Support for Redundancy (SSR) responds to redundancies and the employment and economic conditions in local areas. SSR offers training opportunities for individuals who:

    • are under consultation or notice of redundancy
    • are told by their employer that they may be directly affected by the company closing or becoming smaller
    • have recently become unemployed
  4. Workplace Learning delivers work-related skills training to employed people with low skills. This support helps to raise their qualification levels, which means they can improve their employment status and move on higher levels of training. Workplace Learning concentrates more on people who are more vulnerable to future unemployment, with barriers to achieving sustainable employment. This includes people aged 19 to 24 who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) and people who are recently unemployed.

  5. Community Grants is a project that gives grants to small community organisations, which would not normally be able to get ESF. These grants support activities that help people in the hardest to reach communities to enter the labour market. We appoint grant co-ordinating bodies to administer community grants for us in each region (except in London, where London councils administer community grants). They publicise how and when community organisations can apply for grants. They also give help and advice to successful applicants. From 2014, grant co-ordinating bodies will give grants of up to £15,000.

  6. Support for young people who are aged 14-19 and NEET may have many barriers to learning. They may also need a different type of training and support, to engage them in learning and keep them engaged. We use ESF to deliver tailored training to young people, which will help them into education or employment with training.

We also use ESF to support the National Careers Service and to add enhanced provision to our mainstream programmes. For example, ESF can help to train people before they start an apprenticeship or help them move into other workplace learning.

3. How we monitor and report our progress

We tell the ESF Managing Authority in England which organisations have contracts from us to deliver ESF. We do this every 3 months. You can see our reports on the ESF in England website.

We regularly check how we are keeping to our performance targets for ESF and we sometimes publish ESF research and evaluation reports.

4. Buying ESF-funded activities

We buy our ESF training provision through a national commissioning approach, using methods like open and competitive tendering and negotiated funding. We publish ESF funding opportunities on our e-tendering portal. . We only invite providers who are on our register of training organisations to bid for ESF contracts. We distribute ESF directly to project providers, without those providers having to use their own funds as match.

5. Match funding

As a co-financing organisation, we must match our ESF funds with money from the UK government. This means that we must fund an amount of training and support from our mainstream training budget that is equivalent to our ESF allocation.

We find this match funding from our mainstream programmes that are eligible for the ESF programme. This means that we identify activity that improves the skills of the workforce and helps people who have difficulties finding work. We must report this match funding and its associated learners within our funding claims to the ESF Managing Authority in England.

If you have a contract from us to deliver training and support through our mainstream budget, we will tell you if we use any of that activity as match funding for ESF. If we do this, you must keep to the rules for publicity and document retention in the ESF programme.

6. Funding rules

If you have a contract from us to deliver ESF support, you must follow our funding rules for ESF.

You must make sure you have the right evidence, to show how you keep to the European Commission’s rules and regulations for ESF. These include how you must publicise your ESF activity and promote two common themes:

  • gender equality and equal opportunities
  • sustainable development (which includes environmental sustainability)

7. If you are a learner

You can get information through the National Careers Service about the training and support that we fund with ESF.

8. Further information