Well good morning everyone and welcome to the European Social Fund mid-term conference. I am very sorry I’m unable to be with you in person but I did want to send a welcome message to all of those who are taking part.
This conference is happening at a really important time for this Government and this country…… but also for other Member States who face very similar challenges to the ones we face in the UK.
A key priority of the new Coalition Government is to put in place reforms to our welfare state, reforms to our welfare to work process that we believe will transform the lives of some of those people in our society who are struggling the most, particularly those who people who are living in workless households. Our reforms are designed firstly to make work pay…by totally changing our benefit system…and then to introduce a wholly new approach to welfare to work support to employment support so we help get some of the hardest to help, those who have been on benefits into work. And we see the European Social Fund as playing an extremely important part in that overall package of change.
What the fund enables us to do is to target money at those people who are really at the most challenging part of our employment world, those people who are struggling to get off benefits and into work, those people who face huge challenges in their lives. But it also enables us to harness the skills of local projects up and down the country, small local voluntary sector groups, local authority projects, the work that’s done in individual communities to transform the lives of those who are struggling. And the European Social Fund makes it possible for us to deliver not simply the big national programmes that we’re planning but also this targeted local activity that can make a real difference.
So what we want to see in the next rounds of tendering are bids coming in from projects or from groups of projects, groups of organisations that can really capture that local expertise, that can bring to bear experience and knowledge and expertise within communities to help those people who are most in need, to help them out of poverty, to get them into a working life, to give them a better life.
I’ve seen some really exciting projects supported by the European Social Fund and I’ve no doubt that huge amounts of extra work are going to be done over the next few years to transform the lives of some of our most challenged citizens. I very much hope that the discussions you have at this conference will be worthwhile, will be helpful, will create…..generate new ideas for the next round of tendering.
I thank you all for everything you have done. I hope the conference goes well and we all in the DWP look forward to working with you in the years ahead.