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Employment and equal opportunities minister Andrew Smith welcomed ...
Employment and equal opportunities minister Andrew Smith welcomed

the new European Social Fund's emphasis on people who need extra help

to get and keep a job.

Addressing a conference of delegates from all parts of the

European Union In Birmingham he said:

'The European Social Fund has helped many people in this country.

I am particularly pleased that, from next year, the Social Fund will

focus on equal opportunities for all our people.

'In Britain we are proud of our record of using ESF to help those

at risk of social exclusion. As a result, people have been able to

overcome particular barriers to employment. Nineteen percent of those

leaving ESF projects in 1997 were from an ethnic minority, 37% never

had a job, 14% were lone perents and 11% had English as a second

language. The new European Social Fund will enable us to focus

resources even more closely on those who need them most.

'We look forward to the challenge of using the new European Social

Fund with other sources of funding to achieve the government's key

employment goals. We can help people to take control of and transform

their lives. That is why, right across government, we are tackling

poor education, poor job prospects, poor housing, poor health and


Mr Smith highlighted that a major focus of government policy is

to equip people with the skills they need to make effective choices

in an increasingly complex world. He said:

'We are starting at the beginning, ensuring that young people get

the right start in life. We have Introduced a range of remedial

measures which help people make the right decisions for themselves.

Our programmes can equip people with the skills and support they need

to enter further education, training and a job and to succeed at work

and in life more generally.

'The longer a person is dependant on benefits the more difficult

the move to independence can be. The 'New Deal' provides a range of

programmes, bringing new hope and transforming the lives of welfare

recipients. With European Social Fund support we are providing

additional help for more people.

'Partnership is essential to success. Britain is committed to

working with its European partners. We are both keen to learn from

the good practice in other member states and pleased to share our own

innovative ideas.'


1 The European Social Fund (ESF) is one of four EU Structural Funds

designed to strengthen economic and social cohesion. It was

established by the Treaty of Rome to help member states to improve

employment opportunities for workers, to make employment easier, to

increase geographical and occupational mobility and to facilitate

adaptation to industrial change, in particular through vocational

training and retraining.

2 EMPLOYMENT is one of two ESF Human Resource Community Initiatives.

The EMPLOYMENT initiative focuses on re-integrating specific groups

of disadvantaged people into the labour market. The INTEGRA strand

targets a range of vulnerable groups. All projects are innovative

pilot projects working with partner projects in other Member States.

The conference in Birmingham on 7-6 June wIl draw together and

disseminate lessons from INTEGRA projects between member states.

3 At the European Council of 24-25 March the new Regulations for the

European Structural Funds for the period 2000 to 2006 were finalised.

There will be five priority areas for intervention by the European

Social fund:

- developing active labour market policies;

- promoting social inclusion and equal opportunities;

- developing education and training systems as part of a lifelong

learning policy;

- improving systems to create a skilled, trained and adaptable


- improving the position of women in the labour market and reducing

labour market segregation by gender.

4 The government is currently consulting on plans for the European

Social Fund in Great Britain. The deadline for responses is 23 June


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