Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Not replacing European social funds would be 'disastrous', warn MPs

  • Comment

The government must immediately draw up plans for replacing the European Social Fund (ESF) and prevent a “potentially disastrous” interruption in funding for employment and skills support in some of the country’s most deprived areas, a committee of MPs has warned.

A report published today, following an inquiry by the Commons work and pensions committee, says evidence provided by witnesses showed the transition from the ESF to its successor must be “seamless and immediate” to prevent the loss of support services for certain groups, including people with disabilities, the long-term unemployed and those with multiple barriers to work.

The ESF currently provides £500m a year for employment and skills programmes. The government has said it will continue to fund ESF programmes scheduled to finish after the UK leaves the European Union.

The Conservative manifesto pledged to establish the UK shared prosperity fund to replace existing European structural and investment funds, which include the ESF.

However, the report raises concerns that a planned public consultation on proposals “later this year” could lead to a damaging delay.

It added: “[The government] must act now to guarantee certainty for providers and communities and avoid a potentially disastrous interruption in funding.”

Appearing before the committee, Birmingham City Council interim chief executive Stella Manzie said an end to equivalent ESF funding would be “catastrophic”.

Graham Parry of support provider Groundwork told the committee a gap in funding would result in the widespread loss of support organisations.

The committee called on the government to “proceed urgently” to ensure there is no gap between existing and new funding.

It recommends the establishment of a single organisation to hold the new fund’s budget, with a reduction in bureaucracy for support providers and mechanisms for longer-term funding cycles to enable strategic planning by councils and local enterprise partnerships.

Committee chair Frank Field (Lab) said: “We now have an historic opportunity to create a truly fit-for-purpose successor to the ESF.

“The government must act quickly so that those excellent existing suppliers are not bankrupted.

“Effective reform here offers the government an important new chance to begin to fill our skills gap from the community upwards, instead of having a top-down approach.”

Tags

  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions.

Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.