EUROPEAN SOCIAL FUND: 1.33 billion pounds to England up to 2017. Concerns over the survival of many projects after 2020

From 2014 to the end of September 2017 over 450 projects, in England only, have been funded with 1.33 billion pounds from the European Social Fund (an European Union Fund).

The projects address two main targets: the first is the access to the labour market for jobseekers, inactive people and young people, people with multiple and complex barriers to employment. The second addresses education and improvement of skills of the workforce to support economic growth by improving access to lifelong learning for all increasing the labour market relevance of education and training systems.

Among the many projects supported through the EU Social Fund: Bounced back’, a social enterprise giving people a perspective for life outside prison and working with ‘hard to reach’ offenders, including men with learning difficulties and disabilities; ‘Help to Work’ by Kennedy Scott, a programme unrolled in the South East of England’s Coast to Capital LEP area co-financed by DWP to provide support to 800 unemployed adults, removing their barriers to work and enabling them to enter sustainable employment.

Many of the EU funded programs are to help NEETS and young unemployed: the ‘Youth Employment Skills (YES)’ run by the recruitment giant REED in partnership with the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA). is involving disadvantaged young people in London with no previous work experience, or very little work experience, engaging them in apprenticeships and help them to understand how to find employment. Similar is the ‘MyGo‘ programme for local Jobs, apprenticeships and education opportunities for 16-24 year olds in Ipswich and Suffolk, (New Anglia) is provided by Suffolk County Council and uses the European Union Social Fund to tackle youth unemployment in rural areas, helping young people to find and sustain employment and return to education. MyGo help young people get back into work and to prevent a young person from becoming NEET (not in education, employment, or training).

As exiting the EU and therefore out of the upcoming European Social Fund Plus, part of the EU’s budget from 2021-2027, the UK will have to replace ESF funds with its own or find new resources from the private sector. One of the main issues is that funds from private sector might not be available for social purposes such as support to ex offenders, education of NEETS, support to marginalised groups, especially in a phase of progressive precarisation and increase of zero hours contracts.

If, as foreseen, the exit from the Union will bring a subsequent economic downturn, it is reasonable to think many of the social funded project will disappear and last until the already funded 2020: still two years of post-Brexit survival.