ESF Call 3 - frequently asked questions

This is a summary of the common questions asked by stakeholders before, during and after the stakeholder information session on 8 June 2021 and the answers to these questions

We would remind you that we will only answer any queries relating to the Call 3 process up to and including Friday 2 July 2021. Any queries submitted following this time may not be responded to. To ensure you are up to date with all guidance please check this FAQs page regularly, even after the closing date for FAQs and immediately prior to the submission of your application.

    Reminder: We would like to remind you that applications for Call 3 and all attachments as specified at Annex 2 of the Guidance notes must be submitted by 12 noon on Friday 9 July 2021.  All application forms must be submitted via word and Annex A (Direct Staff Time Cost) and Annex B (Total Project Cost Summary) must be submitted in Excel, not PDF.  

    Guidance notes

    29/6/21 - Annex 1

    Please note the tables in Annex 1 relating to Priority 1 TO 8 i (a) Unemployed including Long-term Unemployed Thematic Objective, TO 8 i (b) Economically Inactive Thematic Objective and TO 8 (ii) NEET Thematic Objective, the right hand column heading should read “Call 3 Minimum Targets “

    Submitting applications

    08/07/2021 - Capacity of application and associated documents will not allow for e-mail application

    If the capacity of your application and associated documents exceeds the email capacity limit, applications can be submitted to the Call 3 inbox via a zip folder.

    Completion of the Application Form

    02/07/21 – Part A Section 1.3

    We have a large number of direct delivery partners in our application and it is not possible to provide all the required information in the 250 word limit.

    Applications are strongly encouraged to be within the word limit for Part A Section 1.3 of the application form.  However if it is exceeded, as this is a non-scoring section, it will not lead to a penalty.  This does not apply to any other sections of the application form.

    02/07/21 – Section 4.2 of NEETS application form

    A text box was missing from section 4.2 of the NEETs application form.  This has now been added and the new version is available to download from the website now.

    30/6/21 - Annex A and B

    Please ensure you do not change any formula in Annex A and B and also please do not lock any cells within these spreadsheets

    29/6/21 - Can different entities under the same group submit applications under the same Thematic Objective

    For the purposes of Call 3, ‘Organisation’ is given the meaning of all legal entities within the same group. This does not however preclude the projects to be run by different entities falling under the same Thematic Objective being combined as different strands under the same application.

    25/06/21 – Term Time working

    Term time workers are considered as Part Time/Part Time whether they are Full Time staff members or not. Timesheets must be provided for term time workers to enable PDB to monitor and pay correct number hours over the year.

    25/06/21 - Written confirmation regarding financial flows

    There may be a delay of up to 3 months in the payment of Call 3 claims. Written confirmation is required from all lead applicants in the form of a statement from an independent accountant, bank manager or a finance director (where the applicant is an ALB or a local authority) of their ability to manage financial flows for a minimum of 3 months. Direct delivery partners must also provide written confirmation as outlined in the Call 3 guidance notes. 

    25/06/21 - What font can be used in Annexes A and B?

    Arial 12 is only required for the application form however applicants are encouraged not to change the default font in either the Annex A or Annex B.

    25/06/21 - Inclusion of procured trainer in Annex A

    Where a trainer has not yet been recruited or procured, the post should be listed as vacant in Column A of the Annex A however all other details should be completed including a job title, job description, SCO category and  FT/PT status and average weekly hours worked (where applicable).

    25/06/21 - Do tables and charts add to the word count?

    All words and numbers entered in responses will count towards the stipulated word limit this does not include tables or charts.  We do not however expect to see large volumes of text included within a table or chart.

    25/06/21 -Should cited reports and papers be referenced?

    Reports mentioned in support of any answer should be properly referenced to provide the panel with an understanding of the nature and currency of the report.

    25/06/21 - Draft programme for Government

    It is for the applicant to determine whether the 2016-21 or 2021 draft PfG should be referred to in support of an answer.  The following links should be used to access:

    23/06/2021 Question - Please provide details on how to access the draft employability strategy.

    There is no single draft employability strategy. The Department for Communities (DFC) funds various programmes which aim to address employability issues. These include: Job start, Work Ready Employability Service, Access to Work, Workable NI, and other disability Employment provision. For the purposes of ESF Call 3 these have been grouped as an employability strategy. Details of employability programmes are available on NI Direct Jobs and skills .

    22/06/2021 - Use of landscape page layout

    The use of landscape page layout is only permitted in relation to the table in Part C, Section 3.3 Assessment of Risks and Constraints.

    17/06/2021- ESF Call 3 application form text boxes

    In response to several queries received regarding the formatting of the ESF Call 3 application form text boxes, several changes have been made to ensure text boxes will automatically be extended. Re-formatted application forms are now available for download.

    Please be reminded to ensure your answer does not exceed the stipulated word count and any words additional to the limit for each question will not be considered in support of an application.

    If you encounter accessibility concerns with the application forms, please contact the ESF Call 3 team via email-

    15-06-2021 – Extending Application Form text boxes

    We have been advised of some issues regarding the extension of text boxes in the ESF Call 3 application forms.

    We have reviewed the application forms and have made the necessary amendments to all forms to lengthen text boxes in order to capture the word count and ensure the application forms retain accessibility compliance.  Please use the revised application forms published on the website today (15/16/2021).

    Please be reminded to ensure your answer does not exceed the stipulated word count and any words additional to the limit for each question will not be considered in support of an application.

    08/06/2021 - Reporting prior performance in support of an application

    Any targets referred to in support of your application should be those agreed in the original letter of offer or contract that you are referencing. Rationale for any variation in outputs against target should be provided and will be considered by the assessment panel.

    08/06/2021 - Can the funding to be used to test new approaches/digital solutions to employment support?  

    It is a matter for the application to justify what services they intend to deliver and how they intend to deliver them. The use of digital technology is encouraged in the delivery of services.

    08/06/2021 - Will the funders consider a partnership bid between 2 organisations?   

    Yes – any number of organisations can come together and make a combined application.

    08/06/2021 - How relevant is quoting own research within application? 

    Research quoted or referred to as part of an application should be factual, current and relevant.  It is up to the applicant to determine which research to refer to however, independent and/or peer reviewed research may carry more weight with a panel.

    08/06/2021 - Is it possible to get a copy of the scoresheet from Call 2?

    To note, the assessment panels and socio-economic situation has changed since Call 2.  The points awarded by an assessment panel in prior Calls in response to a given question may not be the same points awarded by an assessment panel in Call 3, even if the circumstances where the question, response and points available are similar or identical. No such assumption should be made by an applicant. 

    A copy of the Call 2 scores were sent to all successful Call 2 applicants when they were notified of the outcome of their application.

    08/06/2021 - Can an organisation apply under more than one Thematic Objective?

    Applicants can apply once per each of the four Thematic Objectives.  Applicants may however be a direct delivery partner in any other application regardless of whether they have already applied as a lead applicant under that Thematic Objective.

    08/06/2021 - Is there a minimum or maximum grant size?

    The amount of grant funding applied for will depend on the size of the project, the numbers of participants to be supported and VFM rationale provided.

    08/06/2021 - Can you confirm what documents are required to be submitted with the application?

    Documents to be submitted and the format in which they are to be submitted are set out in the Call 3 guidance documents.

    08/06/2021 - Can you give an indication when outcome of Call 3 application process will be known?

    The high level Call 3 timetable is set out in the guidance documentation. This will be subject to the number of applications received and the availability of the assessment panels. It is hoped the outcome of the application process will be made known by the middle of September 2021. Applicants should check their inboxes and junk folders regularly.

    08/06/2021 - Under the Economically Inactive/Unemployed Thematic Objective are there any requirements to weight the participant cohorts equally?

    The weighting and cohort of participants to be supported is a matter for each applicant organisation. A rationale should be provided for the panel to consider.

    08/06/2021 - What is a 'direct delivery partner'?

    ‘Direct delivery partner’ is defined as an organisation directly involved in the implementation and/or delivery of some or all aspects of a project’s activities co-ordinated by the applicant. A strategic partner (for example a member of a Steering Group) is not the same as a direct delivery partner.

    08/06/2021 - How should a specialist post be categorised?

    The categorisation of staff is explained in the Call 3 guidance notes.  Specialist staff can be included under the management/specialist simplified cost category.  The majority of project staff will fall under the Support and Implementation categories and the categorisation of staff will be reviews during the due diligence stage.


    07/07/2021 - Do level 1 and 2 qualifications on the Register of Regulated qualifications meet the requirement to deliver up to and including NVQ level 1 provision or Level 2 provision (People with a Disability Thematic Objective) 

    The qualification levels relevant to the NI ESF Programme are set out at: What qualification levels mean: England, Wales and Northern Ireland - GOV.UK (

    25/06/21 - Is there a set time frame to work with a YP (minimum or maximum number of weeks?)

    The nature and duration of support provided to a participant is a matter for the applicant to determine and justify. Tangible targets with achievable outcomes should be identified.

    18/06/2021 - Can you confirm if multiple outcomes will be counted for a participant in terms of contract performance?

    Yes, if a participant has multiple outcomes then these will be counted towards the project's performance targets. Projects will be expected to be able to verify each of the outcomes.

    17/06/2021 - Is ‘engaged in job search’ an Immediate Result Indicator?

    ‘Engaged in job searching’ can be chosen as an immediate result indicator on the ESIF database which is used by ESF beneficiaries to report on participant outcomes. For the purposes of a Call 3 application, applicants are required to project the number of  participants who will enter into employment, education and/or training. No targets are set for engaged in job searching as an immediate result indicator.

    17/06/2021 - Can progressing participants into a JobStart scheme be an acceptable outcome?

    When a participant first moves into JobStart the outcome should be recorded as an ‘into education or training’ immediate result indicator. If the position becomes permanent and is permanent at the 6-month mark then the LTRI can be recorded as ‘into employment’.

    As the purpose of JobStart is to help improve the young people’s employment skills and potential to get a job or progress into further education or training, those exiting an ESF project and commencing on the JobStart scheme within 4 weeks of exit should be recorded as into education or training.

    At the 6 month LTRI observation point the project should carry out an assessment to determine if the JobStart opportunity has led to a permanent contract of employment. If this is the case an LTRI outcome of into employment may be recorded. If the job is still temporary an outcome of into education or training should be used.

    17/06/2021 - Can participants receive support through ESF Projects whilst enrolled with JobStart?

    In certain circumstances a participant may participate on both the JobStart scheme and an ESF project simultaneously. If a participant is offered a JobStart placement during their time on an ESF project, and there is still an identified need for the ESF project to assist the participant while they are on JobStart, there is no requirement to exit the ESF project.. If there is no identified requirement for help then the participant should exit the ESF project.

    If a participant is enrolled on JobStart, and they then wish to participate on an ESF project then they may be able to get support to address their assessed needs in circumstances where this support is not already provided by JobStart. Projects are expected to demonstrate this. However participants on JobStart will not be able to join NEETs or CFSP projects as these participants are not able to be in any form of employment, employment or training when they enrol.

    17/06/2021 – Can multiple IRIs be reported for participants?  For example, a participant outcome of both Employment and Education/Training count towards our project target against both result indicators.

    Participants can have multiple immediate result outcomes.

    08/06/2021 - For performance data is this captured by self-declaration from participants?

    For Labour Market Status this may be declared in the form of a self-declaration by the participant and this should be recorded in the eligibility section of the ESIF Database. The results indicators reported may be supported by either evidence gained by the project to support the result or based on a self - declaration by the operation or participants. The performance monitoring module of the database provides a facility where the operation can upload the evidence or self-declaration when a result indicator is recorded. Operations must maintain an accurate record of correspondence with the participant to support self-declarations.

    08/06/2021 - Will projects be able to continue populating the existing ESIF database for Call 3?

    Yes, however each new project will have a new project number so projects who are currently in call 2 will get new log in details for call 3.  There will be training available for new projects.

    08/06/2021 - Will the KPIs remain the same as for Call 2?

    Targets for Call 3 will be different from Call 2.  Participant targets are set out on slide 27 of the presentation and more details will be available in the guidance notes.

    08/06/2021 - Will participants enrolled on Call 2 roll over to Call 3?  

    Successful applicants who receive and accept a Letter of Offer in Call 3 will be considered as new operations. Therefore, participants supported by Call 2 operations who subsequently enrol in projects during Call 3 will be considered as new participants. Call 2 participants starting in Call 3, within 4 weeks of leaving Call 2, should be recorded as an immediate result outcome of into education and training.


    30/6/21 - Is demonstrating being financially viable considered per programme, or per total cost of all programme applications being submitted by the applicant?

    Demonstrating financial viability should be undertaken for each Project application.

    17/6/21- Ability to manage financial flows by ALBs and/or Local Authorities

    Arms Length Bodies (ALBs) and Local Authorities who are lead applicants may submit written confirmation from an independent accountant, bank manager or a finance director from within the lead applicant organisation confirming that the lead applicant is financially viable and able to settle any financial obligations should there be a delay of up to 3 months in the payment of claims. The assessment panel will assess the level of detail and rationale provided.

    Value for Money

    08/06/2021 - Will the value for money criteria mirror that of Call 2 for each Thematic Objective? 

    The approach to VFM calculation in Call 3 will mirror that of Call 2- ie total costs divided by the numbers of participants a project intends to support. However, to reflect the CPI uplift in the hourly rates, the average participant costs for each Thematic Objective has also been increased from those used in Call 2.

    Simplified Costs

    25/06/21 - Percentage of staff in each simplified cost category

    Page 26 advises that we expect 15-20 per cent of all staff listed in the Annex A to fall within the Management/Specialist Category. The guidance notes highlight smaller projects as a possible exception to this. The staff structure of a project is a matter for each applicant to determine and justify. The due diligence process will include a critical analysis of alignment of staff to SCO categories and the percentage of staff allocated to simplified cost categories.

    08/06/2021 - Is it possible to exceed the average participant rate for a Thematic Objective?

    An average participant cost can be exceeded. It is the rationale for this which is assessed by the panel.

    08/06/2021 - Will staff salary/hourly payment rates be increased for Call 3?

    SCO rates have also been uplifted in line with CPI. Please refer to the Presentation - slide 30 for details.

    Match funding

    08/06/2021 - Will match funding be sourced centrally, or is it down to individual bidders to secure their match funding for the year? 

    DFE is not in a position to provide additional match funding to any successful applicant, under any thematic objective, over and above the 15% contribution.  Applicants will have to source match funding. This could be from a source previously used, own resources, new emerging UK-wide Funds and can be via cash or ‘in-kind’ (personnel on loan/secondment from another organisation or volunteers).

    08/06/2021 - To what extent have NI government departments committed to the current levels of match funding for Call 3? 

    NI government departments who have been involved in providing match funding have been informed they may be approached to provide further match funding for Call 3.

    08/06/2021 - Will a match funder need to be identified and an agreement reached at the time of applying?  

    Potential match funders will need to be identified but will not need to be secured by the time of submitting their application.  

    02/07/21 - Self-match funding

    Match funding can come from any source which is not ring fenced for another purpose or European funding.

    02/07/21 - Other match funding

    DfE does not have any additional budget to provide a contribution towards the 35%. We also understand that public match funding across the TOs is an important issue. As such the ESF Managing Authority has agreed to provide some advice on alternative potential sources at the next NICVA Forum meeting on 22 July 2021.

    Funding and targets over the extension period

    08/06/2021 - Will the KPIs remain the same as for Call 2?

    Targets for Call 3 will be different from Call 2.  Participant targets are set out on slide 27 of the presentation and more details will be available in the guidance notes.

    SPF / Community Renewal Fund

    14/6/2021 - Where can we get information on the UK Shared Prosperity Fund?

    This Funding will be delivered directly in Northern Ireland by the UK Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government. This team is currently administering the Community Renewal Fund and the contact details are:

    Further information on the timing of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund for 2022 onwards is available at:

    08/06/2021 - Can you provide any information on the Community Renewal Fund and Shared Prosperity Fund including timeline?

    The Community Renewal fund is the pilot scheme which runs in the current financial year 2021/22, it ends in March 2022.  There is an expectation that UKSPF, which is the main replacement for the ERDF/ESF Structural Funds, will commence on 1 April 2022. The UKSPF may be a potential source of match funding for Call 3 applicants. However, the NI Executive has no input or involvement in the set-up of this. Refer to GOV.UK website where you can keep abreast of any developments or changes. 


    Information about the immediate and longer term result classification of ESF participants who are supported under the Jobstart Programme can be found in ESF Memo 17/21

    Assessment process

    08/06/2021 - Will all applicants be assessed and scored using the same scoring matrix?

    Call 3 is a new open Call for grant funding. It is a competitive, open and transparent process. The criteria and scoring frameworks are contained in the guidance notes and will be applied consistently to all projects in each TO.

    Extension after initial 12 months (March 2023 onwards)– how will it work

    08/06/2021 - Can you confirm the position regarding extending the possible extension following the 1 year funding?

    The ESF Managing Authority may have an option to extend the duration of Call 3 depending on the available ESF budget, national match funding and foreign exchange rates. The ESF programme expires in 2023 therefore any period of extension cannot be beyond this. Extension, if possible, is likely to be for a short period and on a month by month basis.

    People with a Disability Thematic Objective

    08/06/2021 - In call 2 a person with a disability in formal education could avail of ESF employability support to address their assessed needs in circumstances where this support was not already provided or funded by the formal education provider. Will this be permitted in Call 3?

    A person in formal education may avail of ESF employability support to address their assessed needs in circumstances where this support is not already provided or funded by the formal education provider.  Projects are expected to demonstrate the provision is not provided.

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