ESF Information Memo 09/21 - ESF service delivery beyond March 2022

Guidance to ESF programme 2014-2020 project promoters around service delivery beyond March 2022.

Dear Project Promoter,

European Social Fund Northern Ireland logo containing text "European Union, European Social Fund, Northern Ireland"

We have received a number of enquiries about a possible extension of ESF service delivery beyond March 2022. To date, there has been a lack of clarity from the UK government around future funding streams such as the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, which is being provided as a replacement for EU Structural Funds post EU exit. Additionally, the Department for the Economy is in the process of developing future skills policy which includes a review of the needs and scope for a programme to succeed the current ESF provision. This work has been hampered by the pandemic.

Consequently, EU Fund Management Division submitted a successful bid for COVID-19 funding that effectively replaces ESF funding in 2020-21. This means that we have been able to ‘bank’ the ESF funding and make it available to spend in 2022-23 when it would have been otherwise exhausted. The hope is, that we will be able to extend ESF activity until March 2023.

This will better facilitate the development of the future skills policy and identification of funding streams. However, a number of factors have yet to be fully scoped and confirmed. These include the mechanism for allocation of the funds and additional match funding that will also need to be sourced. EU Fund Management division is currently in discussions with the European Commission to clarify the requirements and ensure that all regulatory and legal aspects are covered. As you will appreciate, the EC will insist on full transparency in procedures and allocation of funding. We need to therefore make sure that we meet all of their requirements.

We understand that projects want clarity as soon as possible and we undertake to provide this as quickly as we can. Meantime, we would ask for your patience. Finally, it would be our hope that whatever arrangement is agreed is as simple as possible and does not impose unnecessary administrative burden on projects at what remains a difficult time. You will know that partnership working has been a key facet of the current funding period and we would hope to continue to build on this for the remaining period.

Maeve Hamilton
Director of European Fund Management

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