Northern Ireland European Social Fund Programme 2014-2020

The strategic aim of the European Social Fund (ESF) Programme 2014-2020 in Northern Ireland (NI) is to combat poverty and enhance social inclusion by reducing economic inactivity and to increase the skills base of those currently in work and future potential participants in the workforce.

European Social Fund Northern Ireland logo
European Social Fund Northern Ireland logo

ESF Programme Priorities

The aim of the ESF Programme will be realised through the implementation of four Investment Priorities:

Priority 1: Access to Employment - promoting sustainable and quality employment and supporting labour mobility

Projects supporting unemployed including long term unemployed participants to access employment and supporting economically inactive participants to access employment, education and training.

Projects supporting young people aged 16-24 not in employment, education or training integrate into the labour market.

Priority 2: Social Inclusion - promoting social inclusion and combating poverty and any discrimination

Projects supporting people with a disability to access employment, education and training.

Projects supporting participants not in employment, education or training aged 16 and over within families receiving community family support to access employment, education and training.

Priority 3: Skills for Growth - investing in education, training and vocational training for skills and life-long learning

The ApprenticeshipsNI programme aims to provide apprentices with the knowledge, understanding, and competence to work at a high level in their chosen occupation; offer quality training to fulfil the requirements of an appropriate apprenticeship framework; contribute to raising the skills level of the NI workforce; provide opportunities for progression to further and higher education and training; support the direct involvement of employers in training key personnel.

A Higher Level Apprenticeship offers people, who have A levels or equivalent, the opportunity to gain quality training and a recognised higher qualification while in paid employment.

Further information on Priority 3 provision can be found at:

Priority 4: Technical Assistance - the Technical Assistance (TA) allocation for the Northern Ireland European Social Fund Programme 2014 – 2020 is €7.7m

The TA Budget has been determined on the basis of experience gained by DfE (formerly DEL) in managing and implementing the 2007 – 2013 ESF programme and also an analysis of the support required to efficiently and effectively implement the 2014 – 2020 Programme. The TA budget has been allocated to the relevant bodies to cover costs associated with Programme administration ie staffing, audit and verification, communications, mandatory training costs and to the development and maintenance of the Programme website.

Projects awarded funding under Call 2  Applications (Priority 1 and 2)

69 projects with a total value of £168 million were successful in the Call 2 Applications for Funding Competition under the NI ESF Programme 2014-2020. The period of funding offered runs from 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2022. Since the 1 April 2019 there are 66 projects being delivered across Northern Ireland. 

Call 2 Operating Manual

The Call 2 Operating Manual has been produced by the Northern Ireland ESF Managing Authority, and is intended as a general reference guide for the implementation of the Programme. Further guidance is provided through the ESF Information Memos 

Call 2 Promoter Guidance on Participant Eligibility, Data Collection and Validation

This document has been produced by the Northern Ireland ESF Project Delivery Branch to provide guidance to Projects on data collection and validation of participant eligibility and performance.

Call 2 Promoter Guidance on Monthly Submission of Financial Claims

This document has been produced by the Northern Ireland ESF Project Delivery Branch (ESF PDB) to provide guidance to Projects on the monthly financial claim process

Unique Learner Number (ULN)

The Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) has produced an ULN Guidance Manual for Voluntary and Community organisations, which contains advice and guidance on dealing with some of the technical issues on the allocation of ULNs and making examinations entries. 

Call 2 Match Funding Budget 

On 8 March 2018, the Secretary of State announced the NI Budget 2018/19 to provide the clarity needed to allow Departments to plan for the 2018/19 financial year.

The Department for the Economy (DfE) set an ESF Call 2 match funding budget for 2018/19.

All organisations that made requests to DfE received notification of match funding offers for their Call 2 ESF projects. Letters of offer issued to organisations in April 2018 also confirms the DfE project match funding contribution value over the four years of the Programme.

Organisations delivering ESF projects should note that there is no additional DfE match funding resources for 2019/20.

ESF Call 2 Induction Event – 28 March 2018

ESF Call 2 Directory Launch - September 2018

Information on the projects funded by the NI ESF Programme 2014 – 2020 can be found at:

Further information about the Northern Ireland European Social Fund Programme 2014 – 2020 can also be found at:

Call 2 Application for Funding competition

Documents used and referred to during the Call 2 Application for Funding Competition are listed below:

Projects awarded funding under the 1st Call for applications

65 projects with a total value of £105 million were funded in Call 1 of the NI ESF Programme. The period of funding offered ran from 1 April 2015 to 31 March 2018.

European Commission publicity requirements

All projects awarded funding from the NI European Social Fund Programme 2014-2020 are required to acknowledge the funding received in communication and publicity materials. The requirements are outlined in the document below.

ESF Publicity Material 

ESF Branch have helped to publicise and promote the ESF scheme by producing these information posters and leaflets. 

ESF Evaluation Plan 

Annual Implementation Report 

Joint Qualifications in Vocational Education and Training (VET)

A new call on Joint Qualifications on Vocational Education and Training is now open for applications. More details at:

European Social Fund Case Studies

Contact details

Useful links

 

 

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