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

Projects awarded funding under the 2nd Call for applications (Priority 1 and 2)

69 projects with a total value of £168 million are currently operational under the 2nd Call of the NI ESF Programme 2014-2020. The period of funding offered runs from 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2022.

Call 2 Operating Manual

The Operating Manual has been produced by the Programme Managing Authority, and is intended as a general reference guide for the implementation of the Programme.

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

This document has been produced by the Northern Ireland ESF Project Delivery Branch (ESF PDB) 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 how to request a revision to an agreed Annex A and 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 2018/19

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 incoming financial year.

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

All organisations that made requests to DfE have now received notification of match funding offers for their Call 2 ESF projects.

Following the outcome of the ESF Call 2 application process, two induction events were held on 28 March 2018 with successful Call 2 projects from Priorities 1 and 2.

ESF Call 2 Induction Event – 28 March 2018

ESF Call 2 Directory Launch - September 2018

Call 2 Timesheet

The ESF Call 2 timesheet has been produced by the Programme Managing Authority, and is intended to be used by projects to record the number of daily direct activity hours of staff who work less than 100 per cent of their contracted hours on an ESF Call 2 project.

Background to Second Call

2014-2020 NI ESF Programme Funding – Next Steps.

What will the programme fund?

The programme will fund activity to enhance and extend employment opportunities, in particular, for those groups at a disadvantage in the labour market who are unemployed, including long term unemployed, or economically inactive.

There will also be a focus on supporting young people aged 16-24 who are not unemployment education or training and on people with a disability.

In addition, through the Apprenticeships and Youth Training Programme, we aim to increase the number of people in employment skilled at level 2 and 3-8 in line with employers’ needs and the needs of the economy.

The NIESF Programme compliments significant funding already provided through existing departmental strategies, policies and programmes

Programme priorities

The aim of the ESF programme will be realised through the implementation of four objectives:

  • Priority 1: Access to Employment - promoting sustainable and quality employment and supporting labour mobility
  • Priority 2: Social Inclusion - promoting social inclusion and combating poverty and any discrimination
  • Priority 3: Skills for Growth - investing in education, training and vocational training for skills and life-long learning
  • Priority 4: Technical Assistance - the Technical Assistance (TA) allocation for the Northern Ireland European Social Fund programme 2014 – 2020 is €7.7m.

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 be found at:

Projects awarded funding under the 1st Call for applications

65 projects with a total value of £105 million are currently operational under the 1st call of funding. The period of funding offered runs from 1 April 2015 to 31 March 2018.

These projects will help support 42,700 individuals fulfil their potential by equipping them better skills and improved job prospects to enable them to take steps towards employment. The Programme will also provide assistance to 2,340 families under the community Family Support Programme.

Priority 3

Priority 3 – Skills for Growth - investing in education, training and vocational training for skills and life-long learning. See attached link for list of funded projects. 

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.

Eligibility rules and conditions for the NI European Social Fund

Call 1

The eligibility rules and conditions for the NI European Social Fund 2014-2020 Call 1 are set out in the Operating Manual and associated information memos which can be accessed below.

Call 2

Organisations submitting applications under NI European Social Fund 2014-2020 Call 2 should note the ESF Promoter’s Operating Manual will be revised in advance of Call 2 projects becoming operational and should not be relied upon to inform their application. Please refer to the Call 2 Application Guidance Notes and Common Questions document in the links below when completing application(s). 

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 (ESF) Case Studies

Contact details

Useful links

 

 

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