Economy Minister, Gordon Lyons has announced an additional £2.6m funding has been secured to ensure that projects funded under the European Social Fund (ESF) programme can continue to operate until March 2023.
The Minister made the announcement at the ESF showcase event today in Belfast which was held to highlight the successes and impacts of the 2014-2020 ESF Programme.
The ESF is designed to combat poverty and enhance social inclusion. It supports participants to progress into further education, training and ultimately employment through funding organisations to deliver programmes for the unemployed and the economically inactive as well as people with disabilities, and young people not in education, employment, or training.
It has helped over eighty thousand people to date with over fifteen thousand participants moving into employment and another fourteen thousand into further education and training.
Minister Lyons said:
“It is evident that ESF projects have had a transformational impact on a huge number of people across Northern Ireland. The intervention, support, and flexibility these projects provide to participants allows them to overcome the many barriers to education and engagement that mainstream approaches to learning and employment can create.
“The funding shortfall had created a cliff edge for these projects, however I am pleased to announce an additional £2.6m to cover a funding deficit for ESF projects who will now remain open until March 2023. I made a commitment previously to ensure that no existing project would be left behind and I am pleased to say I have delivered on that promise. Now with an additional £2.6m these ESF funded projects can continue to support thousands of people on their employability journey and ensure their employees remain in post until next year.”
Turning to how ESF projects will be funded beyond 2023, the Minister said:
“I have provided security until March 2023, but beyond this date my Department does not have the financial resources, nor the legal powers, to continue funding the programme. I do however hope that the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities will fulfil its commitment to offset the EU funding gap through the delivery of the Shared Prosperity Fund’s Investment Plan for Northern Ireland.”
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