‘No gap’ assurance amid ESF funding delay concerns

The European Commission and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have vowed there will be no gap in funding for European Social Fund (ESF) projects for the unemployed following fears of a delay in renewing the programmes.

The two bodies defended themselves after the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) expressed concerns that a delay in introducing new funding could leave providers unable to continue offering the training.

The ESF programmes run on a seven-year cycle and were due to be renewed in December, when programmes for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland were agreed.

A European Commission spokesperson said the programmes for England and Gibraltar were “still in the negotiation process, and are expected to be ready for approval in the coming weeks”.

An AELP spokesperson warned a gap in funding “could mean some providers would have to take decisions about reducing capacity”.

However, the European Commission insisted the delay would not cause a gap in funding.

Julian Gravatt

Julian Gravatt

“There is still a significant amount of funding from the current programme left to spend and programmes will continue to be funded throughout 2015,” said its spokesperson.

“Accordingly, the UK authorities’ plans are proceeding on the basis that the pending programmes are agreed in principle by February 2015 and project calls can start the following month in order to avoid a gap in funding between the 2007-13 and 2014-20 programmes.”

A DWP spokesperson said: “There will be no gap in funding. Any administrative delays from the European Commission are more than covered by our own financial planning for this scheme.”

The move was described as “very positive news” by AELP chief executive Stewart Segal.

“We hope the UK government agrees with this setting out of the current position and it will ensure that there is no gap in funding,” he said.

“We’re aware that a substantial proportion of ESF funding will be allocated via the Local Enterprise Partnerships and it’s important that their procurement process is effective, open and transparent.”

Julian Gravatt, Association of Colleges assistant chief executive, said he was aware of the delay.

“These programmes play a significant role in helping colleges re-train people who are unemployed,” he said. “We’re naturally concerned about the impact of
any delay.”