European Social Fund protected until end of 2020, Chancellor confirms

Training providers will have their European Social Fund cash protected until the end of 2020, even if a “no-deal” Brexit is reached.

Chancellor Philip Hammond (pictured) made the promise today that any funding that organisations secure through EU programmes will be “guaranteed” by the UK government until that date.

It was always the case that the current ESF funding round, worth about €3 billion (£2.3billion) across England, would run over the period from 2014 to 2020.

But questions were raised if this would still happen in the event of the government and the EU ending Brexit negotiations without agreeing departure terms in 2019.

“The Treasury will guarantee funding for UK organisations which successfully bid directly to the European Commission until the end of this EU budget period if no deal is agreed,” the Treasury said today.

This will give potential applicants “continued confidence to bid for funding whatever the outcome of the negotiations, and ensure that UK organisations continue to benefit from funding post-Exit”.

The ESF was cash that the UK received, as a member state of the EU, to increase job opportunities and help people to improve their skill levels, particularly those who find it difficult to get work.

Although providers will be pleased that this current funding round of ESF is guaranteed to run until 2020, many are still concerned what happens after that deadline.

In April, the work and pensions committee said the government must “urgently” design a successor programme to the ESF to avoid a “disastrous” post-Brexit funding gap.

Leaving the EU gave the UK a “historic opportunity” to “design a truly world-class successor” programme that was “entirely in its national interests: plugging skills gaps, boosting productivity and lifting up disadvantaged communities,” the report said.

But it warned the government “must act now to guarantee certainty for providers and communities and avoid a potentially disastrous interruption in funding”.

Commenting on today’s announcement, Mr Hammond said: “We continue to make positive steps towards getting the best possible deal with the EU – one that works for the whole of the UK.

“The guarantee we are making today however means that, even in the unlikely event of a no-deal, our businesses, universities and local authorities can be confident that they will continue to receive the funding they successfully bid for from any EU programme.”