COMMONS

Post-Brexit failure to replace European Social Fund would be disastrous

04 April 2018

In a short report the Work and Pensions Committee says any gap in payments between the existing European Social Fund and a new fund would be disastrous. It also says the UK has a rare opportunity to "create a truly world-leading successor" to the European Social Fund "that is the envy of Europe” — but it must act fast.

Gap in provision would be disastrous

The consequences of a gap in provision—for providers, for local areas, and for individuals—would be "disastrous". The ESF provides £500 million a year dedicated employment and skills support funding for people and communities poorly served or neglected by "mainstream" support into, and in, work. 

As good as some of the present provision is, it is delivered in siloes and is not designed to meet individuals', families', and communities' total needs. The successor fund must act as a transition to a proper Mark II system which allows communities', families', and individuals' total needs to be catered for and not restricted by arbitrary definitions of help.

Recommendations

The Committee calls on Government to:

  • Ensure funds are available so there is no gap between existing and new provision
  • Establish a new arm's length body, to dovetail grants to existing funding streams so programmes can meet effectively all of their participants' needs
  • Retain a separate fund within the UKSPF for employment support for disadvantaged groups and communities
  • Ensure flexibility of local funding mechanisms for both longer-term and short-term programmes; and
  • Cut bureaucracy for providers, in getting money to projects that work or to new projects that show entrepreneurial skills

Historic opportunity for effective reform

Rt Hon Frank Field MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

"We now have an historic opportunity to create a truly fit-for-purpose successor to the ESF.

The Government must act quickly so that those excellent existing suppliers are not bankrupted.

Effective reform here offers the Government an important new chance to begin to fill our skills gap from the community upwards, instead of having a top-down approach."

Further information

Image: iStockphoto

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