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European Social Fund

Projects can be contracted at least until the UK formally departs the EU (spring 2019) and will have their funding guaranteed, even when these projects continue after that date.  The Funding Team urge potential applicants to make the most of the opportunity while it still exists and are here to help.  They can be contacted by emailing

The European Social Fund (ESF) focusses on better skills provision, improving pathways into and within work, and addressing social inclusion.

Two ESF facilitators are available to support any organisation that considers developing an ESF project.  They can be contacted by emailing

To access funding, applicants have to respond to European Social Fund Open Calls - this is a two-stage process comprising of an initial outline application stage and then, if invited, a full application stage.  Calls will be issued via the government website (opens new window).  Applications will be assessed and funding awarded by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), the Managing Authority for ESF.

Case Study

The College of West Anglia and its partners have secured £250,000 of European Social Fund money to deliver the Emerging Leaders project.  The programme is open to employees aged 19+ working in SMEs registered in New Anglia.

The process starts with a training needs analysis carried out by an experienced assessor in discussion with the employer (free of charge) to identify business skills needs and ensure they meet the aspirations and vision of the business.

This process should then identify skills gaps for those employees showing potential to progress to team leader, supervisor or management positions.

The training can be in the form of accredited units from technical or management qualifications, or can be a bespoke programme designed with the help of the employer, to develop leadership skills of the employees.



There are two priority axes within the programme, each with their own specific objectives.

Priority Axis 1: Inclusive labour markets

1.1 - Access to employment for job-seekers and inactive people, including the long-term unemployed and people far from the labour market, also through local employment initiatives and support for labour mobility.

1.2 - Sustainable integration into the labour market of young people, in particular those not in employment, education or training, including young people at risk of social exclusion and young people from marginalised communities, including through implementation of the Youth Guarantee.

1.4 - Active inclusion, including with a view to promoting equal opportunities and active participation, and improving employability.

Priority Axis 2: Skills for growth

2.1 - Enhancing equal access to lifelong learning for all age groups in formal, non-formal and informal settings, upgrading the knowledge, skills and competencies of the workforce, and promoting flexible learning pathways through career guidance and validation of acquired competences.

2.2 - Improving the labour market relevance of education and training systems, facilitating the transition from education to work, and strengthening vocational education and training systems and their quality, through mechanisms for skills anticipation, adaptation of curricula and the establishment and development of work-based learning systems, including dual learning systems and apprenticeship schemes.


Match funding

For all projects responding to a call, applicants have to provide 50% of the costs of the project as match funding.  The ESF facilitators can work with applicants to provide advice and establish whether potential match funding is eligible.

To keep up to date with the latest developments of the ESF programme by signing up to our newsletter.


Eligibility criteria

Applicants must be a legally constituted body, either from the public or private sector.

Potential applicant organisations include, but are not limited to:

  • Local Authorities
  • Statutory and non-statutory public funded organisations/bodies
  • Higher and further education institutions
  • Voluntary/community organisations
  • Private sector companies
  • Registered charities
  • Not-for-profit organisations

View the latest eligibility criteria (opens new window)



There is no requirement for a project under ESF to contain more than one organisation.

However, depending on the project that will be delivered, there may be a need for projects to contain more than one local partner. For example, a project looking to deliver employability skills and support to young people in both Norfolk and Suffolk would more than likely need organisations based in both counties to be involved in the delivery to ensure success.


More information

Read and download a Guide to the European Social Fund Programme in New Anglia (opens new window)

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