Update on the European Social Fund in the South East

Funding policy to meet key employment and skills challenges in the South East has contributed to the European Social Fund (ESF) programme over two decades. 

The current ESF Programme (2007-13) has a budget £173 million (£97 million for 2007-10, £73 million for 2011-13). ESF provides an important contribution to economic recovery in the South East, and is delivered through co-financing contracts in the South East with LSC (SFA from April 2010), Department for Work and Pensions and the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA). This group will be joined in April 2010 by the National Offender Management Services (NOMS). 

ESF co-financing has focused on:

Particular programmes of note supported by ESF include ‘Response to Redundancy’, a national £100 million programme with £7 million allocated to the South East. This has helped support Rapid Response Task Forces and individual advice and learning programmes, with a focus on unemployment hot spots and areas of deprivation. 

A further example is the ‘Personal Best’ programme which offers 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games inspired opportunities for vulnerable adults. With 5 very different providers and a budget of £600k, the South East was the first region beyond London to initiate this programme. The ‘Personal Best’ programme has helped to bring about a new relationship architecture, with Jobcentre Plus, Next Steps IAG, FE and other training providers, Sport/Culture, Olympic legacy planning all working together.


Additional Funding

Due to strength of the euro against the pound, the ESF programme in the South East has received an additional £14.1 million to spend by end 2010. The additional provision has been specifically targeted to respond to the effects of recession, including people who are being made redundant, hard to reach people, and those who are furthest from the labour market.

LSC (now Skills Funding Agency)



Future Funding 

The ESF 2011-2013 programme is unsurprisingly going to focus on the economic recovery, Skills for Growth, NEET; benefit dependent adults; opportunities arising from the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games; unemployment hot spots across the South East.

The trend to reduce the number of organisations for public spending on skills will continue, with bigger/higher impact contracts and programmes.

There will be appreciable turbulence between now and summer 2010 as a result of the changing agencies and also the public spending programme for 2011-2014. The following timetable sets out key dates for ESF for the period 2011 – 2013: 


Key Issues

The focus for ESF in the South East remains unchanged, with a continued focus on supporting the unemployed, providing job opportunities, and with an emphasis on older and younger people.

For delivery agencies to ride this period successfully, they will need to expect and anticipate significant change and remain briefed on changes to the funding landscape and timetable for change.

There may be further funding changes associated with underspend / overspend and other shifting policy priorities.

Another area of interest from the ESF guidance on the revision of ESF Frameworks is the reference to the need to take account of growth sectors i.e. financial and business services, green technologies and digital/new media industries.

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