About ESF

The European Social Fund (ESF) exists to support skills, enhance access to employment and increase social inclusion.

Employment and skills are a cornerstone of D2N2's Strategic Economic Plan which is focused on increasing the number of jobs within the economy and ensuring that businesses can access the skilled workers they need, both now and in the future. ESF will fund projects aimed at increasing employment and skills at all levels and across the D2N2 area; higher level skills, entry-level skills and employability skills. ESF will also address disadvantage in the labour market and 20% of funds will be used on active inclusion related activities supporting those furthest from the labour market move closer to employment; recognising that the benefits of growth should be shared by all.

The D2N2 Strategic Economic Plan takes lead from eligible Priority Axes as identified in the ERDF and ESF Operational Programmes (agreed between the European Commission and the UK Government).  Under each Priority Axis, guidance is provided regarding the aims of intervention, the broad type of activities that can be supported, finance available to support propositions and the nature and scale of outputs and results that are anticipated to be achieved in return.

Priority Axes, and related investment priority themes, eligible for ESF funding include:

Priority Axis 1: Inclusive Labour Markets

  • Investment Priority 1.1: Access to Employment for Job-Seekers and Inactive People
  • Investment Priority 1.2: Sustainable Integration of Young People
  • Investment Priority 1.3: Youth Employment Initiative
  • Investment Priority 1.4: Active Inclusion

 Priority Axis 2: Skills for Growth

  • Investment Priority 2.1: Enhancing Equal Access to Lifelong Learning
  • Investment Priority 2.2: Improving the Labour Market Relevance of Education and Training Systems

For more information on each D2N2 investment priority please refer to the D2N2 ESIF Strategy.


Interested in applying for ESF funding?

A total of £107.4 million of ESF funding has been allocated to D2N2 during the 2014-2020 funding cycle. D2N2 will release calls to fund projects that are able to deliver against investment themes focused on promoting employment (ESF Priority Axis 1) and education, skills and training (ESF Priority Axis 2).

Any organisation (public, private or third sector that is legally formed, except sole traders) can apply for ESF.

Applications for ESF is via ECLAIMS IT system.  

If you are considering an application to ESF there are a few things to bear in mind: 

D2N2 Core Delivery Principles. D2N2 ESIF Programme Board have agreed a set of Core Delivery Principles that define how it considers a good ESIF project should operate - applicants will need to demonstrate how they meet these principles. For more information on the D2N2 Core Delivery Principles please click here.  For a list of currently funded ESF projects, please click here.
Type of Call. Calls for ESF can be either opt-in (usually referred to as co-financed) or open.  Calls can be released as 100% funded or with an intervention rate of 50%, requiring the applicant organisation to provide 50% of the project costs as match. See below for more information on call types.
Cross-Cutting Themes.  All European Social Fund providers will be expected to have in place a Sustainable Development Plan and an Equality Policy and Implementation Plan - for more information on the associated requirement please click here.
Defrayed Expenditure. ESF can only be claimed on expenditure that has actually been paid (with the exception of the flat rate indirect overhead costs). For the purposes of ESF 'paid' is interpreted as actually having left the bank account of the final beneficiary, and evidence of this can be required by an auditor (in the form of bank statements). Organisations need to ensure they are able to cash flow the project up-front as costs are claimed quarterly.
Technical Assistance. Technical advisers are funded to provide advice and support to potential applicants. To locate your local Technical Adviser please click here.

For more information please visit our section on Funding Calls which lists all calls currently open for application across D2N2 and associated application guidance.

For a wider search on ESIF funding available, please use the ESIF Fund Finder.


Type of Call

Normally ESF will fund between 50% and 80% of project costs, depending on funding location i.e. if the LEP area is considered more developed, transitional or less developed. The D2N2 LEP area is considered 'more developed' and therefore the likely intervention rate (that is the ratio between ESF and match funding) is 50%. However in some instances 100% of project costs are covered, these are known as opt-in or co-financed funding calls.

Opt-in / Co-financed calls
In this instance co-financing organisations provide the required eligible match funding and use their expertise to procure and contract manage, or grant fund, ESF provision. In the 2014-2020 ESF programme most co-financing organisations acted as opt-in organisations by funding locally defined activities through an open, transparent and competitive grant-giving or procurement process.

The opt-in organisations for the European Social Fund are:

  • National Lottery Community Fund (formerly the Big Lottery Fund): The National Lottery Community Fund is match funding Building Better Opportunities, investing in local projects tackling the root causes of poverty, promoting social inclusion and driving local jobs and growth.
  • Department for Work and Pensions (DWP): as a European Social Fund co-financing organisation, the DWP funds projects aiming to improve employability and support participants into sustained employment.
  • Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) The ESFA funds skills training for further education in England. As a European Social Fund co-financing organisation, the ESFA helps deliver the learning and skills elements of local European Structural and Investment Fund strategies.

To find out about the types of projects these co-financing organisations have funded across D2N2, please click here.

There are unlikely to be any co-financed future calls. Future funding calls will be released as 'open calls'.

Open calls
This is when a call is released with a requirement for the applicant organisation to provide an element of match funding. The intervention rate for D2N2 is normally 50% and is detailed within the call specification. Match can be provided in cash or in-kind. For information on what is considered eligible as match please read Section 13 (page 15) of the ESF Programme Guidance. It is important to note that match funding is treated the same as ESF regardless of source, this means that the total eligible expenditure must be used for the agreed purposes, all expenditure must be evidenced, auditable, and defrayed prior to the inclusion in any claim and follow all other ESF compliance rules.

Guidance on match funding can also be found here.  Information on how to use the apprenticeship levy as eligible match can be found here.  Action Note 031/19 (published 5/3/19) details the necessary evidence requirements when the apprenticeship levy is used as match funding.

For a more detailed conversation to identify your potential match funding please contact your Technical Adviser.


Managing a European funded project

One of the best ways to learn about applying for ESF funding or delivering ESF projects is to speak to existing or previous recipients of European funds.

Information on projects currently funded through the 2014-20 ESF programme can be found here

Details of projects in the East Midlands that were funded under the 2007-13 ESF programme  can be found below; you may like to approach one or more of them for further information on managing an ESF project. 

Projects funded through the 2007-13 ESF programme open calls

Projects co-financed by the Department for Work and Pensions

Projects co-financed by the Skills Funding Agency

Get assistance with your application

Technical support