The ESIF Managing Authorities have published their annual review of 2020 including highlights of the year, covid-19 response and future plans.
European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)
2020 has been an extraordinary year. Despite the challenges, the ERDF programme continued to play a key role in supporting growth in places through a wide range of projects - from helping businesses remain sustainable and develop, creating new or improved infrastructure, to supporting local communities, and the environment.
One of the biggest investments to have got off the ground in the last few months is the £38 million ERDF supported Internationalisation Fund. Managed through the Department for International Trade, and with funds focussed in the key areas of the Northern Powerhouse, Midlands Engine, the South, and London; over the next three years 7,600 businesses in England will be helped to grow their overseas trading and strengthen their business sustainably by exporting.
Overall, the ERDF programme has continued to deliver.
COVID-19 has been a dominant factor during the year. MHCLG (Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government) worked closely with projects to adjust or repurpose their project activity to respond to emerging needs and adapt to delivering services online; whilst maintaining the flow of ERDF payments to our grant recipients. At programme level, their teams worked closely across government, with national and local organisations, and with the European Commission, to develop measures that played an important part in helping communities respond to pressures created by the pandemic. This translated into the development and launch of £80 million of ERDF funded emergency government COVID-19 response activities, providing investment for our businesses and places, supporting the safe reopening of our high streets and businesses in the visitor economy and other sectors.
Looking towards the months ahead, there is still a huge amount of work set to take place for the 2014 to 2020 Programme. ERDF funded projects will continue to invest to maximise impacts on local areas. MHCLG will also be working with partners and stakeholders to ensure that remaining funding within the programme is efficiently and effectively deployed to support key priorities, including COVID-19.
The Spending Review at the end of November signalled a shift in the way Government wants to approach local growth funding across the UK. Of note is the £600 million of the new £4 billion Levelling Up Fund that will be made available to all local areas in England next year. Beyond that, and in preparation for the introduction of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund in 2022, an additional £220 million additional UK funding will be provided next year to support our communities to pilot programmes and new approaches. More information on these funding streams will be available in the new year.
European Social Fund (ESF)
2020 has been another busy year for the ESF programme, which for DWP (Department for Work & Pensions) projects, stakeholders and delivery partners, has been shaped by how each has needed to adapt in response to COVID-19 pandemic related challenges.
DWP recognises that many delivery activities have, for the time being, changed substantially and would like to acknowledge the wide range of innovative solutions that those who are managing projects have developed to ensure participants continue to receive support. In many cases this includes additional measures that have helped people address and overcome often difficult COVID-19 issues they face. For example, this can include measures to combat social isolation and support to meet practical needs.
ESF funded projects across the country continue to make a positive difference - helping people improve their employability, gain new skills and move towards and into work. As of September 2020, ESF has helped 1,250,363 participants, of these 141,661 started employment when they left the programme. DWP continues to work hard with stakeholders and partners to commit remaining programme funds to address local growth priorities in line with COVID-19 Recovery Plans. In support of this it has streamlined appraisal processes and recruited additional staff, with recruitment continuing into the new year.
There are still live calls for ESF on GOV.UK, with closing dates until early in the new year.
In 2020, DWP introduced a range of implementing measures to help existing projects get through the challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. Examples include:
The ESF Managing Authority is working with stakeholders to identify how the remaining ESF funds are prioritised to support local LEP Areas COVID-19 Recovery Plans and to ensure the remaining funds are fully utilised. It will continue to identify improvements to streamline processes, in order to maximise the time by which the delivery of support can commence. Other priorities include processing claims, finalising audit activity and continuing to respond to emerging pandemic challenges.
Article uploaded 18/12/20