Making it work: the European Social Fund - European Union Committee Contents

Memorandum by the Yorkshire and Humber Regional Forum

  1.  The Yorkshire and Humber Regional Forum is the strategic organisation for the voluntary and community sector, (VCS), in the Yorkshire and Humber region. The Forum promotes and supports the contribution of the VCS in improving the quality of life for people, and especially those who are disconnected from society and the economy, or who live in disadvantaged communities across Yorkshire and Humber.

  2.  The Regional Forum has led on Third Sector involvement in the design, management and delivery of the EU Structural Funds programmes in Yorkshire and the Humber from 2000 to the present. This has included in 2000-06 programme period Objective 1 in South Yorkshire, Objective 2 in Yorkshire and the Humber Region and Objective 3 all of which had ESF funded strands. The Regional Forum in the 2007-13 period has a seat on the Regional Monitoring Committee for the ESF programme and is active in the Framework Development and Technical Assistance sub-groups of that Committee. The Regional Forum has been the lead partner for a mixture of ERDF and ESF Technical Assistance projects for support for the Third Sector although it has not been possible to continue this into the 2007-13 programme period. The Regional Forum is a member of the Third Sector European Network and holds a place on TSEN's Board. The Regional Forum has been involved in the preparation of TSEN's submission to the Lord's inquiry and fully supports that submission. This submission is therefore brief and adds particular emphasis to the areas which are most particularly relevant to our experience in the Yorkshire and Humber Region.

  (a)  The Regional Forum is primarily concerned that the design, management and monitoring of ESF is increasingly dominated by the managerial concerns of the main channels of funding: the DWP and LSC.

  The results of this domination are:

    — The loss of effective strategic partnership at regional level;

    — The loss of any input into the design of the programme by NGOs, contrary to Article 11 of the General Regulations;

    — The squeezing out of expertise on types of action that are effective in countering exclusion, reaching the hard-to-reach and engaging those furthest from the labour market;

    — The effective downgrading of social inclusion action in the planning of activity in contradiction to the stated aims of the programme in the Operational Plan;

    — The consequent very low level of social inclusion projects actually taking place;

    — A consequent precipitous drop-off in Third Sector involvement in delivery.

  (b)  Evidence of the effectiveness of the programme is hampered by the paucity of management information that details how barriers to employment are overcome and how far beneficiaries are from the labour market at the outset of their engagement with ESF activity. Monitoring is a function not of activity but of contract management and spend of ESF. The evidence of the efficacy of Third Sector provision both through direct provision and through Community Grants tends to be treated as secondary to the use of ESF to supplement mainstream UK government programmes. This is evidenced through the small amounts of money involved in community grants and the relegation of Third Sector providers to niche or secondary tiers of contracting.


  The use of ESF as a means to bolster mainstream UK government programmes has two effects. The first is to miss out on the principle of additionality—to undertake activity that would not otherwise have taken place without the contribution of ESF. Second it means that the focus has inevitably been on working with the recently unemployed to keep them in or near to employment. This is an opportunity lost to ensure that those from the labour market have a chance to benefit from opportunities that will inevitably arise as the economy comes out of recession. The consequence of this will be a hardening of inequality in the labour market, in particular affecting those facing multiple disadvantage. We have no confidence that ESF is contributing directly or significantly to bringing excluded people towards the labour market.

  7.  The structural issue we are seeking to stress is that ESF is now no longer constructed strategically to address issues of inequality and access to employment. Nor is it encouraging providers to work with people at the outset of their journey towards employment. ESF appears to be explicitly focused on the business practices of co-financers. This introduces a distortion from the highest strategic level throughout the fund, and squeezes out the considerable expertise of those working on inclusion.

  We thank your Lordships for your attention. We are willing to expand our evidence should you so wish.

2 October 2009

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