In conversation: Heather Heward, North East LEP Programme Manager: how a recent update to the European Social Fund (ESF) rules will unlock investment across the region.

Heather Heward
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In our latest blog post, Heather Heward, North East LEP Programme Manager, discusses how a recent update to the European Social Fund (ESF) rules will unlock investment across the region.

We are delighted to announce that an ESF applicant no longer has to have all employer match funding in place before the project commences.

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has worked closely with the ESF Managing Authority to secure this change.

We’re extremely pleased with the decision as this will unlock significant private investment to upskill those in employment. These changes not only benefit the North East LEP area, but also will have the potential to unlock employer match across England.

Employer contributions are defined as the financial contribution made by the employer towards support put in place by the ESF project, for example financial contributions towards the undertaking of training for the workforce or employment costs associated with undertaking work placements and internships.

Each project will still be considered and appraised on its own merits. However, a project should be able to use employer contributions as match funding and remain compliant with ESF rules if grant applicants and employers maintain a detailed adequate audit trail and meet all ESF regulations.

Essentially, the project could now be approved and commence as long as there is a demonstrated level of demand for the service in terms of expected employer contributions.

The applicant will of course have to show really robust compliance at every stage but we think it really has the potential to transform the way we train and up-skill our workforces.

Here at the LEP, we are thrilled with the development as we feel it’s going give employers the boost they need by providing financial support towards the business-specific training they need to upskill their workforces; it will also provide the opportunity for employees to progress within the workplace.

We now need good, strong applications using the employer model to respond to the current ESF open calls to maximise these opportunities for local businesses. Details on the calls can be found on the LEP website here
We completely welcomes the news and look forward to seeing the economic benefits for the region.

If you have any questions, please get in touch.