Employment support organisations have joined forces to call for clarity on how EU funding to level up communities will be replaced.

The Employment Related Services Association (ERSA) has written to Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Michael Gove and his Shadow counterpart Lisa Nandy airing their concerns on the Government’s upcoming Levelling Up White Paper.

 

What is the EU funding used for?

The UK used to receive around £2bn in funding from the EU with the money used for boosting economic development like  support for businesses, employment and agriculture.

Within the employment sector, the money was used to boost social mobility, social inclusion and employment skills.

The funding is used for people who are unable to take part in work because they have no access for a variety of reasons, but mainly because they come from under-funded areas and communities. 

With this funding gone after Brexit, the ERSA says the government must keep its promises over a seamless transition.

Elizabeth Taylor, chief executive of ERSA, said: “European funding has long-since been embedded in employability contracts, going back to the 1980s. It has always been able to reach people who weren’t actively involved in the labour market, for whatever reason, and it’s been able to respond to local skills and employment challenges. 

 

UK Shared Prosperity Fund for the poorest communities

ERSA created a UK Shared Prosperity Fund Forum to monitor and lobby to ensure there is a pot of money that it says can replace EU funding.  

According to ERSA, this funding pot is likely to play a key part in the White Paper, that’s expected to be published early in the new year by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

However, because there is no guidance on when this money is available for those in the poorest communities, ERSA is worried people would lose support to get into work.

 

Seamless transition

At a meeting discussing their hopes for the White Paper, members of the forum highlighted the importance of reaching those furthest away from the job market. They also want to continue to remove barriers to accessing employment and training. 

The forum says it wants to ensure employability and training programmes are available to people from all walks of life. This includes school leavers, disabled people and the over-50s; with a focus on preparation for good jobs, skills, social inclusion and social mobility.

It is seeking assurances that existing provision of employability services will not be negatively affected by the changeover in funding. 

They are calling for a seamless transition when the new Shared Prosperity Fund is released – with no gap in funding. They fear that any gap could lead to a loss of services that play a vital role in helping some of the most disadvantaged people in society to get their working lives back on track. 

DWP bureaucracy

Members also want to know how much power local authorities will be given in the distribution of the new funding, or whether all the key decisions will be made by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. 

There are also questions about the future role of the Department for Work and Pensions. The forum is calling for more flexibility and less bureaucracy in the delivery of the new fund, to ensure it can be accessed by a broad range of expert providers.

 Ms Taylor said: “We still don’t know when the new Shared Prosperity Fund will start. My concern is that if this is allowed to drift, we will start losing providers in the employment support community because we’re not getting to the point where shared prosperity is being commissioned. We would be losing a wealth of experience and knowledge from the sector and weakening support for jobseekers when it is needed the most.” 

 

 

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Access ERSA’s open letters to Michael Gove and Lisa Nandy.