Future of EU funding: A major opportunity for the voluntary sector

Those of you currently receiving EU funding will be aware that the current round of European funding period (2007-2013) is coming to an end soon. So you will be glad to hear that our attention is now focused on how we can influence the next round to ensure that the sector receives the best possible deal.

A major opportunity for the UK sector

The figures speak for themselves – approximately £430 million was allocated to civil society organisations from the European Social Fund (ESF) during the first three years of the programme, out of a total ESF budget of around £2.5 billion for 2007-2013, representing a major opportunity for the sector. NCVO will be compiling data from the last three years to determine civil society involvement in the ESF 2007-2013 Programme.

To set the background, back in 2010, the European Commission launched its EU2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth for Europe. It then published its proposals for the Structural Funds 2014-2020 (Fifth Cohesion Report) and the Common Strategic Framework, which gave more information as to how cohesion policy should be structured and how the funds should work together. Both the EU 2020 strategy and the Fifth Cohesion Report set the broad outline for future Structural Funds programmes post-2013.

Negotiations are currently on-going in Brussels and at UK level and discussions continue in the European Council on the future budget (Multi-annual Financial Framework). Hopefully, the Council will reach an agreement at its meeting in November – a delay in approving the budget would have a knock-on effect on the starting date of the funds.  We are therefore keeping a close eye on the timetable to ensure as smooth a transition as possible.

The UK government response

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) launched an informal consultation in April 2012 on how the future programmes should work together. NCVO was one of the 187 organisations that submitted a response – our position included:

  • Support for the introduction of 20% commitment for social inclusion.
  • Support for community led local development, responsive to local needs.
  • Concern with the current co-financing and primary contracting model and how this impacts on social inclusion measures.
  • Our suggestion for a co-financing body for the sector

The UK government’s response outlined the key messages received from the stakeholders, which included calls for

  • Reduced administrative burdens in delivering each of the Funds.
  • The ability to align funds, as appropriate, to enable a more holistic approach to dealing with barriers to growth.
  • A more place based approach as well as an issue based approach.
  • Better use of match funding by aligning national programmes, local expenditure and private sector investment with EU Funds.
  • Local engagement throughout the process.

Want to have your say? Attend a BIS roadshow event to prepare for the consultation

A further consultation is expected in Spring 2013 on the Partnership Agreement (the UK business plan outlining where and how EU funds will be focussed). BIS together with the other departments responsible for EU funding will arrange cross-sectoral roadshow events starting in mid-November to provide an opportunity for stakeholders to give their views on the direction of travel. The key message is that nothing has yet been decided and all is to play for. It is therefore absolutely imperative that the voluntary and community sector attends these events.

Attend a NCVO event to ensure that your region’s voice is heard

NCVO is working with our partners, and the government departments, to ensure the best outcome for our sector. We will be encouraging discussions by way of our own regional events to help share knowledge and identify regional priorities and preferred delivery models. NCVO has already taken part in events in the West Midlands, East Midlands and East of England on EU funding, and we will be arranging further free events in these areas and with our partners across the English regions over the coming months.

The events will be an opportunity to discuss

  • The value of community-led local development models
  • The benefits for the sector of aligning the four funds (especially ESF and ERDF)
  • Match funding possibilities
  • Using volunteer time as match in kind (as Wales currently do)


Autumn 2012  BiS sectoral events Autumn 2012  NCVO regional events End of 2012    Agreement on the Multi-annual Financial Framework Spring 2013    NCVO regional events Spring 2013    Consultation on the Operational Programme and Partnership Agreement Spring 2014    Start of Structural Funds programmes in England

Get in touch if you would like more information about these events. We will report back on these events on this blog and you can keep up to date with us on Twitter or via the hashtag #futureeufunds


This entry was posted in Practical support, Training and events and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Like this? Read more

Sara was the European Social Fund (ESF) officer, responsible for supporting the delivery of 'Civil Society Active for ESF'.

Comments are closed.