Charities can apply for £500m of European Social Fund

Oli Henman of the NCVO says at least a fifth of the money from the fund will be directed towards social inclusion work

Oli Henman
Oli Henman

Charities in England will be able to apply for a share of an estimated £500m of European Social Fund money between 2014 and 2020, according to the National Council for Voluntary Organisations.

The NCVO said guidance sent out last week to 39 local enterprise partnerships, which will determine how European funds are spent, confirmed previous estimates of how much money would be available.

Oli Henman, EU and international campaigns manager at the NCVO, said that roughly £5bn of funding would be available in the UK during the seven-year period, of which about half would be be given out through the ESF. Of that, at least 20 per cent would be directed to "social inclusion" work, which works out at about £500m.

This will be the main pot of money that charities can apply for, although Henman said charities might also be able to apply for other EU funding.

Not all social inclusion money will be given to charities, but Henman said he expected that a "significant proportion" would reach voluntary organisations.

Charities will have to raise match funding before they can apply for ESF money. Henman said this was one of the major barriers to accessing ESF money during the last round of spending. However, several changes have made it easier for charities to raise match funding.

He said the Big Lottery Fund has offered to provide match funding for local social inclusion projects. In addition, volunteer time and social investment can now both be considered as match funding.

Henman said there was also now a requirement for LEPs to involve the local voluntary sector in setting their priorities for how European funds are spent in their areas.

The NCVO said in a statement that the changes were "major and meaningful wins for the voluntary sector" and that it was pleased that "both the government and the Big Lottery Fund have responded to our calls to explore how to make match funding easier for charities and social enterprises".

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