Sector umbrella bodies for the four UK nations have said that the government and the sector should back European Commission proposals that will make it easier for charities to access billions of pounds of grants from Europe.
A report published today by the UK European Network, a joint venture of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and its Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish equivalents, the SCVO, the WCVA and Nicva, says the commission is planning changes to the administration of its structural funds, particularly the European Social Fund. The changes are expected to come into force during the next seven-year round of EU funding, which is scheduled to begin in 2014.
The commission proposals include ring-fencing 20 per cent of ESF funding for social inclusion and anti-poverty work, and introducing mechanisms to make it easier for third sector organisations to access funding. The report says that among these ESF mechanisms there should be a specific civil society funding pot.
It says that, in order to make it easier for third sector organisations to attract funding, it should be possible for organisations that provide technical assistance to those organisations to receive structural fund grants without having to attract match funding.
Another proposal supported by the UK European Network is the right of applicants to use volunteer time as an eligible source of match funding.
The current round of ESF already allows this, but rules in England prevent third sector organisations from submitting applications that include volunteer time.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills will consult on the UK response to the proposals before the end of March. The current round of ESF funding for the UK is worth €9.4bn (£7.8bn), but the value of funding available under the next seven-year agreement is expected to be up to a third lower.