Head of ESF meets with VCS in the North West - January 2012

On 27 January 2012, Network for Europe were pleased to host a visit to Manchester from Angus Gray, the new head of European Social Fund (ESFi) in the UK.

The day started with a visit to the Wai Yin Chinese Women Society in Manchester. Based in the heart of Manchester's China Town the voluntary group had previously very successfully been running projects funded by both the Learning Skills Council (predecessor to the Skills Funding Agency) and Jobcentre Plus/DWP. In June 2008 Wai Yin won the Embracing Diversity ESF award, the Provider Excellence ESF award and was runner up in the Innovation with Employers Award for the Women Construction Solutions project which gave 120 women the chance to gain basic skills, experience and work placements in the construction industry.

Like other voluntary sector organisations across the North West, Wai Yin has been finding it increasingly challenging to engage with the ESF programme through both prime contracting and the Skills Funding Agency. Angus took part in an engaging discussion with senior members of staff at Wai Yin on the crucial role the sector has to play in delivering specialist support services through ESF to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups in our communities. During the discussion Angus also met beneficiaries who have successfully managed to get into full employment.

Angus Gray with Lisa Mok from Wai Yin

The day continued with a networking lunch with voluntary sector representatives from across the region, and also representatives from local authorities.

After lunch Angus attended one of the regular meetings Network for Europe has with the ESF Co-Financing organisations in the North West (the Skills Funding Agency, JobcentrePlus/DWP and the National Offender Management Service). Main discussion items were the value of the role of the voluntary sector in the design and delivery of the ESF programme and its effective engagement in the current programme. Discussions also included the future programme of European Structural Fundsi 2014-2020 and role of the voluntary sector as a key partner in the design, implementation and delivery of the new programme.

Following on from this visit, Network for Europe will be submitting a response with detailed proposals on the consultation for the new 2014-2020 European Structural Funds expected to be launched by BIS in February-March 2012.