Objective 3i provides financial support for training, workforce development and vocational activities for unemployed and employed people and seeks to promote lifelong learning, equal opportunities and social inclusion. Objective 3 is funded by the European Social Fund (ESFi) and supports projects taking place within the North West region, excluding Merseyside. In terms of funding levels, Great Britain was allocated £2.9 billion, with the most approximate estimate for the North West calculated at £250m over the seven year programming period. The strategic aims of the 2000 to 2006 North West Objective 3 Regional Strategy are to:
- Facilitate the effective access of unemployed people in the region, and particularly those most disadvantaged, into the labour market
- Provide a learning environment which supports employers to develop a highly competent workforce and individuals to pursue skills development
- Enhance the adaptability of workers in the region to the process of change, with particular focus on those likely to find difficulty in transition or in acquiring appropriate skills
These objectives are in line with the European Employment Strategy as delivered through the UK National Action Plan and consistent with the Objective 3 UK Community Support Framework and England Operational Plan.
In 2002 a system of Co-financing was introduced. Co-financing means channelling both ESF money and match funding to applicants in a single funding stream. This new method of delivering European funding was developed in response to the experiences of providers delivering European Programmes and it aims to:
- Promote greater co-ordination and targeting of provision
- Reduce bureaucracy, and the administration burden on providers
- Allow for innovation and creativity at regional and local levels
- Place more emphasis on the quality of provision
- Ensure more systematic monitoring of provision
- Ensure that ESF money adds more value to the delivery of Government programmes
The majority of Objective 3 ESF is now accessed through Co-financing, with only a small amount reserved for direct bidding for activity that does not fall under the remit of the Co-financing organisations.
Co-financing organisations (CFOs) apply to Government Office North West to draw down ESF funding, their Co-financing plans form part of this process. The plan will draw heavily on local labour market information and economic assessments produced by the North West Development Agency and specifically detail activity they will fund. The Co-financing organisations provide the match for the ESF out of their own funds and are then able to invite organisations to apply for 100% funding.
CFOs distribute ESF through a process of open and competitive tendering. When an invitation to tender is announced organisations can apply to a CFO in their local area for ESF and the required match funding in a single application.
There are currently six CFOs in the North West, the Learning and Skills Councils (LSCs) in Cheshire and Warrington, Cumbria, Lancashire, Greater Manchester and Greater Merseyside and also Jobcentre Plus. For further information please see the Co-financing section of this website.
Alternative (Direct) Bidding
For activities that are not covered by a Co-financing organisation, a limited amount of ESF funding is available by making a bid direct to Government Office North West (GONWi). This is called ‘Alternative Bidding’. Alternative bidding covers research and higher level skills activity under Measures 5.1 and 2.2. In addition the North West LSCs have determined that they will not be co-financing any activity under Measure 4.3. Measure 4.3 will also be handled partly by direct bidding to GONW and partly by co-financing by JobCentre Plus. After the introduction of Co-financing, direct bidding covers higher‑level skills activity falling outside the remit of Co‑financing Organisations at NVQ level 4 (or equivalent) and above. The only exceptions to this will be research activity within Measures 2.2 & 5.1 that are not subject to co-financing at the moment. Where there is any doubt about remit, applicants MUST consult with their appropriate Co‑financing Organisation (ie: local Learning & Skills Council or Jobcentre Plus) and obtain written confirmation from them where it is not clear that the activity falls outside their jurisdiction.
Through Direct bidding you can only apply for a maximum of 45% of your project costs from ESF. The remainder of your project costs have to come from other, non-European sources – this is called match funding. Organisations that bid in this way must already have secured their own match funding for 55% of the total project costs before making a bid.
Under Alternative bidding all applications should be sent to sector representatives by the timetabled deadline. All voluntary sector applications should be submitted to North West Network. Once eligibility checks are complete all eligible applications are forwarded to Government Office North West for project selection. Projects are scored, appraised and selected through competitive bidding at regional level.
European Social Fund (ESF) Regulations require that a proportion of the Objective 3 Programme is implemented through 'Global Grants' to build on the Local Social Capital (LSC) pilot projects funded through Article 6 of the 1994-99 ESF Regulation.
Global Grants are small grants of up to £6000 maximum designed to help develop Local Social Capital in deprived neighbourhoods. The activities funded would not normally be the subject of an ESF application but will facilitate progression towards the labour market as a key theme for those most disadvantaged in accessing the labour market, for example: disabled people, those facing literacy/ numeracy difficulties and/or people with no work experience, ethnic minorities, older workers wanting to return to work or re-train, young people excluded from school, homeless people or lone parents.
The aim of Global Grants is to target resources on those who find it difficult to access mainstream ESF as these small community organisations are often well placed to respond to social exclusion but not necessarily well equipped to deal with the administrative burden that ESF rules place on mainstream applications. Local voluntary and community groups who help people towards employment are eligible to apply for Global Grants. Activities to be supported can range from helping to build self confidence and self-esteem to training in specific job-related areas to help people become more employable and to prepare them for work. Co-operatives and community enterprises can also apply, provided the grant is required for a new venture. The fund cannot make grants to individuals. The grants may even help with running costs provided that the grant money will increase the provision of an activity that will help people towards employment.
Applications for Global Grants are made to an intermediary body. For further information please see the Global Grants section of this website.