ERSA welcomes the release of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund: prospectus and the added details that come with it.
As first outlined in the pre-launch guidance, the fund will be split into three investment priorities (communities and place; supporting local business; and people and skills). The People and Skills priority is most relevant to ERSA members, with the prospectus stating that “places can use their funding to help reduce the barriers some people face to employment and support them to move towards employment and education.”
In the full prospectus, published by DLUHC, the Government set out its framework for allocating funds from the Fund, designed to replace former EU Structural Funding.
However, as confirmed in the prospectus yesterday, UKSPF will focus on communities and place and local business interventions in 2022-23 and 2023-24, with people and skills funding to follow from 2024-25.
Despite ERSA’s ongoing campaign to get this changed, unfortunately, the rigid timings remain. However, an important caveat has now been added: “In England, places will be able to select people and skills interventions from 2024-2025 onwards, or earlier where they meet the voluntary sector considerations outlined here.”
The voluntary sector considerations state: “Lead local authorities have the flexibility to fund targeted people and skills provision in 2022-23 and 2023-24 where this is a continuing priority for 2024-25 and may be at significant risk of ending due to the tail off of EU funds. This flexibility may only be used where provision is currently delivered by voluntary and community organisations, having regard for the focus of the Fund and available funding.”
It is worth noting that this does not apply in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In these areas, funding for the ‘people and skills’ investment priority will be granted from 2022-23 onwards.
As outlined in ‘What Have We Got to Lose?’, ERSA’s portfolio of European-funded employment support, the majority of the case studies come to an end in March or April 2023. The continued insistence by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities on using these timeframes mean that ERSA members should start liaising with their lead local authorities as a matter of urgency.
However, one major concern for ERSA and our members is for the organisations that deliver over a larger geographical area than the local authority areas that have been selected by the government. The prospectus set out that lead local authorities working together to agree and commission people and skills activity is “strongly encouraged”. However, this leaves many organisations relying on the enterprise of lead local authorities, leaving the future of many organisations and the people they support in limbo.
Similarly, if local authorities do not collaborate, which cannot always be easy due to the lack of avenues to facilitate this: will organisations have to make the same plea to several different lead local authorities in order to carry out vital provision? If this is the case, this seems incredibly counterintuitive to the government’s promise of “reducing levels of bureaucracy”.
Furthermore, the release of the Multiply prospectus is also welcome. However, the fact that this large amount of money could potentially impact on the level of people and skills funding for employment support is worrying and ERSA will continue to find out more on this topic.
ERSA’s work on UKSPF