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The future of the European Social Fund inquiry


The European Social Fund (ESF) is a vital resource. It provides £500 million worth of employment and skills support funding every year for some of the UK’s most disadvantaged people and communities. When the UK leaves the EU, it will have to decide how to sustain this support. The Government has pledged to create a UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) serving a similar purpose to current EU funding. Beyond that the future is uncertain.

The UK has a historic opportunity to redesign the ESF entirely in its national interests: plugging skills gaps, increasing productivity and lifting up disadvantaged communities. But there is still much detailed design work to be done.

Government does not have time on its side to complete this and ensure a seamless transition. The consequences of a gap in provision—for providers, for local areas, and for individuals—would be disastrous. The UK could create a truly world-leading successor fund that is the envy of Europe—but it must act fast.

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