EU funding to help disadvantaged people in England into work or training has been slashed by half – despite the looming skills crisis.
The European Social Fund (ESF), set up 50 years ago to improve employment opportunities in the European Union, will give England £4bn to improve jobs and skills over the next seven years, 50% less than the amount awarded between 2000 and 2006.
James Plaskitt, minister for ESF at the Department for Work and Pensions, said the reductions were due to the expansion of the EU in 2004.
“Since 2004 the European Union has expanded to include 12 new less prosperous countries: the EU’s leaders have decided that the priority is in supporting their economic development.”
Plaskitt said the government supported the cut in funding, but called on sector skills councils and other agencies across Britain responsible for spending the money to do so more effectively than ever.
He told Personnel Today: “The ESF provides money backed by government to support hundreds of separate projects all around the country. We hope hundreds of thousands of more people will get back into work over the next six years, through this funding.”
Despite the looming skills crisis outlined by Lord Sandy Leitch, which warned the basic skills of the UK’s workforce need to vastly improve by 2020, Plaskitt remained confident the ESF investment would go a long way.
“We’re bringing to the employment market ready-skilled people to take the jobs that employers want filled. It’s a real boom for employers.”