top of page

Brexit: Former EU fund ‘supported marginalised people’

  1. By Robbie Meredith

  2. BBC News NI education correspondent

58 minutes ago

Image source, Getty/georgeclerk

An EU fund halted as a result of Brexit provided “wide-ranging support” and opportunities to marginalised people in Northern Ireland.

The Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) has compiled a report on the European Social Fund (ESF).

It was replaced by the UK government’s Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF).

It is providing £57m in funding to 18 large-scale training and employment projects in Northern Ireland until March 2025.

The ETI usually inspects schools, youth services and training schemes.

Image caption,

There were protests over the end of the ESF funding

But it also inspected the community and voluntary organisations that delivered ESF projects.

The ETI has now produced a summary report on the effectiveness of those projects.

The strategic aim of the European Social Fund was to fund schemes to tackle economic inactivity and increase skills.

The ETI looked at how the ESF aims were delivered by organisations in Northern Ireland.

It found that projects funded by ESF raised participants’ “confidence, employability, self-esteem and self-worth”.

“The projects provided practical support, assistance and advocacy on behalf of all participants and, in particular, the more vulnerable,” the report said.

“The high quality of the provision for care and welfare impacted positively on the participants’ readiness for learning, development and ultimately sustained employment.”

The ETI report also said that community organisations that delivered ESF-funded programmes worked well with health and social care trusts, prisons and a wide range of employers.

“Participants on the projects consistently gave positive feedback to the ETI about: the wide-ranging support received from project staff; the high-quality learning activities and social engagement; and the good opportunities to develop their employability skills and, where appropriate, gain relevant qualifications,” the ETI said.

Image source, Getty Images/Dean Mitchell

Image caption,

Many of the organisations help people with learning difficulties to gain workplace skills

But funding uncertainties meant it could be difficult to plan for the continuity of schemes and retain skilled staff.

The ETI also said “the political vacuum at Stormont, the lack of an executive and assembly, and Brexit, all had a significant adverse and negative impact” for the organisations involved.

The report concluded by saying that it was “vital” that economic inactivity projects funded through the UK scheme continued to offer “quality education and training opportunities and experiences” to people, especially the most marginalised.