European Social Fund Plus (ESF+)

European Social Fund Plus (ESF+)

Social Investors and Venture Philanthropists can play a key role in achieving several objectives of the European Social Fund+ (ESF+), as they provide players in the social market not only with financial support, but also with innovative services and complementary non-financial support.

Background information about ESF

One of the goals of the Action Plan for the European Pillar of Social Rights, released in March 2021, is that at least 78% of the population aged 20 to 64 should be employed by 2030. Upskilling and reskilling play an important role in supporting this goal. In order to reach the 2030 targets, public and private investment is needed to facilitate access to training for people of working age. The reinforced EU long-term budget provides unprecedented funding opportunities: the ESF+, with a EUR 88 billion budget, will remain an important source of funding for skills, education and training.

What is the ESF+?

Since January 2021, the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) is one of the EU’s main financial tools to strengthen the social dimension of the Union. It is the successor of the European Social Fund (ESF), which has supported investments in the social future of European citizens for six decades.

ESF+: 5 funds coming together for 2021-2027:

ESF 5 funds coming together for 2021 2027 small

Compiled by EVPA based on European Commission's direct communication and desk research

What is the budget and what will it be for?

With a provisional budget of €88 billion, the ESF+ will be used to support the following 5 policy priorities:

  • Investments in young people who have been particularly affected by the COVID-19 crisis: ESF+ resources will help these young people find a qualification, a good quality job, and improve their education, training and lifelong learning.
  • Investments in capacity building and transnational/cross-border cooperation to strengthen fair working conditions, foster equal labour market opportunities, and enhance labour mobility.
  • Investments in children by allocating ESF+ resources to targeted actions to combat child poverty, and support the most vulnerable in society suffering from job losses and income reductions.
  • Providing food and basic material assistance to the most deprived, by integrating in the ESF+ the current Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD).
  • Direct support to social innovation through the Employment and Social Innovation strand's dedicated financial envelope of €676 million.

How will the fund be managed?

Part of the fund will be under shared management with the Member States. This means that the ESF+ Managing Authorities in each country will dedicate the money to projects that are run by a range of public and private organisations, thereby responding to the country- and region-specific needs.

Additional funding coming from the Next Generation EU, the Recovery and Resilience Facility 2021-2024, complements the shared management allocation of ESF+ under the EU long-term budget for the upcoming 6 years. Built on 6 main pillars, the Recovery and Resilience Facility aims to help the EU achieve its targets of climate neutrality by 2050 and set it on a path of digital transition, creating jobs and spurring growth in the process.

Besides the shared management side of the fund, the European Commission directly manages a share of ESF+ allocation especially dedicated to health, employment and social innovation. It will provide the means to test innovative solutions in these fields with a cross-border approach. Specifically, one of the objectives is to support the development of social enterprises and the emergence of a market for social investment. The new Employment and Social Innovation strand (EaSI) is part of the ESF+ with a dedicated financial envelope of €676 million.

What can EVPA and its members do with the ESF+?

In the ESF+ regulation, lack of access to finance for the social economy and social enterprises is presented as one of the main obstacles to business creation. Moreover, social investment market players are acknowledged as playing a key role in achieving several ESF+ objectives, since they offer financing and innovative and complementary approaches to several social issues.

ESF+ can therefore be an opportunity for investors for impact. EVPA continues to monitor developments around ESF+ and will communicate any interesting funding opportunities on its website and via the monthly newsletter.

EVPA Publications about ESF+

Contact for more info

Bianca Polidoro , Senior Policy and EU Partnerships Manager, EVPA

Cătălina Papari , Policy and EU Partnerships Associate, EVPA

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