Uncertain about your ESIF funded project in light of COVID-19? MHCLG has written to us with this useful guidance…

MHCLG Responds to the COVID-19 crisis and the impact on ESIF projects.

Julia Sweeney, Director of European Programmes and Local Growth at Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG), has written to our CSI representatives on the Growth Programme Board in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

MHCLG recognises that the outbreak is affecting the way in which European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) programmes are being delivered, as well as the development of projects currently in the pipeline.

ESIF includes money from the European Social Fund (ESF), European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD).

An important takeaway for anyone running or working on a project which receives this funding is that MHCLG, DWP and Defra are committed to working “flexibly and pragmatically” with all involved.

During this difficult and uncertain time, the focus must be on maintaining stability in the short term and responding positively to the challenges we all face and to make sure we can support long-term economic recovery.

As such, these are the steps which MHCLG are currently taking:
  • “We are discussing this as a top priority across Government and are also in discussion with the European Commission about potential ways of responding to the situation and the impact on ESI Funds programmes.”
  • “We are reviewing existing project activity and the case for adjusting provision to meet current circumstances, in line with ESI Funds objectives.”
  • “We will be working with our Performance and Dispute Resolution subcommittee for ERDF and ESF, to engage partner representatives across sectors and geographies to provide advice to MHCLG and DWP on the steps that we can take. Defra is also working with its stakeholder groups to consider options.”
For now, MHCLG is asking that you:
  1. Continue to deliver all projects as fully as possible within Government guidance.
  2. Continue to submit claims and applications as normal.
  3. If you experience any difficulty with this, you should contact departments to discuss further.
A note on the ERDF and ESF Reserve Funds:

In light of these circumstances the decision has been taken to defer the ERDF & unpublished ESF Reserve Fund calls that were due to launch in the coming months.

This will allow partners and teams at MHCLG and DWP to focus on the immediate response to COVID-19.

It is expected that there will be a review of the focus of the ERDF & ESF Reserve Funds in line with emerging priorities.

MHCLG and DWP will be working with the Government and partners to redesign the Reserve Fund in support of business recovery and growth once the current crisis subsides – ready for project activity from 2021.

This means that any work preparing current applications will not be lost.

Helen Millne, Deputy CEO of The Women’s Organisation and CSI Representative on the National Growth Programme Board, said: “We are working closely with our colleagues in Government to seek timely and advanced payments to Third Sector organisations which are delivering critical community services and supporting business.

“This intervention is paramount in enabling the sector to support small businesses to access the financial measures already announced and protect jobs and incomes across the country.”

An initial list of ERDF and ESF Q&As on the response to COVID-19 have now been published on GOV.UK and can be found here.

As ever, our dedicated CSI Representatives are here to understand and unpack the issues that the third sector is facing within the current ESIF programme which are affecting their ability to use European funds effectively. 

So that we can raise these issues at government level on your behalf and pro-actively work for solutions, we’re asking Third Sector organisations to tell us their experiences using these funds, in light of the outbreak of COVID-19. Please contact us via info@civilsocietyinvolvement.com