Umbrella bodies call for simpler and more accessible EU funds
A broad sector coalition working with local and national partners in the European Funding Network has joined forces to call on the government for a greater role for civil society in the next programme of EU funding.
In coordinated letters to key ministers at BIS, DWP and DCLG; NCVO as well as Social Enterprise UK, Cooperatives UK, UnLtd, Social Investment Business, CAN Invest and Community Development Finance Association have drawn attention to the role civil society organisations can play in the pursuit of inclusive and sustainable growth.
Government is currently consulting on how European structural funds will be delivered over the next 7 years from 2014.
Between 2007 and 2010, £430m of European funds were allocated to sector organisations working in employment, training and skills. Yet NCVO research shows large-contract commissioning means smaller organisations are missing out on this key funding.
The letter sets out priorities for civil society in the next programme including:
- developing a specific programme with smaller grants to enable access for civil society
- local community-led approaches that use EU funds according to local needs
- allowing for a blend of funding mechanisms – including grants, contracts and social investment – that can better reach community organisations
The letter follows the start last week of a government listening exercise on the funds. Further calls include:
- innovative approaches to match funding EU grants, including use of volunteer time
- simplification and alignment of the EU Funds which will allow better accessibility and easier project application
- a priority objective to improve social inclusion, which features in all 4 structural funds
- support for the creation of community groups, co-operatives and social enterprises to meet local needs and provide employment
- recognition of the role that CSOs can play in the mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change
- capacity building to raise awareness of the Funds and ensure that community organisations are better able to access these funds
Sir Stuart Etherington, NCVO’s CEO said:
"Civil society organisations play an essential role in the pursuit of growth and employment. We are concerned that the government’s current plans for the future of the funds are not sufficiently ambitious. Their aspiration for community-led projects will not be realised unless the funds are accessible for organisations of all sizes. Currently, smaller community organisations are often excluded from structural fund money due to the design of the process.
"Civil society organisations focus on improving people’s lives. They have deep-rooted connections and skills which enable them to apply these funds to varied local conditions and to reach those people who are furthest from the labour market – tackling root causes of disadvantage and using early intervention to prevent negative social and economic outcomes."
Jonathan Jenkins, Social Investment Business CEO said:
"Social investment forms a vital part of the sector’s funding mix and we see opportunities for structural funds to be used to support the growth of social investment through the supply of both revenue and capital, and crucially to help organisations become investment ready."
Peter Holbrook, Social Enterprise UK CEO said:
"Social enterprises and charities play a crucial role in tackling problems in communities, and improving people's lives: economically, socially and environmentally. Structural funds can play an important role in growing this impact, if they are made accessible and appropriate to the local context, and if they are best used to meet those organisations' revenue, capital, capacity-building and investment needs. We therefore support the call for civil society to play a much greater role in the next programme of EU funding to ensure this takes place."
Cliff Prior, UnLtd CEO said:
"New talent and new ideas are vital to refresh our social provision as well as our economy. European funds can play a major part by tapping the huge potential of social entrepreneurs - people stepping forward with sustainable solutions to community and social challenges, creating jobs and growth at the same time. Simple improvements on the funding regime, such as smaller grants, less onerous bureaucracy, and readiness to back people as engines of change, can liberate talent in every country of the EU."