After several trialogue meetings between the Council of the European Union, the European Commission and the European Parliament, the final agreement on the next multi-annual financial framework (MFF) is planned for the end of 2020. At the European Social Network (ESN) we ask ourselves what impact this agreement will have on the European Social Fund+ (ESF+), a funding instrument of great importance to many of our members to support vulnerable populations in their national and regional contexts.

ESF+: What do we know?

In the new programming period, under the new ESF+, four funds will come together, namely the European Social Fund (ESF), the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD), the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) and the European Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI).  

The new ESF+ proposal will include three main intervention areas: employment, education and social inclusion. Among the ESF+ specific objectives in the area of social inclusion, the 2021-2027 programme includes, among others, access to the labour market, social integration of migrants, social integration of marginalised communities and access to services. At a more cross-cutting level, the new ESF+ will continue to promote the transition from institutional care to family and community-based care, in particular for those who face multiple disadvantages.

The new proposed budget for the ESF+ 2021-2027 programme is 87.9 billion, which means that the budget for the ESF+ has been reduced compared with the previous European financial framework. Of these 88 billion, 87.3 billion are meant to the ESF+ shared management strand, €175 million will be allocated to transnational cooperation supporting innovative solutions and €676 million will be distributed for the Employment and Social Innovation strand that covers pilot programmes on social innovation e.g. combined employment and social services programmes The requirements to spend the money on certain themes remain the same as in the 2018 proposal, being 25% for social inclusion, 10% for youth employment support and 2% for addressing material deprivation.

ESF +: Impact on public social services

Many ESN members, local public social services operating across Europe, currently use ESF funding to finance programmes addressing social inclusion; for  example, employment programmes for people with disabilities, support for youth leaving care or for the social inclusion of migrants. As the main financial instrument for the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR), it will be of paramount importance to ensure that public social services will have access to the available funds, as they are the frontline in supporting vulnerable groups, and central to the implantation of European social policy priorities.