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Brexit Britain must not lose £2.4 billion investment in people

11 May 2017

We call for successor programmes to European Social Fund (ESF) of at least the same value. We want these to be locally-driven, reduce bureaucracy, integrate services, and better support people and employers to meet their skills and employment needs.

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We stand at a crossroads with some big decisions to take. The UK is leaving the European Union (EU). We have a strong economy and high employment.

But there is much more to do for everyone to share in this prosperity and to meet our future skills needs: 9 million adults in England have low literacy, numeracy or both; some groups, such as disabled people, and areas of the country have much lower employment rates; and 6 million people are in low paid work.

We must now grasp a once in a generation chance to invest in our people and tackle these entrenched challenges. Ensuring a replacement for European Social Fund (ESF), due to invest £2.4 billion in England in the six years to 2020, is central to this. Intended to support more than 2 million people by 2020, local ESF projects support adults to improve their life skills, disabled people to find work, and those most likely to miss out to get a second chance.

We believe it is essential that this investment in people continue at least at the same level as currently provided by ESF and other adult skills and employment programmes.

However, we can invest differently and better. We have an opportunity to simplify funding, integrate services, and target investment where it is most needed – making sure more money reaches the front line. All of this can better support people and employers and deliver better value for money for taxpayers.

This is a time for bold and creative thinking on how to create the jobs of the future, ensure everyone has a fair chance in life, and develop the skills we need for future prosperity. That requires a commitment to investment and a plan for delivery.

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