Although news on European funding has been slow in forthcoming, good progress is being made and money should be available to Powys organisations by the end of the year. Some important things to bare in mind when considering European funding are:
- The new structural funds are heavily focused on moving people into employment
- Organisations will have to tender for opportunities to deliver European Funded projects
- In awarding contracts ' added value' will be sought not simply best value / cheapest
WCVA have been developing a scheme called 'gateway' that is aimed at enabling smaller voluntary organisations to be able to access European money to deliver specific outputs. The scheme is presently in development but hopefully will be approved by WEFO (Wales European Funding Office) by September/ October. Organisations will be asked to tender for projects that help move people towards employment. For instance:
Organisation XYZ may say that for £15,000 they can provide a scheme to provide supported volunteering placements for 8 people
Organisation ABC could provide 15 work based learning places for £50,000.
The targets/ tenders that are set in each area will be decided by agencies operating locally to ensure money is targeted where it is most needed. Projects will need to focus on the people that they are benefiting, so should be able to demonstrate how they are moving people towards and into employment. Projects should also make links to partner organisations that can aid delivery and be innovative.
It is proposed that projects will be in one of three catergories:
- Up to £25,000
- £25,001 to £75,000
- £75,001 to £150,000
Match funding is likely not to be necessary for the smallest catergory and possibly up to 30% for the largest amount.
Opportunities will be placed on Sell on Wales (www.sell2wales.co.uk), the Welsh Assembly website portal for all tenders. PAVO will also publicise opportunities when we are aware of them.
Benefits of the new EU funding
- If you can deliver the outcomes more cheaply that your tender you will make a profit that you can keep
- The 'added value' aspect of EU money will mean that voluntary organisations can demonstrate how they are best placed to deliver these services
For instance a mental health support groups could show that the added value of their tender was that in addition to providing health related support to a person that they would also be given volunteering opportunities that gives the person skills to help them into employment.
What you can do?
Get fit for tendering
Over the coming months PAVO with Menter a Busnes will be holding training sessions on tendering, which will be aimed at supporting groups to be able to tender with a focus on the Sell 2 Wales process.
Register with Sell 2 Wales
Visit Sell 2 Wales website and register your organisation. There may be other opportunities for you to tender for work outside those of the EU projects. Once you register the kind of projects that you are interested in tendering for you will be sent via email alerts when any are posted on the site.
Begin indentifying need in your local area; what help do poeple need to help them move towards employment. What statistics can you provide to support this?
Consider the needs of unemployed individuals, what could you offer to help them into employment, it could be through volunteering, training or supported work placements.
The guidance offers advice to prospective sponsors, match funders and interested stakeholders so that they have a clear understanding of the role of the project sponsor, the importance of procurement, the distribution of grants to other organisations and an overview of state aid implications.
The Regional Competitiveness and Employment (RCE) programme covering East Wales region have been awarded a total of £93 million in European grant for the new European Structural Funds programming round 2007 - 2013. The programmes are the successor to the Objective 2 and Objective 3 programmes 2000 - 2006, and geographically will cover seven local authority areas in the East Wales region: Cardiff, the Vale, Newport, Monmouthshire, Powys, Flintshire and Wrexham.
The programmes for East Wales comprise funding from two separate European Structural Funds: the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF). Around £49 million of ERDF funds will be channelled through the Welsh Assembly Government to help continue the region's economic, social and environmental transformation. It will also focus on regenerating Wales' most deprived communities and tackling climate change. Some £43 million from the ESF will be used to tackle economic inactivity, increase skills and employment. Together with match funding from the private, public and voluntary sectors, the total investment of the Programmes will be around £232 million.
Separate Operational Programmes have been developed for the Convergence and Competitiveness programmes and have been agreed between the Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO) and the European Commission. These are planning documents, which determine how the funding will be spent each of the areas. The priorities for the RCE area are:
ERDF Programme (£49m)
Priority 1 Knowledge and innovation for growth
Priority 2 Business competitiveness and growth
Priority 3 Tackling climate change
Priority 4 Regeneration for growth
Priority 5 Technical assistance
ESF Programme (£43m)
Priority 1 Increasing employment and tackling economic inactivity
Priority 2 Raising skill levels and adaptability of the workforce
Priority 3 Technical assistance
The Convergence and Regional Competitiveness and Employment programmes will be implemented through a series of Strategic Frameworks. These are based around the Priorities and Themes identified in the respective Operational Programmes, and are part of a mechanism that will help ensure funding is carefully targeted, will reduce duplication of activities and will best deliver both EU and Welsh Assembly Government priorities and policies. Overall, they will aim to achieve a balance between a strategic overarching approach and the bottom-up ferment of new ideas.
Strategic Frameworks are being co-ordinated either by the Welsh Assembly Government departments or the Wales Spatial Plan Area Groups, assisted by Spatial European Teams (SETs). However, projects interested in benefiting from Regional Competitiveness and Employment programme funding in East Wales will continue to be independently assessed and approved by WEFO, with consideration given to their fit with a Strategic Framework.
It is the intention of WEFO to maximise the synergies between the Regional Competitiveness and Employment programmes for East Wales and the Convergence programmes for West Wales and the Valleys. To achieve this aim, the relevant Strategic Frameworks for Convergence will also be used to guide the development of the Strategic Frameworks for the Regional Competitiveness and Employment programme. The ERDF and ESF Strategic Frameworks can be viewed here.
The aim of WEFO is to reduce the total number of projects from over 3,000 approved during the previous programmes to approximately 500 under the new programmes, and to strengthen strategic delivery, with interventions closely aligned to the priorities and with more flexibility at programme level to direct funding to key priorities. WEFO hope to achieve this by:
- Encouraging collaborative planning & reduction in duplication
- Encouraging partnership in project development
- Establishing clear operational principles in the Strategic Frameworks
- Providing an alternative route of tendering for delivery for many smaller organisations that previously ran projects
- All EU-funded "delivery" work will be required to be offered through open tender on the "Sell 2 Wales" website.
How to apply for the funding
The application process has three stages:
1. Project Information Form (PIF)
2. Expression of Interest (EOI)
3. Business plan
Potential project sponsors are requested to initially post a PIF on the WEFO website; whilst these are not formally part of the application process, they are for information sharing to allow others to know about your project and provide the opportunity for collaborative working. They are not appraised by WEFO, however when a prospective sponsor feels that they are ready to submit an EOI they will need to identify the project that they are bringing forward by reference to the PIF that they have previously posted.
Once a PIF has been placed on the website there is an option to "Request to Submit an EOI". This is the start of the formal project handling process and it is at this stage that WEFO will contact the prospective project sponsor and work with them to develop the idea, and if the idea is accepted, the full business plan. The EOI acts as the initial gateway into the system and at this stage projects will be allocated a unique identification code.
A WEFO Project Development Officer (PDO) will be assigned to each project and will work with sponsors to clarify project proposal details, engaging "experts" when needed: e.g. financial appraisal, state aid etc. This "hands-on" project challenge and refinement will help to avoid wasting time and resources on unsuccessful projects.
WEFO is in the process of producing detailed guidance for the programmes, which can be accessed via the website here.
What are WCVA and CVCs doing to support the sector?
WCVA has been working closely for over two years with WAG and WEFO in the design and preparations for the implementation of the new programmes. WCVA has and continues to work with the CVCs on regional information and awareness-raising to keep the sector abreast of programme developments. WCVA has representation on the Programme Monitoring Committee (PMC) for Convergence and Regional Competitiveness (one committee) through which issues affecting the sector can be raised. WCVA and the CVCs are also working together to develop consortium projects.
Spatial European Teams (SETs)
Technical Assistance to support the implementation of the new programmes will be delivered predominantly via four Spatial European Teams (SETs) in South East, South West, Mid and North Wales, with officers based in each local authority area. There is agreement in principle for there to be specialist support available for third sector organisations at a national level.
SETs will help Strategic Framework Co-ordinators to secure the involvement of existing partnerships at a local, regional and national level, to encourage collaboration in planning and project development and to generally support the development of local and regional projects. They will also assist in the ongoing support for project sponsors in their region.
PAVO is encouraging groups to look at opportunities to support the delivery of the Competitiveness programme. All projects will need to be developed in the context of local, regional and national strategies, including the Spatial Plan for Central Wales. Working in strategic partnerships and collaboration between projects, will be important for successful bids.
Part of the new ESF programme aims to increase employment and tackle economic inactivity, with a focus on helping those individuals hardest to reach join the workforce through confidence, employability and skills building. See the WEFO website for further details. The role for voluntary groups could be to provide structured volunteering opportunities, work placements, training or providing support for employers.
The application process requires groups to submit a project information form (PIF) to the WEFO website so WEFO officers can help groups to make links to avoid duplication, to promote partnership working and the ultimately invite fuller applications. The PIF will help show WEFO that there is a need for projects to be funded - your project may not be funded in isolation but together with others, it may form part a strategic project.
All of the documentation and strategic frameworks to guide you are available from the WEFO Website.
WCVA 'Engagement Gateway' project proposal
In recognition of the need to simplify access to the funds for smaller groups, and to achieve a more strategic approach to co-ordinating third sector project activity, WCVA is in the process of developing an economic inactivity 'Engagement Gateway' project, which it proposes to run across the Convergence and Regional Competitiveness and Employment programme areas. The project information form (PIF) can be found on the WEFO website, here and WCVA has submitted an expression of interest (EOI) to WEFO.
For further information please contact Judith Stone, Policy Officer at WCVA for further information:Tel. 029 2043 1744; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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