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  • Writer's pictureSteve O'Hare

The UK Shared Prosperity Fund - what have we learnt so far?

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

The UK Shared Prosperity Fund is the replacement for European Structural and Investment Funds (European Social Fund/European Regional Development Fund), and is designed to support businesses, improve communities and up-skill the workforce.


Projects have been launched over the last year or so. However, activity kicked off in earnest a few months ago, and there have been four streams of activity involved.


1) Multiply


2) Communities and place


3) Supporting local businesses


4) People and skills


People and Skills


In this blog, I am going to focus specifically on the People and Skills stream, and my first initial thought is, so far it has been very similar to the European Social Fund projects that were running until earlier this year.


To date, a wide range of projects have been launched, examples of these include:

  • Initiatives that will support under-24s that are not in education or training, this group were particularly affected by the Covid-19 lockdowns


  • Digital inclusion programmes, which help to get more people comfortable with being online and knowing how to use the software at their disposal. These projects will help people who are not too IT savvy use computers in their lives for the sort of things that the rest of us take for granted


Depending on where you are in the country, Unitary Local Authorities, District/Borough Councils, or Mayoral Combined Authorities manage the fund. Whilst many have ‘shown their hand’, there are still a range of areas that haven't come to market yet but will be doing so over the coming months.


As an example, I am about to engage with my local District Council, Blaby in Leicestershire, who are hosting a round table to discuss what they will do with the funding they have for the remaining 15 months.


Engagement


It is up to organisations to approach local councils to get involved with UKSPF and the more proactive you can be and the more you can engage, the better it will be.


My second observation is that with this ultra devolution of funding, you have budget holders that are not au fait with buying these types of services as they have not done it before.





There's a lot of new things for the local authority to take on board so they are almost saying: "What can you do for us?" They need support so if your organisation can help guide and shape, it's better for everyone.


Conclusion


Overall, in summary of what we have seen so far, the wheel has not been reinvented. What has worked well previously will probably work well in the future.


One size does not fit all either. Every area wants different things and in particular they want to plug the holes have been left by the closure of European funded programmes.


The UKSPF is an ultra-local programme, which means the power really is in the hands of the people now.


SCLO will keep you up to date with a comprehensive analysis of lessons learned, challenges encountered, and the evolving landscape of this pivotal funding programme over the coming months.


Follow SCLO on LinkedIn Twitter/X and YouTube to discover valuable lessons that can inform future applicants and organisations seeking to participate in the UKSPF.


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