European Social Fund: annual implementation report 2021

This Annual Implementation Report (AIR) presents the activities for the European Social Fund for the investment for growth and jobs goal in 2021 with citizen's summary.

The full Annual Implementation Report (AIR) is available as a PDF and is attached to this page.

Below is a Citizen's Summary which briefly describes supported activity referred to in the AIR.

Citizen's summary 2021: European Social Fund


The Scottish Government is the Managing Authority (MA) of the 2014-2020 European Social Fund (ESF) programme. Since the adoption of the Operational Programmes in 2015, we have used ESF support to help achieve our aims of:

  • Smart growth: supporting Scotland’s businesses and workforce
  • Inclusive growth: removing barriers from disadvantaged communities and lifting people out of poverty

To achieve these aims, the MA has allocated ESF support to a wide range of activities across Scotland that work towards the social and economic policy objectives of both the Scottish Government and European Commission (EC). Scotland’s ESF-supported activities include:

  • Developing Scotland’s Workforce
    Creating new places for skills development at Scotland’s colleges, providing training courses for careers in Scotland’s growth sectors, and expanding Scotland’s Modern, Foundation and Graduate Apprenticeship programmes.
  • Employability
    Providing routes to sustainable employment for and increasing the skill levels of unemployed people with multiple barriers to work.
  • Poverty and Social Inclusion
    Assisting the most disadvantaged individuals and households in financial and employment matters, enabling disadvantaged communities to develop long-term solutions for reducing poverty, and increasing the sustainability and capacity of Scotland’s non-profit sector.
  • Youth Employment Initiative
    Helping young people, particularly those not in employment, education or training, into work, and reducing the number of unemployed and socially excluded young people in south west Scotland.

The MA allocates funding to Lead Partners who then bring their own match funding to increase the total amount available for operations. Lead Partners then distribute funding between individual projects and organisations and/or deliver projects themselves.

Our ESF Lead Partners are made up of:

  • Local authorities
  • Scottish Funding Council
  • Skills Development Scotland
  • The Scottish Government’s Housing and Social Justice Directorate
  • The National Lottery Community Fund

ESF-supported activity and case studies in 2021

Throughout 2021, many ESF-supported activities continued to be delivered by our Lead Partners to achieve our aims of smart and sustainable growth in Scotland, assisting many businesses and developing low-carbon solutions in the fields of energy, transport and the environment. By the end of 2021, the total allocation of ESF grant was £335.6m.

In December 2021, Richard Lochhead MSP, Minister for Just Transition, Employment and Fair Work announced the publication of the 2021 case studies booklet. The booklet celebrates the achievements of the 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Funds Programmes in Scotland.

It features ten stories from operations supported with ESF and ERDF grant aid that help our aim of boosting smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. ESF case studies include:

  • A Stirling Council service that offers money management, benefits advice and language lessons to recently arrived refugees
  • A programme of in-person and online events promoting Gaelic language, music and culture for vulnerable groups

The 2021 case studies booklet can be read in full on the Scottish Government website.

Programme performance

In addition to Programme Monitoring Committee (PMC) meetings that examine the performance of the programme, the MA regularly engages with the EC and Lead Partners to seek ways to improve the performance of the programme. Meeting the programme’s N+3 targets and more accurate reporting of the programme’s outputs and results on the EUMIS system remain high priorities for the MA and are frequently referred to as such in its communications to Lead Partners.

To improve the rate of payment of claims from Lead Partners and reduce de-commitment of funds, at the May 2021 meeting of the Programme Monitoring Committee (PMC) a new working group was established. The PMC working group in effect acts a sub-group of the PMC to develop solutions in a collaborative way to the slow process of receiving and paying claims from Lead Partners.

Since the establishment of the PMC working group, its members have met monthly and worked together to put forward proposals to improve performance which have been put into place by the MA. The new proposals included a reformed prioritisation process of claims to help the MA meet N+3 targets and revision of risk ratings of operations. The MA looks forward to continuing constructive dialogue with its key stakeholders to improve the overall performance of the 2014-20 ESF programme.

European Social Fund: annual implementation report 2021
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