European Social Fund: participant guidance

Guidance regarding employment status, barriers to employment and qualifications for participants in the European Social Fund (ESF).

This document is part of a collection


Before agreeing to support a participant, Lead Partners should ensure the individual’s circumstances are assessed to identify whether they qualify for ESF support.

Suitable documentation must be obtained to evidence that:

  • the participant is legally able to reside and (if relevant to the operation) work in the UK (see ‘Eligibilty - evidence’ section for details of accepted documentation).
  • the project eligibility criteria is met in relation to the specific objectives of the relevant ESF Priority.

Examples of project eligibility criteria being met include:

  • Employability Pipeline – the participant has multiple barriers to employment. (Please note that if a participant is long-term unemployed, they are deemed to have multiple barriers – see the ‘Definitions: Employment Status/Barriers/Social Inclusion & Poverty Target Groups’ section for further detail)   
  • Social Inclusion & Poverty – the participant is within one of the key target groups (low income, workless and lone-parent households – see ‘Definitions’: Employment Status/Barriers/Social Inclusion & Poverty Target Groups’ section for further detail)
  • Youth Employment Initiative – the participant is within the qualifying age range (16–29 years) and is NEET on entry
  • Developing Scotland’s Workforce – the participant must provide evidence of their Qualification Levels on Entry (see ‘Evidence’ section for details of accepted forms of documentation)

This evidence must be obtained as part of the Participant Registration process – see ‘Eligibility – Evidence’ and ‘Definitions: Employment Status/Barriers’ sections for details of accepted forms of documentation. It should be noted that participants must not be recorded on EUMIS until documentation can be provided to evidence their eligibility.

Please note that it is not possible for this guidance to take all eventualities into account – the guidance is not exhaustive and it remains the responsibility of the Lead Partner to ensure that evidence is adequate and appropriately verified.

Eligibility evidence should (where possible) be obtained during the registration process.

Use of statutory public registers

Information extracted from and certified via statutory public registers or information held by a public organisations or UK or SG Government departments (e.g. DWP, SEEMIS, SQA) is acceptable for evidence requirements, as long as the definitions used comply with those set out in the EC ESF Monitoring and Evaluation Guidance.

Please note that the SQA Navigator report may be used to support any other evidence that is provided but cannot be used as the primary source, with exception of qualification evidence.

This does not have to be via a Referral Form and can be used to evidence the information contained in the Registration Form, provided: 

  • the information is certified (by the issuing institution) or sent via their dedicated mailbox
  • the certifying institutions are public (national or local) authorities with access to the national registers containing relevant data on participants

For the purposes of ESF, ‘certified’ is defined as:

  • on headed notepaper (e.g. letter): the document must be signed and dated by a representative of the issuing institution
  • not on headed notepaper  (e.g. referral form): the document must be stamped (by the issuing institution) and dated

Please note that it is important that the document is dated in some way – as this is the only way that the Managing Authority can verify that the information being provided is accurate at the date of registration.

Participant consent

Lead Partner must ensure each participant has a signed Registration Form. 

Where an individual is under 16, signed consent must be obtained from their parents or legal guardian – this must be accompanied by a copy of a valid passport or photographic ID card (that contains a signature).


It is important that the correct ESF logo is used on participant documentation and it is made clear to participants that they are being supported by ESF. Please refer closely to the appropriate publicity guidance.

‘Grand total’ of participants

The European Commission’s 'Monitoring & Evaluation Guidance' makes it clear that it is acceptable for each Strategic Intervention to have a ‘grand total’ of participants, including those participants whose basic data relating to the common output indicators either could not be collected or is incomplete (Annex D, p15). From page 10 of that guidance:

“A distinction is to be made between monitoring of participants on the one hand and eligibility of participants for financial support on the other. Whereas the former…requires a complete set of data on all personal, non-sensitive variables, it may not be a requirement for the latter. Hence, an incomplete set of data might not affect the participant’s eligibility to the support in general. However, managing authorities must be able to provide sufficient evidence that a person fulfils the eligibility criteria established for the respective operation/project….”


Where a participant is eligible for support, but the Lead Partner is unable to produce documentation to evidence their eligibility (e.g. sometime it is difficult to verify the date of birth of some individuals within the Roma community), the participant can be entered onto EUMIS after registration to reflect the work being undertaken with them, but should not be marked as ‘Supported’ on EUMIS.


Where a participant is not eligible for support (e.g. because they do not meet the eligibility criteria for that particular intervention) they should not be entered on EUMIS. Where a participant is found to be ineligible (as a result of verification checks undertaken by either the Lead Partner or the Managing Authority), the ‘Supported’ function should be ‘unticked’ on EUMIS. In addition, the ‘Notes’ field in the ‘ESF Recipient’ tab of their Participant Record on EUMIS should be updated with ‘Ineligible’, to distinguish this individual from an eligible participant whose eligibility could not be fully evidenced.

Registration – project worker assessments

Project Worker assessments are extremely important and should address the participant’s needs in relation to the intervention being proposed - assessments should therefore clearly outline the link between the needs or barriers of the participant and the positive outcome that it is anticipated ESF assistance will generate. 

These assessments may include a record of the individual’s eligibility/circumstances/lifestyle and should ideally be signed by the Project Worker and participant – a Project Worker Assessment combined with a self-certified Registration Form (where self-certification forms part of the evidence requirements detailed in the ‘Definitions’ section) is always preferable to self-certification on its own.

Data sets

Where a particular data set has been referred to in the guidance (e.g. SIMD index), it is acceptable to use information from a more up-to-date version of the same data set e.g. where the data set has been refreshed. Please note that this guidance document will not necessarily be updated to reflect changes to data sets.

Common Indicators

Annexes B and C of the European Commission’s 'Monitoring and Evaluation Guidance' clearly lists the common indicators that must be reported for every participant supported in an ESF intervention. 

Some of the common indicators are listed as “barriers” in our registration guidance and on EUMIS – these have been clearly labelled in the ‘Definitions’ section of this guidance (any status or barrier with ** relate to the common indicators, with those with *** being treated as “other disadvantaged”).

It is imperative that Lead Partners collect all data relating to the common indicators when registering participants for ESF support, so that this information can be uploaded to EUMIS – this applies even where the data does not necessarily relate directly to the specific type of ESF intervention. 

Lead Partners should therefore note that, although the collection of common indicators data should form part of the registration process, it is not necessary to physically evidence all this data (e.g. via documentary evidence) unless it forms part of the eligibility criteria for that intervention. 

Following the publication of the EC ‘Omnibus’ Regulations in August 2018, indicators relating to ‘household situations’ (e.g. ‘Living in a jobless household’, ‘Living in a jobless household with dependent children’, ‘Living in a single adult household with dependent children’ etc) are no longer necessary in order to count a participant record as being ‘complete’ for reporting purposes. However, the Managing Authority would still like Lead Partners to continue gathering this data as it provides important information for both programme evaluation and Scottish Government statistics. Please note that an individual’s ‘household situation’ still needs to be collected and evidenced where it forms part of the eligibility criteria for an intervention (e.g. Social Inclusion & Poverty interventions).

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