Assembly Written Question 11853/17-22
Question: To ask the Minister for the Economy for her assessment of whether there is adequate time to design new supported employment programmes that are currently funded by the European Social Fund, before the end of this funding period.
Answer: Funding for existing projects supported by the Northern Ireland European Social Fund (ESF) Programme (2014-2020) continues until March 2022. The UK Shared Prosperity Fund was identified by the UK Government as a replacement for structural funds. To date, however, the details of the scheme continue to be limited and the timescales are of real concern. In the absence this clarity from the UK Government, we have established a joint project, with the Department for Communities, to consider and develop a range of options for a successor Programme that will need to be considered by the NI Executive. Whilst progress is being made on the project, the timetable for the development of a successor programme and securing the necessary funding is an extremely challenging one. Officials within my Department continue to explore options with the Department of Finance to bridge any the potential gap in provision that may arise.