26 Apr

New £3.6m ESF Funding Opportunity Launched

A student and mentor look at a computer screen

The European Social Fund (ESF) Managing Authority has launched a new ESF funding opportunity (Lump Sum Digital Interventions Call OC00S21X1838). This funding call is only open to existing ESF projects. The call opened on 23 April and closes at midnight on 4 June.

The aim of the project is to deliver additional bolt-on activity to existing ESF projects in response to Covid-19, in order to address the digital divide by providing access to information and services through digital technologies.

Leicester and Leicestershire are in the ‘more developed’ category of region (CoR) and as a result projects will need to provide 50% match funding.

What does the call entail?

Published under Priority Axis 4.1 (Covid Response: The Digital Divide), this investment priority seeks to address two of the main issues associated with digital exclusion.

The first is that of having physical access to the internet, i.e. a device that will allow the user to access the internet.

The second is the issue of data poverty, which can act as a barrier to creating a digitally inclusive society. Just having the device is often not enough, due to the cost of data and the often unaffordable costs of home internet access.

Internet access in the home is only available through long-term broadband or data contracts, which are often unaffordable for those on lower incomes, while pay-as-you-go services often attract a ‘poverty premium’ in that they are more expensive per byte of data than would be the case through a 12 or 24 month contract.

This call is therefore open to projects that are in the process of addressing these issues, and wish to expand their reach to benefit more people.

How do I apply for funding?

All applications will need to be eligible under the European Social Fund Operational Programme for England 2014 to 2020 which can be found on the gov.uk website.

Please note that the published Operational Programme currently confirms that all projects in this priority will have been completed by 31 December 2020. However, that this is not the case for this call, as projects can run for up to 12 months from the date of their Funding Agreement.

Applications for funding must be completed and submitted using the ECLAIMS IT system.

The additional support from this investment priority will help digitally marginalised people to gain access to online services and information. It will also improve the capacity of people to engage in the digital society, including helping them to stay engaged throughout any further local or national restrictions due to COVID-19. Activities to be supported are:

  • The loan of digital devices to ESF participants to allow internet access
  • The provision of data, enabling access to the internet
  • Human resource to assist participants to set up the equipment and understand basic functions (e.g. start up, charging the device, using the data allowance, accessing the internet)

The Managing Authority encourages applications from consortia or other similar types of partnership arrangements. In each such case the application must be completed and submitted in the ECLAIMS IT system by the lead organisation on behalf of the partnership/consortia.

The lead applicant must have the financial capacity to meet the required due diligence criteria and, if ESF funding is awarded, this organisation will then become the lead grant recipient, accountable for delivery of the overall ESF project.

Further information and guidance