After two years of gruelling negotiations led by MEP David Casa, the EU has officially greenlit the European Social Fund+, securing €90 billion for workers and young people across the bloc following its final approval in the European Parliament.
Beyond hearing the numbers and buzzwords though, the ESF+ offers huge benefits to every single person across the EU in some shape or form, offering countless opportunities to benefit from this fund.
Malta is able to benefit greatly from the ESF+. It is not just the €100+ million that the Maltese government will have access to, it is about how it will be used.
Whenever these funds are delivered to governments, they are then implemented by smaller organisations and individuals to ensure maximum impacts in areas of social necessity. In Malta, schemes such as JobsPlus, the Endeavour Scholarship, the LEAP programme and MCAST are all beneficiaries of ESF+ funds.
Having a life without ESF+ funds would mean a life with far fewer opportunities for those who suffer silently, those who are able to otherwise contribute greatly to our economy.
Through ESF+, there is access to education and better quality of education, letting students further their studies when they couldn’t otherwise as well as letting professionals get access to more training.
Locally, we have seen a training course for Maltese nurses caring for dementia patients receive co-funding from the ESF+.
The ESF+ is the EU’s main instrument to invest in citizens and build a more social & inclusive Union. These funds will be used to generate employment & training opportunities to help people reach their full potential.
Addressing #EPlenary as lead negotiator on the ESF+ 2021-2027 pic.twitter.com/nP8rZ5MDIi
— David Casa (@DavidCasaMEP) June 8, 2021
“It is not just about big figures and buzzwords,” Casa told Lovin Malta. “It’s about investing in citizens to make their lives better within a social economy that cares”.
The EU is founded upon the European Pillar of Social Rights, a set of principles that act as a guiding light for Europe’s policymaking. Through this, the aim is to deliver tangible rights for all citizens as well as ensure equal access to the labour market, training, education and so much more.
As such, the European Social Fund has been a crucial way to let the EU live up to these principles and acts as one of the bloc’s biggest funds. Having been running since the Treaty of Rome in 1957, Casa was elected as its lead rapporteur in 2019.
There is also plenty of money for capacity building for civil society – think food banks and those fighting for social justice.
Of course, any funds used by the ESF+ need to respect the fundamental rights of the EU.
A huge challenge that ESF+ aims to tackle is that of social exclusion.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put a strain on every single person across Europe, yet it has especially affected communities who were already vulnerable to being left out from education and work.
Truancy – the act of staying away from school without valid cause – has seen a huge spike, which means that young people and children are facing a higher risk of missing out on crucial training and education.
And amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many people have also lost their main sources of income and are struggling to support themselves and their families. This material deprivation is something that the ESF+ also aims to address, especially given that child poverty remains an acute issue.
Malta lies just below the average on child poverty – yet even so, the nation must meet its commitments to reduce child poverty even further.
We also fare quite well when it comes to youth unemployment – particularly thanks to the sheer amount of EU funds that have been invested in education, training, lifelong learning and job opportunities.
“Our social funds are indispensable bricks in the new architecture of the #EUbudget.”
We are proposing a new and improved European Social Fund Plus and a stronger Globalisation Fund for 2021-2027. Watch @mariannethyssen‘s statement & check out this thread for more information ↓ pic.twitter.com/t38hhSsqZU
— EU Social 🇪🇺 (@EU_Social) May 30, 2018
The ESF was a seven-year initiative that was meant to end in 2021. Yet, it has been extended until 2023 through the REACT-EU package. ESF+ however, will go beyond that, making additional funds available for all of the mentioned areas, and so much more.
Casa ended by emphasising that “the effects of the ESF+ will be felt in your community, wherever you might be in Europe”.
How do you feel about the ESF+? Let us know in the comments