European HELPDESK unlocks EU Funds for Social Services

On 16th April the HELPDESK project consortium, including the Social Employers, hosted over 90 participants from across Europe in Brussels to share the project’s tools that will help to unlock EU funds for social services. These tools are available to Managing Authorities, social service providers and Intermediate Bodies to facilitate access to and simplify the use of EU funds for Social Services.  

In the current EU funding period 2021-2027, the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) has a total budget of €100 billion. Of this, 25% is earmarked for social inclusion projects. These funds have great potential to support and invest in quality services and support, thereby invest in improving lives.

However, there is clear evidence that suggests that these funds are not being used effectively and social care and support services as well as local authorities report multiple difficulties in accessing EU funds. This is due to large administrative burden of handling EU-funded projects and a lack of knowledge among social services on how to get access to EU funds.  Furthermore, Managing Authorities face challenges in defining, measuring, and monitoring the social impact of such projects.

Within this context, the HELPDESK (Social sErviceS helpdesK on EU Funds) project was launched in May 2022. Co-funded by the European Union, the project aimed to raise awareness about ESF+, the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and other relevant EU funds, and how such funds can better support quality social services. It has also promoted exchange and cooperation between key partners to ensure that funding priorities are based on an assessment of social needs and target effective evidence-based social services interventions.

The project has brought together the experiences of a cross-European collaboration of 16 partners consisting of EU NGOs spanning nearly all social sectors and national stakeholders from 5 countries (Spain, Italy, Sweden, Belgian, Czech Republic). Over the last two years, the project has developed several key tools to support Managing Authorities, Intermediate Bodies and social service providers to access and effectively use EU funds.  

On 16th April the partnership hosted its closing conference in Brussels. The event was opened by European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit. Speaking via video, Commissioner Schmitt stressed the importance of social services in society to deliver vital support to citizens and highlighted the need to ensure that EU funding can be accessed by the entities that can provide such support. Commissioner Schmit praised the HELPDESK project for its remarkable work to help social services navigate the funding landscape, particularly its Facilitation Toolkit which could help to alleviate the administrative burden of ESF+ applications and implementation.

Moving forward, the 16 project partners committed to supporting the sustainability of the Helpdesk to optimise the use of EU funds for social inclusion and called on the European Commission to do the same. 

The Helpdesk outcomes:

  • Cross-country Report on the needs, opportunities, and challenges related to the use of ESF+ and ERDF funds by social services.
  • Country Fact sheets to help social services better understand the functioning of ESF+ and ERDF in each EU Member State and provide relevant contacts and information sources to access EU funds.
  • A Facilitation Toolkit for Social Services Projects to help Managing Authorities streamline the project management process and help services effectively respond to the administrative and technical challenges encountered at every stage of the project cycle in 10 languages. This tool can also be used by social service providers in their advocacy work toward Managing Authorities.
  • An e-training for Social Services, available in 6 languages, on how to successfully fund their EU projects from the start of the call process to beyond the final reporting period.
  • Policy Guidance for Managing Authorities, the European Commission and social service providers with recommendations and practical steps on how to improve access to EU Funds in 10 European languages.
  • Booklet of inspiring practices with examples of how social services have accessed and implemented EU-funded projects for innovative forms of support in 10 languages.


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