£6m extension for South Yorkshire ESF Pathways Programme until December 2023

Written by Opportunity Sheffield

Sheffield City Council’s flagship employment support programme, ESF Pathways, has been granted an extension until December 2023 following a successful funding bid.

The programme, designed and delivered by Opportunity Sheffield – the Council’s employment and skills service – in conjunction with Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council, Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council, Doncaster Children’s Services Trust, Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council and Sheffield Futures, will receive an additional £3.6 million from the European Social Fund (ESF) matched by £2.4 million in funding from South Yorkshire local authority partners and Sheffield Futures.

Since May 2019, the DWP-commissioned programme has supported thousands of unemployed and economically inactive residents of South Yorkshire with multiple and often complex barriers to participation to engage with, move closer to and enter the labour market.

Significantly, the programme can support out-of-work individuals who do not engage with the welfare system and, as such, cannot access mainstream DWP/ Jobcentre Plus provision including the Restart, JETS and Kickstart programmes.

The ESF Pathways extension will provide at least 3,021 new places on the programme across South Yorkshire, including 1,515 in Sheffield.

The projects have targets to support a minimum of 1,760 people with disabilities (998 in Sheffield), 1,590 members of black and minority ethnic (BAME) communities (1,060 in Sheffield), 965 people aged 50+, 121 young lone parents, 244 over-50s, 291 young people living in jobless households and 550 young people lacking basic skills.

As a new ESF Pathways funding partner, Sheffield Futures will support 90 young adult care leavers (aged 18-24), including 27 with disabilities and 14 who are from BAME backgrounds.

Targeted support for unemployed and economically inactive residents of Sheffield

The £6 million ESF Pathways extension comprises the £2.9 million Ambition and £3.1 million Pathways to Success employment projects, which operate across South Yorkshire, overseen by Sheffield City Council as the accountable body.

By December 2023, these projects will have engaged more than 8,700 individuals across the region, including at least 4,350 in Sheffield, where Opportunity Sheffield commissions and supports a network of locality-based voluntary and community sector organisations to deliver the project.

Subcontractors are appointed via competitive tender to provide specialist keyworker services targeted at disadvantaged groups including ex-offenders, lone parents, homeless people, care leavers, BAME communities, 18-24s and those with disability barriers (mental health conditions, learning difficulties and disabilities, physical disabilities).

Opportunity Sheffield also commissions wraparound provision for programme participants, including debt support, interview clothing, solution-based brief therapy and a suite of behavioural change programmes.

The ESF Pathways project extension bridges a critical transition period for organisations currently delivering employment-related support to post-Covid funding and delivery arrangements from 2024 onwards.

Achievements to date

Between 2019 and 2021, ESF Pathways has proven significantly more successful than Results targets set out in the original funding agreement.

To date, 4,820 people have been supported by the projects as a whole, including 2,320 on Ambition (including 1,005 in Sheffield) and 2,500 on Pathways to Success (including 1,800 in Sheffield).

On Pathways to Success, 780 have progressed into paid employment (670 in Sheffield) and a further 285 into substantial education or training (185 in Sheffield). 72% of approved leavers have left with an improved labour market situation, with 49% successfully progressing into employment.

On Ambition, 420 have progressed into paid employment (197 in Sheffield) and a further 485 into substantial education or training (195 in Sheffield).

More than eight in ten (81%) approved leavers from Ambition Priority 1.2 (Youth) have left to a positive destination with three-fifths (61%) re-engaging with education or training as a result of their participation.

On the Priority 1.4 (Adult) project, two-thirds (67%) of approved leavers from Priority 1.4 (Adult) have left with an improved labour market situation, with almost half (48%) taking up employment.