076/22 Publication of the national evaluation reports of the England 2014-2020 program of the European Social Fund (ESF)

who should read

ESF Program stakeholders, including: grant recipients, co-funders, ESF Managing Authority, Greater London Authority, Intermediate Bodies, Local Enterprise Partnership Zones, Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) projects.


This action note informs ESF program stakeholders regarding the publication of three research reports from the national evaluation of the England 2014-2020 program. The reports include the findings of ESF and YEI survey of outgoing participants, qualitative research on case study sites, and comprehensive evaluation of the impact of the YEI. They have been published as part of the Department for Work and Pensions research series.


The three evaluations of the National ESF The 2014-2020 program published on March 2, 2022 are:

These evaluation reports represent a substantial body of evidence on the effectiveness, impact and value for money of the first half of the 2014-2020 period. ESF program, including YEI.

The research was conducted over a 4-year period from 2016 to the end of 2019 and used a range of methods, including data analysis, participant surveys, in-depth interviews and focus groups with staff and project participants across the ESF Program investment priorities. the YEI The report also includes impact analysis and cost-benefit analysis to quantify the incremental benefits and value that the YEI provided against a counterfactual (such as, what benefits would have been realized beyond a world without YEI).

It should be noted that the research for the three evaluation reports was completed just before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and therefore the results do not reflect subsequent effects on the management and delivery of the ESF program and the labor market more generally.

Main findings

Overall, the evidence strongly suggests that the ESF The program has been effective so far in achieving its objectives of helping people get closer to or find employment, or be supported or progress in employment, with a focus on employment, skills and social inclusion measures.

Projects found the program to be very effective in its outreach activities to identify and engage participants, many of whom face additional disadvantages. Overall, program design and delivery was seen to be working well, thanks to effective local partnership and continuity from previous programs, although some projects felt that eligibility and evidence requirements had a negative impact on performance.

In terms of program outcomes, survey data shows that more than half (53%) of people were employed six months after leaving the program, compared to less than three in ten (29%) at the end of the program. Entrance. Among those who work to join ESFthree in ten (31%) experienced an improvement in their situation.

Improvements in soft skills such as confidence, motivation and communication skills following the reception ESF have been widely reported, and participation appears to have significantly increased participants’ optimism about finding employment.

One of the main reasons for the effectiveness of ESF was identified as the provision of personalized holistic support from a key worker that enables participants to overcome barriers that prevent them from working. Features such as flexibility of offering, having a consistent point of contact, and the time it takes to build relationships were cited as key differences between ESF funded programs and other supports that participants may have benefited from.

Specific Findings from the Youth Employment Initiative

the YEI seemed particularly effective with more than 44% of participants not in education, employment or training at the time of joining ESF, in employment six months after their departure and a further 16 per cent following studies or training. The analysis also shows that, compared to a similar group of unregistered youth YEI, the participants held an average job for 56 additional days during the twelve months following the support. This represents a moderate but positive social return on investment of between £1.50 and £1.55 per £1 spent, although this is probably a minimum estimate, with the true value being higher if the results are monitored over a longer period.

Future assessment

The Department for Work and Pensions ESF The assessment team will continue to gather evidence from England’s second half ESF 2014-2020 program to assess its overall impact.


The evaluation team would like to thank the projects, participants and managing authority staff who took part in the research; and the staff and teams at IFF Research and Ecorys who conducted the research.


This action note provides a summary of the main results of the three ESF evaluation reports published in March 2022 by the DWP ESF Evaluation team. If you want more information, you can access each of the reports through the website links provided above.

If you have any questions regarding this action note, please contact ESF[email protected]DWP.GOV.UK

Jacob L. Thornton