Swann welcomes Minister’s apology for Department’s ‘poor performance’ in handling of European Social Fund

Ulster Unionist MLA Robin Swann has welcomed an apology from the Employment and Learning Minister at this morning’s Stormont Committee meeting with regard to his department’s ‘poor performance’ in the handling of applications to the European Social Fund (ESF), which helps people train for the workplace.

Mr Swann, who is Chair of the Assembly’s Employment & Learning committee, said;

“I welcome Minister Farry’s apology for the way his Department has handled applications to the European Social Fund.

“I cannot argue with the Minister’s assessment that the incoming and outgoing rounds of ESF ‘have had their problems and challenges.’

“The Committee has been working on this issue for quite a while and has raised a number of concerns that have been brought to us by community and voluntary sector organisations.

“It is our experience that the ESF has been very problematic with a number of organisations having been placed under extreme pressures as they try to finalise staff and programmes. Some have not received any funding since December.

“While the Minister’s apology and acknowledgment is welcome, it is disappointing it has taken this length of time and the work of the Committee to reach this stage. These organisations now need to see their claims being processed quickly and effectively, and the Minister still has a great deal of work to do as he attempts to restore the credibility of the new ESF programme.”

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