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Match funding and opt-in organisations

You will need to match European funding with equivalent sums from alternative sources. You can also apply via opt-in organisations that will match the funds for you.
  • Match funding
  • Opt-in organisations
  • Big Lottery Fund
  • The Department for Work and Pensions
  • The Skills Funding Agency
  • National Offender Management Service (NOMS)

Match funding

An element of co-financing is almost always required for EU funding applications. Organisations funded by the European Union often provide around 50 per cent of project costs. The proportion is reduced if a project is aimed at those in less developed or transition regions.

Match funding is required to be ‘clean’ – it cannot stem from alternative sources of EU funding. It must originate from the applicant’s funds, or a public or private source.

Using volunteer time as match funding

Under the 2014-2020 Programme, in England, volunteer time will be considered in certain circumstances for European Social Fund (ESF) projects not included within co-finance or opt-in arrangements (see below). Further information will be available in the Operational Programmes (OPs) of funds when formally agreed.

Opt-in organisations

The new opt-in model in the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) Growth Programme 2014-2020 provides Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) with opportunities to opt-in to the organisations below to deliver EU projects.

In the case of the ESF, 70 per cent of funds are distributed through three opt-in organisations and one national co-financing organisation.

  1. Big Lottery Fund’s BIG programme – for social inclusion and anti-poverty activities
  2. Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) – for employment
  3. Skills Funding Agency – for skills, traineeships and apprenticeships
  4. National Offender Management Service (NOMS) is the co-financing organisation supporting offenders and ex-offenders to re-enter the labour market.

This means that EU grants can be match-funded by these organisations so that the applicant does not have to source its own match funding.

The administration of programmes and application processes will be managed by each opt-in organisation and NOMS.

Note that voluntary organisations bidding for ESF projects outside opt-in arrangements will be required to provide match funding.

Big Lottery Fund

Big Lottery plans to match fund approximately £250m of ESF for social inclusion activities (Thematic Objective 9) through the Building Better Opportunities (BBO) programme.

Funding will be delivered in Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) areas in compliance with local priorities set out in the local ESIF strategies and Local Implementation Plans, and in line with activities listed in Operational Programmes.

Funding will be used to support projects ranging from improving employability for the most disadvantaged, helping those with multiple and complex needs, to improving financial literacy. For example, projects will provide specialist support to people living in a rural, isolated area, people who are homeless, have mental health issues, are living with a disability or overcoming addiction issues.

BBO Support

Ahead of the launch of the ESF 2014-2020 programme, Big Lottery awarded Programme Development Funds to organisations in 36 LEP areas. These organisations have been local contact points for ESF queries to raise awareness of funds and work with organisations to determine how best to address local priorities.

Find your local contact point and search for free events in your area.

There is also support available to potential applicants and grant holders to understand, plan for and deliver the additional requirements that come with managing European funding. For further information about this support visit

Applying for funding through the Big Lottery

There will be two stages to the Big Lottery application process. At the first stage, outline proposals will be submitted and if accepted into the second stage, organisations will submit detailed proposals.

There is the potential for additional support for organisations between the two stages from Big Lottery’s BIG programme.

The deadline for stage one applications closed on 03 August 2015. A second round of funding opportunities will be launched on 08 October 2015. Keep an eye on our funding opportunities page.

Go to the Big Lottery's website for more information

The Department for Work and Pensions

The DWP opt-in will support LEP areas with employment focused applications by providing single point of contacts at Jobcentre Plus offices.

Opportunities for funding will be available to legally constituted organisations including those from the voluntary sector. Information about funds will be advertised on the Contracts Finder website and Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU).

Voluntary sector organisations should bear in mind the DWP contracts have previously been awarded to large prime contractors and this may have disadvantaged smaller voluntary sector organisations. Details of the DWP Opt in offer have not yet been published.

It is still unclear when the first invitation to tenders will be issued.

View the presentation from DWP on their Opt-in offer (December 2014).

The Skills Funding Agency

The Skills Funding Agency (SFA) and its sub-contractors manage training and support through the European Social Fund (ESF). Services are for adults over 19 and young people between 14-19 who are not in education, employment and training (NEET), or who are at risk of falling within the NEET remit. SFA projects:

  • support those who are unemployed to re-enter the labour market
  • assist those with low skills
  • engage with difficult to reach individuals.

38 Local Enterprise Partnership areas have opted into their service. The total amount of ESF requested in the applications is £678 million, which the SFA will match.

Once SFA receive the Funding Agreements, they intend to schedule the launch of the themed specifications as follows;

  • Community Grants
  • NEET
  • IAG
  • London Gangs
  • ILM
  • Apprenticeship /Traineeship Hubs
  • Skills Support for Unemployed
  • Skills Support for Employees
  • Skills Support for Employers

The SFA plan to launch their first procurement round in the autumn.

The Register

Organisations wishing to tender for funding to provide training and skills services through the SFA must be on its Register.

Find out how to apply to the Register.

See the current list of organisations on the Register (December 2014).

View a presentation of the SFA involvement in the ESIF 2014-2020 Programme (December 2014).

Read more about the SFA and ESF.

Community grants

The SFA also mange ESF Community grants through local coordinating bodies. These are small grants of up to £15,000 available to voluntary and community organisations to support those furthest from the labour market. More information on Community Grants.

National Offender Management Service (NOMS)

NOMS supports offenders and ex-offenders to access mainstream provision or employment by addressing barriers to work via contracted prime providers and sub-providers..

£131m of ESF has been allocated to NOMS in the 2014-2020 Programme. The focus of the programme is to enhance an offender’s employability and increase opportunities to access mainstream provision, the overall aim being the reduction of re-offending. Funds will be used to support hard to reach groups including women, older people, clients with mental health problems, troubled families, offenders from ethnic groups and young people.

Prime Providers

Four prime providers will be delivering nine contracts across England, via in-house services and supply chains which will deliver a range of specialist provision.

The providers are:

  • Career Connect – North West
  • Pertemps People Development Group (PPDG) – North East, Yorkshire and East Midlands
  • Ixion Holdings Ltd – West Midlands and South East
  • The Shaw Trust – London, East of England and South West

The programme is due to launch in July 2015 when NOMS is expected to seek prime and sub-contractors to deliver services to offenders.

To find NOMS funding opportunities go the government’s Contracts Finder

View the presentation from NOMS on ESF (December 2014)

Read the latest stakeholder briefing form NOMS (July 2015)