1. Introduction and plan summary

In April 2022 the UK government published the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF or the Fund) prospectus. This prospectus set out the vision of UKSPF to support local places in every part of the UK, investing in 3 priorities; Communities and Place, Supporting Local Business and People and Skills. The UKSPF is central to UK government’s ambition to level up the whole of the United Kingdom, leading to higher wages, and greater opportunities.

Within Northern Ireland, the UK Shared Prosperity Fund provides £126,854,145 of new funding for local investment to March 2025. This Investment Plan details how Northern Ireland’s overall allocation will be spent and the impact that we expect it to have. The Fund will help places right across Northern Ireland achieve enhanced outcomes, by:

  • Supporting local businesses and entrepreneurs to innovate, thrive and grow, further unleashing the potential of the private sector;
  • Supporting individuals furthest from the labour market and by moving more people into work with the right skills; and
  • Investing in the places where people live, restoring a sense of community, local pride and belonging.

We have worked closely with local partners to develop this plan and we will invest in line with its content, drawing on insight and advice of key partners to ensure that the selected projects represent value for money and deliver for the people of Northern Ireland.

The plan is a high-level statement of:

  • The strategic and policy context in which the Fund operates; where and how UKSPF will be targeted, taking account of Northern Ireland’s challenges and opportunities.
  • The interventions that represent the most appropriate solutions for each of the 3 investment priorities.
  • How and when the selected interventions will be delivered, including proposed routes to market and scale of delivery.

The plan has been designed to support the leading needs and opportunities for Northern Ireland, in particular addressing high levels of economic inactivity; improving the level of entrepreneurship and innovation activity; and a need to engender pride in place.

The funding mix

The overall mix of funding between the investment priorities over the life of the Fund is presented in Table 1 below and has been informed by our assessment of need and demand, including the pattern of other funding.

Table 1: Overall funding mix (excluding fund administration)

Investment priority Communities and Place Supporting Local Business People and Skills Multiply
Capital (£M) 12.3 10    
Revenue (£M) 2.8 28.7 47.2 9*
Total (£M) 15.1 38.7 47.2 9*

*This allocation for Multiply includes £2 million to support economic inactivity support under People and Skills. Further discussions regarding the optimal use of the remaining Multiply allocation of £12 million are planned.

Supported activity

Our plan focuses on several key activities, our cornerstone interventions, to maximise the impact of the funding available, this includes:

  • A programme of support to help economically inactive people move towards and secure sustainable employment;
  • A joined-up service for entrepreneurs seeking to start a business, and for businesses to sustain and grow;
  • Targeted support to encourage smaller businesses to use innovation and to become innovation-active;
  • Support to encourage more people to develop numeracy skills, enhancing their life chances and economic potential; and
  • A locally attuned package of community and place interventions, focused on green space, active travel, community and neighbourhood infrastructure and local arts, culture and heritage activities.

These cornerstone interventions will also be supported by a range of other sectoral and skills activities set out in Sections 2 – 4 below.

Maximising funding impact

DLUHC will continue to work with other funders and partners where appropriate, to maximise complementarity and to build on existing and planned provision. We will regularly review the implementation of the plan to take account of prevailing socio-economic circumstances. This may result in changes to delivery or the focus of the fund as a result.

In particular, further discussions to agree the optimal use of the remaining Multiply allocation – which totals £12m – are planned.

2. Supporting Local Business

The ‘Supporting Local Business’ investment priority aims to support Northern Ireland’s efforts to develop as a globally competitive region and a location of choice to invest, work and live. Our overarching goal of investment is to:

Discern a shift in the pay, employment and productivity performance of supported companies, as well as support more people to move into self-employment through new approaches that stimulate enterprise, and foster innovation and productivity. To do so we plan to:

Provide assistance to over 8,000 potential entrepreneurs to become enterprise ready.

Support over 5,000 enterprises to innovate or grow across a range of sectors.

Context

Northern Ireland is predominantly a ‘small business’ economy, with the highest concentration of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and microbusinesses of all regions of the UK: 98% of its firms employ fewer than 20 people, while 95% employ fewer than 105. Whilst the regional economy remains more concentrated in agriculture, construction and manufacturing compared with the rest of the UK, it is also seeing new specific areas of growth in sectors such as advanced manufacturing, life and health sciences, and digital/ICT, among others. There is much to be optimistic about in terms of future growth potential in Northern Ireland.

However, it has been a long-standing feature of the Northern Ireland economy that its productivity and other key metrics remain low relative to the rest of the UK.  Low productivity is central to Northern Ireland’s poor economic performance, and addressing it is key to improving the prospects for growth and prosperity. Many of the drivers of NI’s productivity gap are well understood, including its high rates of economic inactivity, that will be addressed through the People and Skills investment priority, as well as lower levels of innovation activity and entrepreneurship.

Strategic alignment with Northern Ireland policies, strategies and complementary funding

The Northern Ireland Draft Programme for Government sets out ambitions to have an ‘economy which is globally competitive, regionally balanced and carbon neutral.’ Alongside this sits a suite of other relevant strategies and policies, such as A 10X Economy – Northern Ireland’s Decade of Innovation, as well as the draft Green Growth Strategy for Northern Ireland. UKSPF will invest in alignment with these strategies with a focus on support for the entrepreneurial ecosystem, increased investment in R&D, targeted interventions for high value add sectors, and investment in green growth activity.

UKSPF sits as part of a much wider funding landscape, which we have considered when deciding upon the most appropriate mix of interventions, their timing and routes to market.

Relevant to ‘Supporting Local Business’ investment priority is the Peace Plus Funding Programme, which represents funding of over €1bn across 6 themes for the 2021-27 programme period. We recognise that Peace Plus has a distinct focus, however there are a number of its activities that are relevant to ‘Supporting Local Business’. We will maintain dialogue with the Special EU Programmes Body to maximise alignment and minimise duplication with these activities.

The Northern Ireland Executive, through Invest Northern Ireland and other bodies, plays a significant role in supporting local businesses in Northern Ireland. Our proposed interventions are designed to complement this provision.

Other relevant funding streams include the New Deal for Northern Ireland, which represents £400 million of UK government funding aimed at boosting economic growth and increasing Northern Ireland’s competitiveness. As plans for further funding develop, we will work closely with the Northern Ireland Office to ensure that our funds complement one another.

UK government has also committed £70 million for access to finance provision in Northern Ireland, led by the British Business Bank and NI partners. In delivering UKSPF we will encourage more businesses to explore business finance as a viable financing option, thereby taking steps to reduce grant dependency.

Challenges and needs

Entrepreneurship

The rate of registered business births and deaths in a typical year – often used as a measure for enterprise and competition – is lower in Northern Ireland than anywhere else in the UK.[footnote 1] Alongside this, the Total Entrepreneurial Activity (TEA) rate is 5.4% compared with the UK average of 7.5%. While the number of individuals in self-employment has increased by 15% since 2004, this is much lower than the UK’s overall growth rate of 40% over the same period.[footnote 2] Further efforts to increase the level of entrepreneurship and self-employment, create new businesses and introduce competition into the Northern Ireland economy are therefore required.

Significant gender disparity also exists between self-employment rates[footnote 3]with over 50,000 fewer self-employed women (4.9%) compared to men (14.3%) in the labour market. The female TEA rate in 2020 was 4.5% compared to a male rate of 10.1% and is the lowest in the UK. Given Northern Ireland’s lower entrepreneurial track record there is an economic imperative to support females to start and scale a business.

UK wide research also provides an insight into the specific barriers faced by entrepreneurs with a disability. Whilst people with a disability are more likely to start a business (than people without a disability), they face additional barriers when accessing support for their business, underscoring the need for targeted support for this cohort.

The level of innovation active businesses

Innovation drives stable and continuous growth in productivity through ‘the development of new ideas, products and processes and their adoption and diffusion across the economy’[footnote 4].

The UK Innovation Survey 2021 shows an improvement in the percentage of innovation active businesses in Northern Ireland compared with 2019, increasing from 32% of businesses actively innovating, to 38%. However, this remains the lowest score of all UK regions. Moreover, a higher proportion of large companies (with more than 250 employees) were innovation active (46%) than SMEs (10-249 employees, 38%), underlining the need for concerted effort to support SMEs, as a ‘small business economy’.

In addition, measures to accelerate the diffusion and take up of new technologies and innovations, particularly in key sectors such as advanced manufacturing, are needed.

Ecosystem configuration

UUEPC/ERC research[footnote 5] highlights a range of challenges with the current entrepreneurial eco-system. These challenges include:

1. Gaps in provision across this pipeline, including at the pre-start-up phase and support to help businesses navigate their growth journey and transition between support from councils and Invest NI;

2. A need for greater alignment between the various providers of business support and a more tailored approach for businesses, from pre-start-up to scaling; and

3. A disproportionate focus on grant-based solutions.

Opportunities for UKSPF investment

Whilst not unique to Northern Ireland, the above challenges do create an opportunity for UKSPF to support the development of a more effective ecosystem of support for businesses, in alignment with other economic priorities including the need for greater levels of innovation, particularly among SMEs. This can help bridge the productivity gap between Northern Ireland and other economies in future years. We will target UKSPF funding to focus on the following:

Enterprise and Innovation

DLUHC wants to ensure those with the motivation to start a new business or to expand an existing business can access appropriate support measures, through a coherent and aligned system of support. Local councils, are primed to develop such a system, drawing on UKSPF support. DLUHC also wants to see businesses of all sizes embrace innovation and new green technologies. UKSPF can contribute to this by investing in R&D grants, concept testing and acceleration, and wider knowledge exchange activities to foster a more innovative culture, particularly within SMEs.

Strategic sectors

Northern Ireland is experiencing promising signs of growth in higher value-add sectors with global growth potential like cyber security, fintech and advanced manufacturing. The Northern Ireland business community has a wealth of expertise to share. UKSPF presents an opportunity to harness this experience through interventions that bring together business partners across various sectors and sub-sectors, to share knowledge and help stimulate growth and innovation. In particular, there are opportunities to provide targeted support to high growth sectors as well as sectors that play an important role in the vitality of a place, such as tourism, retail or leisure.

Manufacturing

With centres of excellence that continuously innovate, Northern Ireland’s advanced manufacturing sector and wider manufacturing base is also punching above its weight. While representing 6% of the NI business base[footnote 6], it employs 11% of the workforce and generates 15% of GVA[footnote 7]. UKSPF represents an opportunity to build on success through targeted support for industrial digital technologies and wider tech adoption for manufacturers through Made Smarter activity.

Social economy

The social economy sector creates the opportunity to achieve growth while achieving social goals and support marginalised communities and people. Figures in the Re-Balancing of the NI Economy Report 2019 show that there are over 800 social enterprises in Northern Ireland, generating an annual turnover of £980 million and providing employment to almost 25,000 people. Through UKSPF there is an opportunity to develop tailored provision for this sector. This support will allow further growth of the social economy, encouraging social entrepreneurs to start a business, and existing social enterprises to scale through engagement with and advice from the wider business community.

Net Zero, and supporting green growth

There is also a clear opportunity through UKSPF to support the development of a green economy in Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland Executive’s draft Green Growth Strategy for Northern Ireland and 10x Economy vision, set out the opportunity to grow a ‘greener and sustainable economy’. These strategies outline the need to undertake transformational change to a new economic and societal model.

The UK government’s emerging plans for seizing the economic opportunities from Net Zero cover manufacturing and construction as well as opportunities to produce low carbon technologies and hydrogen-based products. Northern Ireland is establishing itself as a ‘hub’ in developing hydrogen systems and building on this momentum will give NI the greatest possible chance of establishing itself as a world-leader with resulting growth in skilled jobs and trade.

Through investment in the Council-led Entrepreneurship Support Service, Innovation and R&D, as well as more targeted green growth support, UKSPF can help businesses harness these opportunities.

Supporting local business interventions

In light of the challenges and opportunities identified above, the following interventions, selected from the Interventions list for Northern Ireland, are considered to be the most appropriate within the Northern Ireland context:

  • NI18 – Supporting Made Smarter Adoption: Providing tailored expert advice, matched grants and leadership training to enable manufacturing SMEs to adopt industrial digital technology solutions.
  • NI19 – Increasing investment in research and development at the local level. Investment to support the diffusion of innovation knowledge and activities, in both economically important and emerging areas. Support the commercialisation of ideas.
  • NI20 – Research and development grants supporting the development of innovative products and services.
  • NI23 – Strengthening local entrepreneurial ecosystems and supporting businesses at all stages of their development to start, sustain, grow and innovate, including through local networks.
  • NI26 – Support for growing the local social economy, including community businesses, cooperatives and social enterprises.
  • NI29 – Supporting decarbonisation and improving the natural environment whilst growing the local economy.

We will work with project deliverers to secure the following key outcomes:

  • Enterprises adopting new to the firm technologies or processes
  • Increased amount of investment
  • Organisations engaged in knowledge transfer activity
  • New to market products
  • New enterprises created
  • Greenhouse gas reductions
  • R&D active enterprises
  • Enterprises adopting new or improved products or services
  • Jobs created
  • Enterprises engaged in new markets
  • Improved productivity

Our approach to realising delivery of these interventions and their linked outcomes is set out below, with a detailed breakdown of funding profile, activity and linked outcomes presented in Appendix 1.

The delivery approach

We intend to invest in 6 core areas, outlined below.

1. Entrepreneurship Support Service

There are well evidenced strategic/policy imperatives for supporting businesses at all stages of development in Northern Ireland. Through our engagement with local councils, the Northern Ireland Department for the Economy, business representatives, the social enterprise sector, and the UKSPF Partnership Group, we recognise entrepreneurship support services to be a cornerstone investment priority for UKSPF in Northern Ireland. We have explored the local councils’ vision for future entrepreneurship support and its accompanying evidence base and recognise the opportunity for UKSPF to support this foundational piece of the business support landscape.

Drawing on UKSPF funding, and matched with council funds, and business contributions, the project will be an ‘entrepreneurship service’ – a set of connected enterprise support activities, where clients can utilise support elements at varying stages on their enterprise journey. It is intended to counteract the confusion and ‘busyness’ of the current business support landscape, which includes multiple programme offers, often with different start/end dates, and simplify the customer interface with business support.

Four elements representing a continuum of support from pre-start support, through to start-up and the growth journey thereafter are proposed:

Engage – Focusing on identifying individuals with entrepreneurial aspirations, as well as encouraging people to consider starting a business as a viable option for them, drawing on partnerships with organisations already active in this space.

Foundation – This element of the project will focus on more intensive support geared to establishment of ‘employer enterprises’ (Higher Value/ VAT+ Potential starts). Key activities will include business planning, a programme of masterclasses, 1 to 1 advice to refine business plan, support with access to finance and further peer support/networks.

Enabling growth – This element of the project is aimed at stimulating high growth. All businesses receiving support through this element are expected to be ‘employer enterprises’. They will receive differentiated and tailored support focused on cohorts such as SME start-up enterprise founders, who can be the life blood of high streets and local economies; and innovation-driven enterprises with a strong aspiration to grow, with a focus on regional/ export markets. Support would include; access to ‘live’ masterclasses, post-start mentoring, connections to sources of finance and ‘grow-on’ accommodation; and peer support/ networks.

Accelerated scaling – This element entails account management support for later stage acceleration (for start-ups typically over 2 years old).

Funding for grants to augment foundation and enabling growth and enable enterprises to explore issues in further depth, as well as implement advice recommendations is also proposed.

Route to market

DLUHC plans to commission a lead council to manage the service on behalf of the 11 councils. This will support systematic collaboration across all council areas on business support services for which they have policy responsibility. It augments the councils’ core funding and start up offer, creating a simpler, joined up interface with businesses. Services will be attuned to meet the needs of each council area, including demographics, urban/rural needs, sectoral priorities and local partnership arrangements.

We expect the service to include discrete support for scaling social economy businesses, as well as targeted activity for under-represented groups in the business base such as women and entrepreneurs with a disability, responding to the challenges set out above.

Timing

This project is expected to commence in Q1 of 2023-24 and run until March 2025

Funding

The project is expected to utilise £12 million for the main service, with a further £5 million for grants to enterprises.

Geographic scale of delivery

This project will be delivered at a NI-wide scale, with delivery attuned to needs across each council area.


2. Investment in R&D and Innovation

We recognise the need to assist more SMEs to become innovation active. Comprising a range of activities, we propose a mix of lower and higher intensity support for ‘new to innovation’ businesses, as well as those that are taking the next step towards R&D. A strong focus on growth sectors, as well as green growth will be required, as well as referral relationships with the Entrepreneurship Support Service.

We propose to deliver this activity through 3 linked activities:

Small scale grants, such as innovation vouchers. These introductory grants can complement wider innovation support, providing enterprises with the option of exploring innovation before moving onto more intensive innovation and R&D activity.

Knowledge base/business exchange activity. This represents the next step on an innovation journey and can introduce enterprises to longer-term engagement with the knowledge base.

Proof of concept and acceleration activity. This represents an opportunity for businesses with new products or ideas to explore them in depth, taking early steps towards commercialisation.

Routes to market

These activities can all draw on established delivery methods either through commissioning or competition, tailored as required for UKSPF purposes.

Timing

Activities will commence in 2023-24 and run until March 2025.

Funding

Small scale grants are expected to utilise around £1.65 million.

Knowledge exchange activity is expected to utilise around £2.4 million.

Proof of concept and acceleration activity, reflecting the greater intensity of support, is expected to utilise around £4 million.

Geographic scale of delivery

These activities will be delivered at a NI-wide scale.


In addition to the projects set out above, we propose to run project competitions to bring forward proposals for the following activities:

3. Made smarter

We envisage a discrete service for manufacturing enterprises across NI to access health checks, digital transformation workshops, guidance on industrial digital technologies, and leadership development. It is estimated that up to 10% of NI’s manufacturing businesses over a 2-year period could be supported. We are estimating that around 25% of businesses assisted could also benefit from grants to secure additional expertise or implement advice.

Timing

A competition is proposed during early 2023-24. We would anticipate activity starting in 2023-24 and continuing into 2024-25.

Funding

We have indicatively allocated £3.55 million for this activity


4. Wider sectoral support

Networking and specialist advice for growth sectors and sectors important for employment or vitality of place (such as tourism, retail and leisure) across NI. This will be subject to further development to determine the appropriate focus and timing of support.

Timing
Reflecting the funding profile, a competition is proposed during 2023-24 to select activity for late 2023-24 and 2024-25.

Funding
We have indicatively allocated £5.85 million for this activity.


5. Discrete green growth activity

Capital and revenue funding, for businesses across NI to take advantage of green growth opportunities, as well as respond to energy challenges. Specialist support may encompass advice, as well as grant funding, augmenting the wider Supporting Local Business offer. This will be subject to further development to determine the appropriate focus and timing of support.

Timing
A competition is proposed during 2023-24 to select activity for 2024-25 only.

Funding
We have indicatively allocated £4.25 million for this activity.


Please note – These plans are indicative, and subject to change. We propose to establish a sub-group of the Northern Ireland Partnership Group to provide advice and support in the specification of these activities. Where practical, this will involve other funders to maximise alignment and complementarity.

While we do not currently anticipate standalone interventions outside of those listed in this section and those projects already identified, there remains the scope to integrate elements of other interventions into the generalised support we propose. For example, whilst separate support for retail and service sectors is not anticipated, we expect that these sectors will form a key delivery element of the Council-led Entrepreneurship Support Service and may also benefit from specific sectoral support. Supporting businesses to explore and expand their exporting capability also remains an important priority and we propose that this will be delivered through the Council-led Entrepreneurship Support Service as well as funded innovation/acceleration activity.

3. People and Skills

The ‘People and Skills’ investment priority aims to harness Northern Ireland’s growth potential by investing in activity that will support individuals to enter and progress in employment and fulfil their personal potential. Our overarching goal is:

By 2025, we aim to see people supported through our interventions gaining and sustaining employment and an increase in their skills levels. This will allow more people across Northern Ireland to fulfil their potential and progress in their careers. To do so we plan to:

Invest in provision that helps more than 20,000 people to engage in support to become economically active, or to improve their life chances through basic and life skills and retaining support.

Context

If Northern Ireland is to compete globally and if life chances are to improve, we need to ensure that individuals have the necessary skills to find work, sustain employment and progress in their careers. To do so, requires continued investment in both basic and life skills.

While Northern Ireland has a vibrant education sector, with world class universities, colleges and schools, there are systemic issues which underlie Northern Ireland’s communities and economy. High levels of economic inactivity have affected Northern Ireland for many years and contribute towards its lower levels of productivity.

A greater focus is therefore needed on supporting people to progress into sustainable and worthwhile employment, with the necessary skills – including numeracy.

Strategic alignment with Northern Ireland policies, strategies and complementary funding

UKSPF sits as part of a much wider funding landscape, which we have taken account of when deciding upon the most appropriate mix of interventions, their timing and routes to market.

As this investment plan has been developed, we have given consideration to the scope of a range of strategies and plans including, but not limited to: NI Programme for Government draft Outcomes Framework 2021; Skills for a 10x Economy – A Draft Skills Strategy for Northern Ireland; Community Plans; Local Development Plans; Generating our Success – the Northern Ireland strategy for youth training and the Active Ageing Strategy.

Complementary funding streams and provision include:

  • The Department for Communities, the Department for the Economy and other bodies, play a leading role in supporting people to secure employment notably through the provision of job coaching and wider support for unemployed people. This has been complemented by European Social Fund (ESF) investment in economic inactivity and apprenticeships support, which is now drawing to a close. We also recognise the critical role that local Labour Market Partnerships play.
  • Skills provision, including mainstream provision delivered through Further Education colleges and Universities.
  • The National Lottery Community Fund, the SEUPB via Peace Plus and third-party funders are also an important part of the funding landscape, especially for the voluntary and community sector.
  • The New Deal for Northern Ireland which represents £400m of UKG funding aimed at boosting economic growth and increasing Northern Ireland’s competitiveness.
  • City and Growth Deals represent a significant funding stream for Northern Ireland. They are aimed at helping to harness additional investment, create new jobs and speed up inclusive economic growth. Employability and skills is one of the core objectives across City and Growth Deals in Northern Ireland.

DLUHC will continue to maintain dialogue with stakeholders to maximise alignment and minimise duplication with mainstream provision and funded programmes, as well as take measures to continue investment in key activities formerly funded by ESF.

Challenges and needs

Economic inactivity

Northern Ireland has high levels of economic inactivity, with around 28.3% of the 16-64 age group economically inactive in April – June 2022. This is significantly higher than the levels of the UK as a whole over the same period which stood at 21.4%[footnote 8].

This high prevalence of economic inactivity is a significant barrier to a well-functioning labour market; it dampens growth, aggravates the shortage of workers in key sectors, and negatively impacts the quality of life of those who are economically inactive.

There is also asymmetric need across Northern Ireland, with some communities and some cohorts affected more than most:

1. In its in-depth topic paper on economic inactivity from 2018 (PDF, 1.20MB), NISRA (Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency) noted that the economic inactivity rate is characterised by high levels of inactivity among those with a long-term health condition or disability (32%)[footnote 9] compared to the UK average.

2. The economic inactivity rate is not uniform, with the highest levels of economic inactivity in Derry City and Strabane (34.1%), Belfast (32.1%) and Newry, Mourne and Down (31.0%).

3. More women are economically inactive in Northern Ireland at 30.7% compared to 24.6%[footnote 10] in the UK as a whole.

Young people not in employment, education or training (NEET)

The NEET rate for young people in Northern Ireland has typically been higher over time than in the UK as a whole. However, this has been steadily decreasing to below the UK average for the whole of Northern Ireland (7.5% from April to June 2022 compared to 9.8% in the UK)[footnote 11]. Yet, this is not consistent across Northern Ireland, and pockets of higher levels of NEET young people exist – for example in Causeway Coast and Glens the rate has increased in recent years.

Unemployment and underemployment

The Northern Ireland unemployment rate for June 2022 stood at 2.7%, with the UK unemployment rate estimated at 3.8%, although this should be viewed alongside higher levels of economic inactivity overall. In addition, employment among people with a disability people is considerably lower in Northern Ireland than in other parts of the UK. Only 35% of working age people with a disability in Northern Ireland are employed, compared to 42% in Scotland, 47% in Wales and 50% in England.[footnote 12]. In Northern Ireland, 27% of people with a disability are in poverty compared to 19% without a disability. This is in part due to the high levels of economic inactivity in this group, and there is a need to support those who are not participating in the labour market to seek and maintain employment through dedicated pathways and support.

Skills

A higher share of working age adults in Northern Ireland possesses no qualifications than anywhere in the UK (12.6%, or around 1 in 8, nearly twice the UK rate of 6.6%)[footnote 13]. Among people with a disability, it is estimated that 27.5% have no qualification compared to 10.9% without a disability. This poses a major barrier to employment and earning potential for much of the population. It also carries detrimental effects for businesses who are not able to source the skilled workers needed.

Northern Ireland has had a consistently low lifelong participation rate in education. In 2020 the figure was 18.2%, compared to 25.3% in the UK. Participation of those aged 50 to 64 was lower than younger age groups, and participation for men was lower than women[footnote 14].

Adult numeracy

Across the UK, adult numeracy is below the OECD average. In the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) additional results published in 2019, Northern Ireland scored 35.89% of adults surveyed with Level 2 proficiency in numeracy or below, worse than the OECD average of 32.97% and below the UK average of 33.31%. PIAAC reports on adult numeracy have demonstrated that success in the labour market and pay levels are tied to levels of literacy and numeracy.

Opportunities for UKSPF investment in people and skills

Investing in People and Skills is an opportunity to improve life chances and support those furthest from the labour market and support the most vulnerable in society, as well as giving those who are in work with opportunities to develop new skills and enhance their career prospects.

Economic inactivity support

Economic inactivity remains persistently higher in Northern Ireland compared with the UK as a whole. We have identified a lead opportunity for UKSPF to support vital services and address this issue. There are opportunities to think creatively and reimagine support for economically inactive people and create lasting impact.

Alongside this, we also see a clear opportunity to invest in adult numeracy support for these cohorts, in community settings and as an integral part of the economic inactivity offer.

Skills

A barrier to employment, and to progressing in employment for local people is the ability to skill-up and seek higher paid, or alternative employment. The People and Skills investment priority presents us with an opportunity to build skills for growth and enhance the range of skills support available. This includes through Multiply (adult numeracy provision) and basic and intermediate level skills.

There are opportunities to align support with growth sectors and those with skills shortages, in order to maximise the life chances for Northern Ireland’s people and economic impact overall. Equally, there is scope to explore alignment with City and Growth Deal interventions, and wider Supporting Local Business interventions.

Adult numeracy – Multiply

In order to support people to gain employment and develop their skills, there are also opportunities to invest in adult numeracy interventions that build on the demand-led essential skills provision funded by the Department for the Economy.

People and skills interventions

In light of the challenges and opportunities identified above, the following interventions, selected from the Interventions list for Northern Ireland, are considered to be the most appropriate within the Northern Ireland context:

  • NI33 – Employment support for economically inactive people; incorporating:
    • NI43 – Courses designed to increase confidence with numbers for those needing the first steps towards formal qualifications.
    • NI44 – Courses for parents wanting to increase their numeracy skills in order to help their children and help with their own progression.
    • NI45 – Courses aimed at prisoners, those recently released from prison or on temporary licence.
    • NI46 – Courses aimed at people who can’t apply for certain jobs because of lack of numeracy skills and/or to encourage people to upskill in order to access a certain job/career.
    • NI50 – Courses designed to help people use numeracy to manage their money.
    • NI51 – Courses aimed at those 19 or over that are leaving, or have just left, the care system.
    • NI52 – Activities, courses or provision developed in partnership with community organisations and other partners aimed at engaging the hardest to reach learners – for example, those not in the labour market or other groups identified locally as in need.
  • NI34 – Courses including basic skills (digital, English, maths and ESOL), and life skills provision (where not being met through Northern Ireland Executive Departments provision).
  • NI37 – Tailored support to help people in employment, who are not supported by mainstream provision to address barriers to accessing education and training courses
  • NI47 – Additional relevant maths modules embedded into other vocational courses.
  • NI48 – Innovative programmes delivered together with employers – including courses designed to cover specific numeracy skills required in the workplace.
  • NI49 – New intensive and flexible courses targeted at people without Level 2 maths.

We will work with project delivers to secure the following key outcomes:

  • Number of people in employment, including self-employment, following support
  • Number of people sustaining employment for 6 months
  • Number of people gaining qualifications, licences and skills
  • Increased number of adults achieving in maths qualifications and courses up to, and including, Level 2 equivalents
  • Increased number of people with basic skills (English, maths, digital and ESOL)

The delivery approach

Our approach to realising delivery of these interventions is set out below, with a detailed breakdown of funding profile, activity and linked outcomes presented in Appendix 1.

1. Economic inactivity support

Our assessment, following engagement with partners, is that investment from the People and Skills investment priority can be best used to provide ongoing support to address economic inactivity in Northern Ireland. This will be our lead intervention for People and Skills and is expected to result in a range of projects across Northern Ireland.

Delivery in community settings will be critical to accessing and supporting economically inactive people. We plan to continue to work with the community and voluntary sector, which has delivered significant activity in this field.

While continuing to support a wide range of provision, including established models of delivery where appropriate, we want to encourage creativity and new ways to support economically inactive people and create lasting impact on their life chances. We will specifically prioritise projects that can demonstrate good potential to secure sustainable, good quality employment outcomes for people, including starting a business. This can also include ongoing support to sustain employment where this is necessary.

We are particularly interested in collaborations between delivery organisations, which can achieve scale efficiencies, enhance value for money outcomes, provide flexibility benefits for deliverers and reduce duplication/complexity for end users. We would also encourage new collaborations with employers/sector bodies and close alignment with start up support.

Projects which address, among others, the following groups are likely to be required:

  • people aged over 50,
  • people with a disability and health condition,
  • women,
  • people from an ethnic minority,
  • young people not in education, employment or training and
  • people with multiple complex needs (homeless, care leavers, ex/offenders, people with substance abuse problems and victims of domestic violence).

We expect there to be a range of holistic approaches to addressing the barriers that people face in becoming economically active. Alongside this, we also see a clear opportunity to deliver adult numeracy support for these cohorts, in community settings and as an integral part of the economic inactivity offer. This recognises that while colleges are a key delivery route for current essential skills provision, community-based numeracy interventions widen the reach, connecting with the hardest to reach learners.

Routes to market

We plan to select projects via a project competition.

Timing

The project competition is anticipated to take place from Winter 2022 and conclude in Spring 2023.

We anticipate supported projects commencing around April 2023.

Funding

£40 million, plus up to £2 million from the Multiply allocation, has been indicatively allocated to this intervention over the fund’s lifetime reflecting the need for continued and strong provision.

Geographic scale of delivery

These activities will be delivered through a project competition which could result in local, city-region or Northern Ireland wide provision. We would expect a focus on places with higher proportions of economically inactive people.


2. Skills support for economically active and employed people

Alongside core economic inactivity support, we also propose to support people who are economically active (those in work or seeking employment) to access basic skills and reskilling. This may include additional provision, as well as measures to enhance the take up of current provision – such as outreach, engagement and limited amounts of financial support for people who face barriers to engaging with skills development.

We are particularly interested in proposals that link skills development opportunities and removing barriers to career progression in growth sectors and sectors experiencing skills shortages. We will encourage applicants to develop novel ways of supporting employed people to take up skills development, including partnerships and collaboration with businesses or sector groups to address barriers.

This may include standalone projects, but our preference is to award funding to larger, collaborative projects which can encompass a range of sub-activities and multiple delivery organisations.

This reflects a need to support pathways for people to develop their skills while in the labour market or seeking work.

There is also scope to pilot a range of measures, using Multiply funding, that use innovative approaches, delivered together with employers, to address specific numeracy skills required in the workplace. This could commence in 2023-24, prior to commencement of wider skills support the following year.

Routes to market

These activities can all draw on established delivery methods either through commissioning or competition, tailored as required for UKSPF purposes. This will be determined in consultation with the Partnership Group.

Timing

Project selection is anticipated to take place in Autumn 2023, with activity commencing in 2024-25.

This reflects available funding, and the priority afforded to economic inactivity support for People and Skills.

Pilot activities to deliver innovative programmes delivered together with employers for courses designed to cover specific numeracy skills required in the workplace could commence during 2023-24, using Multiply funding.

Funding

£7.2 million has been indicatively allocated to this activity for 2024-25.

£2 million has been indicatively allocated to this activity for numeracy interventions, which is available over 2023-24 and 2024-25.

Geographic scale of delivery

These activities will be delivered through a project competition or commissioning process. This could result in local, city-region or Northern Ireland wide provision, although we encourage larger scale projects delivered across geographies.


3. Adult numeracy courses or modules

We recognise the impact that adult numeracy has on life chances, and the significant volume of people in Northern Ireland with low levels of functional numeracy. We propose to extend the reach of numeracy provision, and enable new forms of delivery to be trialled to support people who would not otherwise come forward for support. We therefore propose to support additional adult numeracy provision that: leads to a formal Level 2 qualification, including new forms of intensive and flexible courses and embeds more bite-sized numeracy support, on a modular basis, within wider vocational courses.

This may include accreditation of new courses for delivery by alternative delivery organisations, design of new courses or modules, as well as providing additional capacity for existing deliverers such as FE colleges.

We are particularly interested in proposals that develop novel ways of supporting people to take up numeracy support, including partnerships and collaboration with businesses or sector groups to design and deliver courses.

This may include standalone projects, but our preference is to award funding to larger, collaborative projects which can encompass a range of sub-activities.

Routes to market

These activities can all draw on established delivery methods either through commissioning or competition, tailored as required for UKSPF purposes. This will be determined in consultation with the Partnership Group.

Timing

Project selection is anticipated to take place from early 2023, with activity commencing during 2023-24.

Funding

£5 million has been indicatively allocated to this activity, which is available over 2023-24 and 2024-25.

Geographic scale of delivery

These activities will be delivered through a project competition or commissioning process. This could result in local, city-region or Northern Ireland wide provision although we encourage larger scale projects delivered across geographies.


Note – the balance of the Multiply allocation – which represents around £12 million – has yet to be allocated. DLUHC plans further discussions to agree the optimal use of the remaining Multiply allocation and further information will be provided on this in due course.

4. Communities and Place

The ‘Communities and Place’ investment priority seeks to prioritise the creation of renewed community spaces and civic relationships throughout Northern Ireland. This restored sense of pride in place will be a catalyst for new investment, local growth and job creation. The Communities and Place investment priority will support the building of resilient, healthy and safe places and a strong sense of community spirit through a wide range of place-based initiatives such as active transport, neighbourhood support infrastructure, and cultural and artistic engagement. We wish to thread volunteering opportunities across funded initiatives to garner a sense of community ownership and to instil a renewed sense of pride in place. Our overarching goal is:

By 2025, we aim to improve people’s pride and satisfaction with towns and villages through UKSPF support, ensuring these areas are attractive for new residents, potential investors and visitors.

Subject to local needs and plans, outputs could indicatively include:

Creation or improvement of over 50,000m2 of green or blue space

Delivering over 16km of new or improved cycle ways or footpaths

UKSPF provides an opportunity to foster local pride and belonging through investment in activities that enhance the physical, cultural and social capacity of local areas. UKSPF funding can work in concert with private and voluntary funding, Northern Ireland Executive funding, in particular from the Department for Communities and the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), council funds and others to support the development of resilient, healthy and safe neighbourhoods, places where people want to live, work, invest and visit.

Strategic alignment with Northern Ireland policies, strategies and complementary funding

Across Northern Ireland there are many strategies and funding vehicles that are helping to support a sense of place and improve civic pride.

The Northern Ireland Draft Programme for Government presents a strategic framework of outcomes that combine to present a vision of a healthy, vibrant and inclusive society. It envisages a society that contains no barriers to people living prosperous and fulfilling lives, a society that protects and enhances the biodiversity and the natural environment, a society that creates economic opportunity through tackling climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions and a society that creates high quality, sustainable, places for people to live, work and visit.

These, and other priorities, have been informed by civic engagement and are reflected in a wide range of existing strategies, such as the DAERA’s draft Green Growth Strategy for Northern Ireland and the Department for the Economy’s ’A10x Economy – Northern Ireland’s Decade of innovation’. At the local government level, councils have developed Community Plans that have been designed in collaboration with statutory community planning partners and form part of a wider suite of strategies, including local development plans, town masterplans and neighbourhood renewal plans, aimed to address economic needs and to identify opportunities for prosperous and harmonious communities.

There is clear potential to complement other funding sources such as Peace Plus funding which will prioritise ‘Building Peaceful and Thriving Communities’ and ‘Healthy and Inclusive Communities’, as key thematic areas. Similarly, UKSPF can help to complement DLUHC’s Levelling Up Fund, as well as the Community Ownership Fund which is supporting communities to take ownership of assets at risk of closure and to turn these assets back into community benefit.

Overall, this strategic framework and funding landscape has informed the proposed interventions and delivery approach for this investment priority.

Challenges and needs

Social deprivation and high levels of economic inactivity, alongside other issues, have left a lasting mark on Northern Ireland’s communities and neighbourhoods. In more recent times, these long-term issues have combined with the economic downturn, the pandemic, and the cost-of-living crisis, along with societal trends, such as the decline of the high street, to create a new set of challenges.

These challenges have a visual manifestation, such as town centre decline – represented by Northern Ireland’s vacancy rate at 14.4%, which is considerably higher than the UK average of 9.2% (October 2022)[footnote 15]. There are also less visible manifestations, such as evidence of a reduction in the amount of local volunteering or greater difficulties securing volunteers since the pandemic[footnote 16] and a corresponding loss of social interaction.

It is noted that Northern Ireland has a large population living in rural settlements (37% of the population)[footnote 17] and it is critical that UKSPF reaches people wherever they live, in rural areas as well as urban or suburban places, if the fund is to have an impact on civic pride in all places.

Opportunities for UKSPF investment in Communities and Place

In particular, it is recognised that the physicality of a place – aesthetic design and public realm, and the integration of green space and the arts and culture offer all combine to support the ‘liveability factor’ of a local area. Vibrant places are an important attribute to encourage inward investment, job creation and a strong visitor economy. These also help embed gains by creating new employment opportunities for people living locally. Strengthening the social bonds and formal and informal opportunities for people to engage with one another can also build pride in place and a heightened sense of belonging.

We consider that opportunities exist to support:

Community green space provision and community infrastructure

Green space contributes to the improvement of the health and wellbeing of people and can restore pride in local neighbourhoods. Community and neighbourhood infrastructure facilities including community halls, recreation facilities and leisure provision, can help to promote community cohesion and support neighbourhood pride and personal wellbeing. Groups such as Neighbourhood Renewal Partnerships and Community Planning Partnerships have worked with various government agencies, community and voluntary sector groups and charitable based organisations to better understand the needs and ambitions of local people. UKSPF provides an opportunity to use these evidenced needs and ambitions to inform investment in activities that can promote local pride.

Creation of new walking and cycling provision

Walking and cycling provision within and between communities can play an important role in the connectivity of communities. It is notable that only 53% of households in NI are satisfied with cycling provision in their area with only 3% choosing to cycle to work[footnote 18]. UKSPF can support the NI Bicycle Strategy ‘Changing Gear‘ (PDF, 285KB) which aims to create communities where people have the freedom and confidence to travel by bicycle for everyday journeys.

Local cultural, artistic or sporting activities

Around 9 in 10 of Northern Ireland’s population engage in local cultural, artistic or sporting activities and building on this strength represents an opportunity for the fund to further engender pride in place. While 81% of the Northern Ireland public believe that arts enrich the quality of their lives[footnote 19] there is an opportunity to widen the appeal of art, culture and heritage to new audiences, especially across underrepresented groups. There are also opportunities to ensure the sustainability of and community interest in new or enhanced assets or activities through embedded volunteering opportunities – thereby strengthening social interaction.

We recognise the need for concerted effort to develop a linked package of projects that spread opportunity and foster pride in place in a range of communities, including in rural areas.

Communities and place interventions

In light of the challenges and opportunities identified above, the following interventions, selected from the Interventions list for Northern Ireland , are considered to be the most appropriate within the Northern Ireland context

  • NI2: Funding for new, or improvements to existing community and neighbourhood infrastructure projects including those that increase communities’ resilience to natural hazards such as flooding. 
  • NI3: Creation of and improvements to local green spaces, community gardens, watercourses and embankments, along with incorporating natural features into wider public spaces.
  • NI6: Support for local arts, cultural, heritage and creative activities.
  • NI7:  Support for active travel enhancement and measures to improve connectivity in the local areas, including undertaking active travel needs assessments at the local level.
  • NI9: Funding for impactful voluntary and /or action projects to develop social and human capital in local places for example.

We will work with project delivers to secure the following key outcomes:

  • Increased users of facilities / amenities
  • Improved perception of facility/infrastructure projects
  • Number of community-led arts, cultural, heritage and creative programmes as a result of support
  • Number of volunteering opportunities created as a result of support
  • Increased use of cycleways or paths.
  • Improved engagement numbers

Our approach to realising delivery of these intervention is set out below with a detailed breakdown of funding profile, activity and linked outcomes presented in Appendix 1.

The delivery approach

Our assessment is that investment from the Communities and Place investment priority can be best used to promote pride in place by encouraging investment in a lasting legacy of community assets and activities for this and future generations. In determining the best approach, consideration has been given to the timeframe for delivery and the funding quantum that is available, as well as strategic alignment and the broader funding landscape. The fund therefore intends to prioritise the following key projects:

1. Locally-determined packages – a ‘Communities and Place Programme’

This will be a fund for places, delivered by councils, working in partnership with local community-based partnerships (including charities, NGOs (non governmental organisations) or similar type organisations), to collaborate to deliver small scale capital interventions. The funding will be used to strengthen community and neighbourhood vitality across a locally defined area (of any scale) within each of the 11 council areas and to help develop community collaboration and bolster local civic pride.   

Needs and priorities will be different across each council area and each plan should determine the right interventions based on local community plans and local strategic issues.  It is expected that package of support developed across each council area will incorporate at least 3 of the 4 primary interventions set out below.

Local councils and their partners can prioritise locally-determined packages of activity, drawing from the following predominantly capital activities:

  • local green space
  • community and neighbourhood infrastructure
  • active travel
  • arts, culture and heritage activities
  • volunteering and social capital

Alongside these priority activities, we expect all places to harness the power of volunteering to create sustainable delivery arrangements, and support social interaction and social capital in local places.

Sustainability is key and therefore councils and their partners would be expected to outline a long-term sustainability plan for their funded capital initiatives, as well as potential plans to sustain any local arts, cultural heritage or creative activities proposed. A small quantum of revenue support will be available to aid project delivery.  

In addition, we recognise a need to integrate measures that widen access for people with disabilities to supported projects and active measures that design out crime. These should be evidenced across each of the interventions.

UKSPF can also respond to external circumstances and specific local circumstances where relevant. As a result, and where required, additional interventions will be considered where this is the best way of addressing an identified need for a place.

Route to market

The Programme will be delivered on a commissioned basis, through a direct allocation to each of the 11 local authorities who will then enter into arrangements with local partners directly. 

Timing

Councils are expected to be commissioned in early 2023. It is anticipated that the main programme will launch during the 2023/24 financial year, running to March 2025.

Funding

£11 million (capital) will be allocated to the Communities & Place Programme.  A further £2.8 million will be allocated to support revenue activities.

Geographic scale of delivery

The proposed geographic scale of the combined interventions is at a local council or sub-geography within each of the 11 local council areas. The scale and targeting of specific places has not been pre-determined and will be agreed locally as part of the commissioning process.

Where appropriate, councils may pool resources with other areas – for example, where there is a community asset or active travel link that sits across more than one council area.


2. Green space development

While the plan overall is for 2023-24, DLUHC also intends to provide capital funding to councils this financial year (2022-23) for the creation of and improvements to local green spaces, community gardens, watercourses and embankments (Intervention NI3).

This funding may be used for additions to existing green space projects planned or underway for 2022-23.

Councils will be asked to submit a plan for delivery this Winter to release this funding.

Timing

We expect projects (or the UKSPF funded component thereof) to be completed by end of the 2022-23 financial year and could be delivered in-house where appropriate.

Funding

We have indicatively allocated £1.3 million (capital) for this activity.


5. Equality considerations

The ability of the UKSPF to support the growth of the economy in Northern Ireland is improved when the interventions funded reach those individuals who can often be marginalised from economic activity.

While DLUHC is not a designated body for the purposes of section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, we recognise the importance of not only meeting our legal obligations under the Equality Act 2010 but also giving due regard to the additional equalities considerations that apply in Northern Ireland. In designing the fund, we have considered our public sector equality duties under the Equality Act 2010, as well as the 9 section 75 categories in Northern Ireland.

The overarching aim of the of UKSPF programme in Northern Ireland is to increase pride in place and life chances with interventions under 3 investment priorities. All protected groups could therefore potentially benefit from the programme. A number of the interventions that have been selected, and their linked projects, are likely to have a positive impact on protected groups. This includes:

  • Within the people and skills investment priority and in particular within NI33 where there will be a design emphasis on age, disability, men and women generally, people with dependents, racial groups;
  • With the supporting local business investment priority and in particular within NI23 where there will be an emphasis on social enterprise and cohorts under-represented as entrepreneurs and business owners.

We will continue to build on our considerations of equality as we move to delivery. While UKSPF is prefaced on a light touch approach to monitoring to enable project deliverers to focus on delivery and outcomes, we will nonetheless request that applicant organisations describe how their project will impact on people with protected characteristics, including any measures they plan to positively impact on or promote good relations between groups set out in section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and the Equality Act 2010, as part of project design and implementation. For public sector applicants, we will ask them to set out how their proposed project is compliant with section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and Equality Act 2010.

All project deliverers will also be asked, as part of the conditions of the award of funding, to collect information on the 9 categories set out in section 75. We will review this at plan level, which will help build a fuller evidence base as to the impact that UKSPF can have on all protected groups, especially those where evidence is currently more limited.

Furthermore, our approach to monitoring will allow us to build an understanding of impact on protected groups over time and enable project deliverers to address any adverse impacts in project delivery over the life of the fund.

6. Approach to governance and engagement

We committed to working in partnership to develop the content of this investment plan. This commitment was realised through the establishment of the Partnership Group and our wider stakeholder engagement and discussion activity. An overview of each of these is included below.

The extensive engagement that we conducted to support the design of this plan will continue as we transition toward designing project competitions, commissioning and delivery. However, with the focus shifting from strategy to delivery, both the membership of the Partnership Group and our wider communication and engagement will also evolve.

The Northern Ireland Partnership Group

To support the development of this plan we established the Partnership Group in July 2022. Its overarching task was to advise on the development of the investment plan and support us in aligning the UKSPF prospectus to the specific needs and circumstances of Northern Ireland. In particular, members were asked to ensure coordination, engagement and facilitation across their sectors in order to provide rounded views to the group.

The table below details the organisations that were represented on the Partnership Group. Its membership is currently being reviewed as we transition toward the delivery phase.

Partnership Group membership

  • Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC)
  • Northern Ireland Office
  • Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (SOLACE) (Mid Ulster District Council)
  • Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (SOLACE) (Belfast City Council)
  • Queen’s University Belfast
  • Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA)
  • Chief Officers Third Sector (CO3)
  • NOW Group
  • Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce
  • Confederation of British Industry

The partnership group met a total of 4 times and notes from each meeting can be accessed on UK Shared Prosperity Fund: Northern Ireland supporting documents.

Engagement and discussion

To support the work of the Partnership Group we also undertook a broad programme of engagement. This included:

  • Two large scale workshops for the community and voluntary sector in conjunction with NICVA and CO3. Over 120 individuals attended, and a wide range of sectors were represented including arts, environment, women, young people, community development, mental health and sport.
  • An engagement session with local council officers from across the 11 council areas and Northern Ireland Local Government Association with focussed breakout sessions exploring the 3 UKSPF investment priorities.
  • An engagement session with Queens University, Ulster University, and representatives of the Further Education colleges, focussed on skills and Multiply.
  • Engagement with the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (SOLACE) and its relevant subgroups.
  • An engagement session for Social Enterprise Northern Ireland and 45 of its members.
  • An engagement session with over 25 major business representatives with focussed breakout sessions exploring the Supporting Local Business investment priority. A wide range of sectors were represented including manufacturing, tourism, health and retail.
  • Engagement with special interest groups including; Northern Ireland Union of Supported Employment, Disability Action, Northern Ireland Environmental Link, The Rural Communities Network and the NI Youth Forum.
  • Engagement with complementary funders including the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB) who administer Peace Plus, National Lottery Community Fund and New Deal Fund.
  • Engagement with relevant teams within the Department of Finance, Department for the Economy, Department for Communities and Invest NI.

To supplement the engagement workshops groups and individuals were able to submit any further views via a questionnaire following their workshop session. In the engagement sessions, stakeholders were presented with an overview of UKSPF in Northern Ireland including; the quantum available to Northern Ireland; the investment priorities and objectives; the wider funding landscape; overview of the need and opportunity; initial prioritisation of the priorities and interventions and design principles. We sought stakeholders’ views on the appropriate prioritisation of the UKSPF interventions; appropriate routes to markets; ways to maximise impact and our design principles.

Appendix 1: Funding profile by investment priority

Supporting Local Business: Funding profile

Table SLB1: Proposed funding allocation per intervention

Intervention 2022-23 2022-23 2023-24 2023-24 2024-25 2024-25 Total Total
  Rev (£m) Cap (£m) Rev (£m) Cap (£m) Rev (£m) Cap (£m) Rev (£m) Cap (£m)
NI18     0.8   2.75   3.55  
NI19       0.8   1.6   2.4
NI19       1   3   4
NI20       0.55   1.1   1.65
NI23     4.5   6.25   10.75  
NI23     2.5   2.5   5  
NI23     1.6   4.25   5.85  
NI26     0.5   0.75   1.25  
NI29         2.25 2 2.25 2
Total     9.9 2.35 21.1 7.7 28.65 10.05

People and Skills: Funding profile

Table PS1: Proposed funding allocation per intervention

Intervention 2022-23 2022-23 2023-24 2023-24 2024-25 2024-25 Total Total
  Rev (£m) Cap (£m) Rev (£m) Cap (£m) Rev (£m) Cap (£m) Rev (£m) Cap (£m)
NI33 £0 £0 £20 £0 £20 £0 £40 £0
NI34 £0 £0 £0 £0 £3.60 £0 £3.60 £0
NI37 £0 £0 £0 £0 £3.60 £0 £3.60 £0
NI47     £1   £1   £2  
NI48     £1   £1   £2  
NI49     £1.50   £1.5   £3  
NI43, NI44, NI45, NI46, NI50, NI51, NI52     Indicatively through/alongside economic inactivity support. £1m each year across these interventions in 23-24 and 24-25          
Total     24.5 0 31.7 0 47.2 0

Note – the balance of the Multiply allocation – which represents around £12 million – has yet to be allocated. DLUHC plans further discussions to agree the optimal use of the remaining Multiply allocation and further information on the full funding allocation will be provided in due course.

Communities and Place: Funding profile

Note: these allocations are indicative and subject to change following the outcome of communities and place commissions. The exact combination of interventions may vary between areas as this will be based on local need and prioritisation. UKSPF will also consider other interventions on an exceptional basis and where this reflects local need.

Table CP1: Proposed funding allocation per intervention

Intervention 2022-23 2022-23 2023-24 2023-24 2024-25 2024-25 Total Total
  Rev (£m) Cap (£m) Rev (£m) Cap (£m) Rev (£m) Cap (£m) Rev (£m) Cap (£m)
NI2     £0.08 £0.60 £0.20 £1.60 £0.28 £2.20
NI3   £1.30 £0.04 £1.20 £0.10 £3.20 £0.14 £5.70
NI6     £0.30   £0.80   £1.10  
NI7     £0.04 £1.20 £0.10 £3.20 £0.14 £4.40
NI9     £0.30   £0.80   £1.10  
Total 0 1.3 0.76 3 2 8 2.76 12.3

Appendix 2: Technical considerations and cross cutting assumptions

As we move from plan development to create the structures and processes to secure implementation and delivery, we will be guided by a number of core UKSPF principles that will ensure value for money and successful delivery.

Scale of delivery​

Commissions and competitions will be on a Northern Ireland-wide scale.

With the exception of Communities and Place activity, we do not propose any pre-determined distribution of funds across NI. We will seek to ensure provision is available for businesses and people across all parts of NI and will work with the Partnership Group and groups such as local Labour Market Partnerships to inform project selection, taking account of local need and opportunity.

We will work with these groups to monitor delivery of projects and will ask deliverers to take corrective action if activities do not achieve an appropriate level of geographic reach as they are delivered.​

Project selection

We propose to commission activity through public bodies where this is appropriate, especially where there is an acknowledged remit for a given public body and where it is already investing in similar activities.  This will reduce the potential for duplication and confusion for end users, and maximise efficiency and with a view to enhancing flexibility in service provision and impact.

Where there is not an appropriate public delivery agency or where we do not have a pre-defined solution in mind, competition can add significant value to enhance VFM (Value for Money) outcomes reduce duplication and complexity, we will encourage and where possible secure a scale of delivery that supports value for money, including collaborative/consortium projects.

Alignment with other funding/provision​

All applicants will be tasked with developing a customer journey for their proposed project as part of the application process, setting out how the project will align with other provision.  This may include referral relationships between projects, ensuring complementarity, or delivering UKSPF activity as part of a fuller project part-funded from other sources.​

Match funding

As with UKSPF, match funding is not a pre-requisite for projects in Northern Ireland. However, for selective business support (ie. higher value, higher impact interventions), we propose to work with commissioned organisations and/or bidders to secure business contributions.​

Opportunities to work with other places on UKSPF interventions

Opportunities to work collaboratively with other parts of the UK will continue to be explored – especially as we develop the sector support and green growth provision we intend to support via Supporting Local Business. However, there are no current plans to collaborate with other places in the UK.

Core design principles for all projects

For all projects, we will require deliverers to consider:​

  • Rural access/take up​.
  • Net zero/low carbon considerations​.
  • Equalities considerations (e.g. ensuring equitable access to provision, and all deliverers will be required to seek equalities information from beneficiaries (to aid monitoring).

For capital projects, we will require deliverers to consider:​

  • Community engagement in design​
  • Designing out crime​
  • Accessibility​
  • Sustainable maintenance of any asset developed/ extended. We will seek to ensure that the project supported share knowledge and information.
  • The use of volunteering to embed the asset in the local community.

Further information on these principles will be set out in fund requirements and competition documents.

All projects will also be required to meet a minimum procurement/tendering standard and set out how the proposed project can be delivered in compliance with subsidy control and/or state aid. Further information on subsidy control and state aid is set out below.

Subsidy control and state aid

UKSPF will follow the principles of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement and will operate in compliance with Interim Subsidy Control Regime, and the provisions of the UK Subsidy Control Act 2022 once operational. This includes ongoing adherence to EU state aid rules where required by Article 10 of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Project selection

Subsidy and state aid considerations will form part of the project approval process via a dedicated question or questions so that DLUHC, as granting organisation, can understand how proposed projects can be delivered in line with subsidy control/state aid. We will also draw on the applicant’s responses across the wider application (particularly any deliverability information) in assessing for subsidy control/state aid risks.

Where an application presents an unacceptable risk of non-compliant delivery, then we may choose to either reject it, or require adjustments to be made such that funding the project will not contravene subsidy control/state aid.

Implementation

We will require project deliverers to confirm that subsidy control/state aid is compliant at all levels at each reporting gateway post-approval. This includes providing information to us to aid reporting on the transparency database (or EU equivalents), or reporting via a relevant approved scheme. This will also include ongoing adherence to EU state aid rules where required – such as public funding to an undertaking if it has an effect on trade of goods and wholesale electricity between Northern Ireland and the EU.

However, it is important to note that the fund is investing in a wide range of interventions to support communities and place, and people and skills, and many interventions will not represent a benefit to an individual economic actor/undertaking. Public realm interventions, or activities that benefit individual people, are considered highly unlikely to be subsidy.

Where subsidy or aid is present, such as support to local businesses, it will be low in value, and would likely qualify as minimal amounts of financial assistance (325,000 special drawing rights (until commencement of the Subsidy Control Act) or £315,000 (after commencement of the Act)) or de minimis aid (€200,000 in a rolling 3 year period). Awards of funding to an individual economic actor including the applicant organisation where this creates a residual benefit to them (that is not ‘washed-through’) in excess of the minimal amounts/de minimis limits, will be subject to full assessment, and will only be supported where they are compliant with the subsidy control principles set out in guidance, or EU state aid rules if relevant.

We will explore other aid schemes where required, including schemes established and aligned with the articles relevant to innovation set out in the General Block Exemption Regulation. We also note that DLUHC is developing a Levelling Up streamlined route (for subsidy) and State Aid scheme that, once established, could also be used to deliver subsidy/aid compliantly.


link

By admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *