EU funding reductions put adult learning at risk

CBS News

When the European Social Fund (ESF) grant expires, adults with learning disabilities may not receive crucial job training, a social enterprise director warned.

According to founder Jane Kippax, Step and Stone trains adults with learning disabilities to make artisanal bread and depends on an annual £20,000 ESF grant.

According to the government, grants may be accessible through its Levelling up Fund. .

The Bristol-based social enterprise, however, stated that it would not be able to quickly secure replacement funding.   .

50 trainees are currently enrolled in Step and Stone's Knowle program, of which 10 have found full-time jobs and five are volunteering. Step and Stone was founded there in 2016.

One of the many successful products its trainees produce that restaurants and delicatessens buy is lavosh flatbread.

Minister for Disabled, Health and Work, Tom Pursglove MP , with Step and Stone founders Jane Kippax and Jane Chong
Co-founders of Step and Stone Jane Kippax and Jane Chong have spoken with Tom Pursglove, minister for disabled people, health, and the workplace, about the funding gap.

However, a funding shortfall is imminent.

A grant from the European Social Fund that covers ten of the training spots expires in 2024.

There is currently no reliable alternative British funding source that can close the gap.

Tom Pursglove MP visited the bakery in December, and Mrs. Kippax brought up the possibility of the shortfall with him. He is the minister in charge of disabled people, health, and employment.

The minister "has taken that on board and will try to find some answers for us," she told the BBC. It would be beneficial to have some assurance that something will take its place.

The government offers a wide range of assistance to assist disabled people in finding employment, according to Mr. Pursglove.

"For instance, we very successfully met our goal of placing a million more disabled people in employment. That happened five years earlier than expected. " .

People working at large kitchen table
Step and Stone claims it will have to reduce the number of its trainees if new funding cannot be obtained by the fall.

But we can't relax, he continued.

"We need to be ambitious, and we'll keep looking at the government-wide support programs already in place, like this one, as well as other ways to help people find employment. ".

Since his visit, the BBC has enquired about possible funding sources with the Department for Work and Pension.

The UK Shared Prosperity Fund levelling-up fund (UKSPF), according to the DWP, could help pay for the training.

The DWP stated in a statement that local authorities determine how UKSPF is used and collaborate with a number of regional partners to create and administer the fund.

"Organizations like Step and Stone are responsible for submitting applications to local councils, which receive a portion of the funding. ".

"Additionally, we are assisting more disabled people in finding the right type of employment for them through programs like Access to Work and Disability Confident. ".

Flatbreads on trays
The social enterprise sells a number of popular products to delis and restaurants, including Lavosh flatbread.

However, Step and Stone co-founder Jane Chong asserted that there was no obvious procedure for obtaining the funding on schedule.

The plan was inspired by her son Andrew, who is 27 and has Down syndrome.

When you have a child with special needs and another or others who don't, I think you are very aware of how the world presents itself to your various children quite differently.

"So we desired a more compassionate and opportunity-rich world. ".

The social enterprise will have to decrease the number of training spots it provides for young adults if a funding replacement is not found by autumn.

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