Shared prosperity fund must tackle inequality if it is to succeed

Published on May 21, 2021

Tackling inequality and advancing equality must be at the heart of the new UK Shared Prosperity fund, writes Belinda Pratten from Equally Ours.

With Brexit comes the end of EU Structural and Investment funds (ESIF) – funding targeted at the poorest regions of the EU and providing support to individuals and groups facing barriers in and to the labour market. This was worth £9.3 billion to the UK between 2014-2020 – and could have been more than this if we were still eligible.

The government has promised to set up a new fund, the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF). When it is up and running this is expected to be worth £1.5 billion a year.

Designed right, the UKSPF could help to achieve a more prosperous society and an economy that works for everyone.

That means ensuring that equality and social conclusion have at least the same level of priority – or more – as ESIF.

Equally Ours’ research showed that EU funding made a positive difference to people experiencing discrimination and disadvantage in the labour market. More importantly, it showed that this was because equality and social inclusion were designed in to all funding streams.

Every funding programme had to address these goals. On top of that, there were specific priorities for individual funds – the European Social Fund, for example, was required to tackle poverty and discrimination. Participation targets increased its reach and impact – supporting those furthest from the labour market and driving innovation.

EU funding has therefore been a lifeline for many marginalised individuals and groups – and for the voluntary and community organisations that work with them.

We don’t want to lose this lifeline. Which is why tackling inequality, and advancing equality, must be core goals for the new UKSPF – not an optional extra. It must recognise and address the deep-rooted inequalities in opportunity and outcomes experienced by people because of their ethnicity, disability, age, gender or class.

Equally Ours is calling for:

  • The UKSPF to explicitly address the significant equality challenges facing the UK today, with a fair and transparent formula targeted at those facing the greatest barriers in the most disadvantaged places;
  • Local priorities for the UKSPF to be developed by local authorities in partnership with local people, communities, civil society and business; and
  • Organisations led by people from the communities they serve, or with direct experience of their issue or cause, must be able to easily access UKSPF funding.

We know, and the evidence from our members proves, that tackling prejudice, discrimination and social exclusion – in all its forms – is fundamental to creating the just and inclusive society we all seek. Help us ensure that the UKSPF is designed to build an economy that works for everyone.

Equally Ours is a UK charity that brings together people and organisations working across equality, human rights and social justice to make a reality of these in everyone’s lives.

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