The Funds


€351.8 billion of the European Union’s budget is allocated to Cohesion Policy 2014-2020 that is to be the principle investment tool for delivering the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.  Cohesion Policy is delivered through three funds:

  • The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)
  • The European Social Fund (ESF)
  • The Cohesion Fund (focusing on transport and environment, the Cohesion Fund applies to EU Member States which have a GDP lower than 90 % of the EU-27 average–Croatia not taken into account)

These three funds together with the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) make up the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF).  

In this page you will find information on the ESIF supporting the transition from institutional care to community and family based living (deinstitutionalisation), why some countries receive more funding than others and a brief roadmap through the mechanics of the ESIF.

The ESIF supporting the transition to community based living are:

Mechanics of the Funds:

More Information


How the amount of funding for each Member State is decided

In keeping with the principle of solidarity, the share of Cohesion Policy funding (level of investment) allocated to Member States depends on their level of development (their Gross Domestic Product or GDP).

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European Regional Development Fund

ERDF budget: € 196.5 billion
National co-financing: € 80.3 billion
Total investment from 2014-2020: € 276.9 billion

The ERDF was set up in 1975 and provides financial support for the development and structural adjustment of regional economies, economic change, enhanced competitiveness as well as territorial cooperation throughout the EU.  The ERDF supports projects under all 11 thematic objectives and focuses in particular on four key priorities:

• Strengthening research, technological development and innovation
• Enhancing access to, and use and quality of ICT
• Enhancing the competitiveness of SMEs
• Supporting the shift towards a low-carbon economy in all sectors.

To promote social inclusion and combat poverty, particularly among marginalised communities, the ERDF is to improve access to social, cultural and recreational services through the provision of small-scale infrastructure, taking account of the specific needs of persons with disabilities and the elderly.  Example measures to be funded by the ERDF to promote and ensure the transition to community based living include:

  • the development and/or adaption of social, health and education infrastructure for the provision of community based services,
  • the development of accessible housing in the community,
  • the development of supported housing options,
  • Investment in social housing available to those leaving institutional care
  • home adaption (physical adaptions, ICT and e-health),
  • childcare infrastructure (crèche, after school, early childhood support services) in the community
  • family-like placements for children in the community that must be in line with the UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children.

€4.5 Billion ERDF investments are planned in social infrastructure from 2014-2020 that will include support targeting community based social services for groups at risk of poverty and social exclusion including persons with disabilities, children, older persons and persons with mental health problems.

The ERDF should promote innovation and the development of Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs), in emerging fields linked to European and regional challenges such as creative and cultural industries and innovative services, reflecting new societal demands, or to products and services linked to an ageing population, care and health, eco-innovation and resource efficiency.


European Social Fund

ESF budget: €86 billion  
National co-financing: €38.5 billion
Total investment for Europe’s people from 2014-2020: €124.9 billion

The ESF was established in 1958 and is the main tool for helping people get a job (or a better job), integrating disadvantaged people into society and ensuring fairer life opportunities for all. It does this by investing in Europe’s people and their skills including disadvantaged people such as the long-term unemployed, people with disabilities, migrants, ethnic minorities, marginalised communities and people of all ages facing poverty and social exclusion

For the first time a minimum share (23.1%) which has increased to 24.8% of the €351.8 billion Cohesion Policy budget is allocated to the ESF.  Article 4(2) of the ESF Regulation requires at least 20% of the total ESF allocation in each Member State to be spent on measures supporting Thematic objective 9 promoting social inclusion, combating poverty and any discrimination.

The ESF can support projects under all 11 thematic objectives of Cohesion policy, in particular it focuses on four priorities:

• Promoting sustainable and quality employment and supporting labour mobility
• Promoting social inclusion, combating poverty and any discrimination
• Investing in education, training and vocational training for skills and lifelong learning
• Enhancing institutional capacity of public authorities and stakeholders and efficient public administration.

Examples of measures that can be funded by the ESF supporting the transition from institutional care to community based living include:

  • drawing up action plans for the transition that include individualised care support and preparation for each service user.
  • ensure continuity and stability of service delivery during the transition stage especially development of new services at the beginning of the process when both systems are running in parallel.
  • developing an integrated network of community based services including personal assistance, home care, family counselling, day care, job search assistance, nursing, foster care.
  • re-training of staff who must transition from an institutional model of care to work in new integrated networks of community based services.
  • curriculum development for posts in community based services and mainstream services.
  • support services for families and the informal care sector for example respite services.
  • awareness raising activities for people with support needs at risk of exclusion or institutionalised care to inform them of their right to live independently and be included in the community, their right of access to an integrated network of community based services including mainstream services, a child’s right to live with their family or in family like care and that families right to support in the community.
  • In the case of children in alternate care, the provision of family-based or family-like care which includes family support.

Social innovation should be promoted through all areas of action supported by the ESF, in particular with the aim of testing, evaluating and scaling up innovative solutions to address social needs.  Member States either identified in their Operational Programmes fields for social innovation that correspond to the specific needs in the Member States or they can do so at a later stage during implementation.


The Mechanics of the Funds:


Europe 2020 and the Common Strategic Framework

The Common Strategic Framework that covers all the ESIF is set out in Annex I of the Common Provision Regulation No. 1303/2013 (CPR), it replaces the Community Strategic Guidelines on cohesion policy and for rural development 2007-2013.  It provides strategic guidance to the Member States and regions in taking full advantage of the possibilities offered by the ESI Funds and other EU policies and instruments in their Partnership Agreements and programmes while maintaining a clear focus on the Europe 2020 priorities.  The Common Strategic Framework is subject to horizontal principles and cross cutting policy objectives including Partnership and multi-level governance, non-discrimination, accessibility, addressing demographic change and sustainable development. 

New tools introduced in the Common Provision Regulation No. 1303/2013 (CPR) are promoted as a practical means of coordinating support between the ESIF:

• combining the Funds under one Operational Programme (for example, the Cohesion Policy funds: ERDF, ESF and Cohesion Fund);

• the Integrated Territorial Investment (ITI);

• Community-led local development (CLLD);

• the Joint Action Plans (JAP).


Partnership Agreements

Articles 14 – 16 Common Provision Regulation No. 1303/2013 (CPR)

Each Member State has one Partnership Agreement covering all five ESIF.  This is an overarching strategy at national level proposed by the Member State in consultation with the Partners and adopted by the Commission.  The Partnership Agreement:

Partnership Agreements for each Member State can be found here.

A review of the adopted Partnership Agreements can be dowloaded here.

This study is a comprehensive analysis of the Partnership Agreements adopted in the 28 EU Member States offering insight into the implementation of the elements that were endorsed by the European Parliament during the negotiations on the 2014-2020 legislative framework. The research mainly highlights the compliance of the Partnership Agreements with the legal provisions, the state of play of the ex-ante conditionalities, and the alignment with the Europe 2020 Strategy. Strategic choices of the Member States as well as their programme architecture and coordination tools are described in the 28 summaries included in the study. Research results are synthesised in a cross- cutting analysis of the 28 Partnership Agreements showing differences and similarities of approaches taken by the Member States.


Operational Programmes

Articles 26-30 Common Provision Regulation No. 1303/2013 (CPR)

The Partnership Agreement has to be properly translated and implemented through specific programmes.  Since all programmes have to be consistent with the Partnership Agreement, the CPR has introduced basic content common to all five of the ESIF.  The Operational Programme is proposed by the Member State in consultation with the Partners and adopted by the European Commission.  Operational Programmes set out a coherent intervention strategy with a clear focus on results that are specific to the Member States territorial needs.  The Operational Programmes are particularly detailed documents and set out, for example:

      • applicable ex ante conditionalities and states whether these conditions are fulfilled in the Member State.  If the ex ante conditionalities are not fulfilled, the Operational Programme will include a description of actions to be taken, responsible bodies and a timetable for the actions to be completed (Action Plans).
      •   defines priorities, sets specific objectives and states the amount of funding allocated to the objectives.  Each priority must set out indicators and corresponding targets in order to assess progress, monitor implementation and evaluate performance.

At the programming stage the CPR requires Member States to make a clear link between planned ESIF interventions and acheiving the Europe 2020 strategy, with particular focus on the the relevant European Semester country-specific recommendations.  A significant change in comparison with the previous programming periods is that this link must be maintained throughout the implementation stage. If new relevant country-specific recommendations are issued which require support from the ESIF, the European Commission may request that Member States make appropriate adjustments to their Partnership Agreements and Operational Programme(s).

Search for ERDF Operational Programmes here.

Search for ESF Operational Programmes here.


Management of Programmes and Selection of Projects

Member States designate national, regional or local public authorities as the responsible bodies that must manage, control and monitor the ESIF and the implementation of Cohesion policy in each Member State:


Search for Managing Authorities here.

Member States cannot receive their first payments until these bodies have been set up and verified by the Commission.


Monitoring and Reporting

The Annual Implementation Reports presented by Member States from 2016 onwards for each programme will be much more focused on progress in achieving the Operational Programme’s objectives relating to Europe 2020 strategy.  The 2016 Annual Implementation Report should advise on actions to fulfill the ex ante conditionalities.  

In addition, Member States will report twice – in 2017 and 2019 – on progress in implementing the ESI Funds at the Partnership Agreement level.  These Progress Reports must assess the ESI Funds’ contribution to implementing the relevant country-specific recommendations, along with progress in achieving the Europe 2020 strategy’s priorities.

By the end of 2017 and 2019 the Commission will present its own Strategic Report and conclusions drawn from these Progress Reports to the Council, the European Parliament, the Committee of the Regions (CoR) and the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) within the framework of the European Semester.

Finally, the cohesion report will continue to be published every three years, as required by article 175 of the TFEU.


Beneficiaries and Participants

Funding for projects are applied for and run by a wide variety of organisations known as beneficiaries, these can include public administrations, workers’ and employers’ organisations, NGOs, charities and companies.

If you have a question about ESIF in your country, the application procedure or specific requirements you should contact your Managing Authority

The individuals who take part in an funded project from the ESIF are called participants; these include, for example, older workers training for new skills, young job-seekers getting work placements, people seeking advice on how to set up their own business, people transitioning from institutional care settings to community based living and support services, staff receiving training and/or education etc.


More information

Visit our resources section for more information.

Seminar presentation held in the Centre for Disability Law and Policy, NUI Galway “Ending Institutional care and the shift to community based living for all: The European Structural and Investment Funds” – PowerPoint presentation available to download here.