European Structural and Investment Funds
Lead Partner Online Session in August 2020
On Thursday 27 August 2020, the MA hosted an online session for Lead Partners via Skype. This session was intended to replace in-person events that we have held in the past which are no longer possible due to physical distancing guidelines.
Almost 70 representatives from Lead Partners attended the hour-long session to listen to presentations from the MA about COVID-19, the suspension of the ESF and ERDF programmes, and future funding.
Head of Managing Authority Hilary Pearce began with an overview of the current status of the ESF and ERDF programmes and the new context in which we are all working. She outlined how, despite the disruption caused by COVID-19, there has been no change to the European Commission’s regulations, and that we are approaching the end of the current programming period in uniquely difficult circumstances.
Head of Performance and Governance Susan Tamburrini provided an update on COVID-19 and how the MA has attempted to answer queries from Lead Partners on affected operations. Topics included the CRII and CRII+ measures introduced by the European Commission and our plans for the COVID-19 Response Fund, which are still in development.
Head of Structural Funding Programmes Cathy Cacace discussed the latest news regarding the ESF and ERDF programmes’ suspension. She described the MA’s actions so far to achieve our aims of: successfully converting as many ESF operations to unit costs as possible; ensuring we can demonstrate full compliance with Management Control System that will satisfy the EC’s key requirements; and ultimately lifting both programmes out of suspension.
Head of Future Funding Design and Implementation Karen McAvenue gave the final presentation. She informed attendees about the replacement funding consultation results, the thematic groups that have been developed as a consequence, and the engagement so far with the UK Government on the Shared Prosperity Fund.
The presentation slides are available on SlideShare.
31 attendees responded to our feedback survey. Here are the key findings from the results:
- 5 respondents rated the session “very good”, 16 “good”, 7 “fair” and 3 “poor”.
- Attendees appreciated the opportunity to submit questions via the Instant Messaging function and microphone, as well as more generally the efforts made to hold an engagement event while restrictions are in place.
- Some were frustrated with the audio quality, the lack of time allowed for questions and discussion, and that they were not able to connect at all due to technical problems.
- At future sessions, attendees would like to hear about how COVID-19 is affecting delivery, common audit and compliance issues, claims and verification checks, horizontal themes and future funding.
- In terms of frequency of future sessions, “every two months” and “quarterly were the most popular choices with 11 and 14 votes respectively.
- Microsoft Teams is the preferred tool with 19 votes, in comparison with Skype’s 6 votes and Zoom’s 4.
For those who were not able to attend the online session on 27 August, a session was held via telephone conference call on 11 September. The agenda was the same as the online session and 9 representatives from Lead Partners attended. 4 attendees responded to the feedback survey: 1 described the session as “very good” and 3 described it as “good”.
The MA would like to thank all attendees for taking part in the online and telephone sessions, especially those who persisted despite technical difficulties. The online session was in many ways a test to see if similar events are possible in future.
We will review the feedback from this online session and use it to inform the delivery of future sessions. Our aim is to hold another session in 2020 that provides more opportunities for Lead Partners to present and/or discuss topics. We will keep Lead Partners abreast of our plans for future sessions as they develop.