Wales Institute of Social & Economic Research, Data & Methods
Sefydliad Ymchwil Gymdeithasol ac Economaidd, Data a Dulliau Cymru

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2009 European Social Fund Leavers Survey

Commencing in 2009, a consortium led by WISERD undertook the 2009 ESF Leavers’ Survey.  Other members of the consortium included Professor Max Munday of the Welsh Economy Research Unit (also of Cardiff University), Mark Winterbotham and colleagues at IFF Research Ltd and Gareth Williams of Old Bell 3 Ltd.  The aim of the 2009 ESF Leavers’ Survey was to understand the characteristics and outcomes of those participating in ESF projects.

To achieve this, two surveys were conducted with participants.  The first telephone survey was conducted during February and March 2010 among a group of people who were identified as having left an ESF project during 2009.  Due to the timing of the enquiry, the survey only covers those participants who had completed projects conducted under Priority 2 and 3 of the ESF Convergence Programme during 2009.   To consider the sustainability of outcomes from ESF participation, a second wave of telephone interviews was conducted with respondents approximately six months after the completion of the Wave 1 interviews.  Individuals were interviewed during February / March 2010 (Wave 1) and again during August / September (Wave 2). A 40% response rate was achieved for wave 1 and a 67% response rate was achieved for wave 2. This gave an overall response rate of 25%.

The questionnaire covered the following areas:

  • The ESF course, including: motivation for undertaking the course; reasons for leaving early; and awareness of ESF.
  • Activity prior to ESF, including: barriers to finding work; highest level of qualification before starting the course; length of unemployment; and type of employment if working.
  • Activity post ESF, including: main activity currently and, if in employment, their level of job satisfaction, level of pay and job security; and career history data.
  • Outcomes, including: skills gained (such as numeracy, literacy, IT, organisational skills); promotion; any increase in salary etc. since the course; and ‘soft outcomes’ such as improvements in confidence, health and career prospects.

The most important evidence from the ESF Leavers’ Surveys relates to outcomes. The 2009 Leavers’ Survey has much that is positive to say, particularly given the very difficult labour market circumstances.  Among participants from Priority 2 projects, the share who were in employment increased from 11% prior to ESF to 39% by the time of the Wave 2 survey.  A quarter of employed respondents to the Wave 1 survey who either did not have a job prior to ESF or who were in a different job  reported that ESF support was “vital” in getting their job.  In terms of softer outcomes, the findings of the 2009 Leavers’ Survey also show high levels of participants reporting increasing confidence in capabilities, and feeling better about themselves generally. Outcomes also reflected the development of new social networks, and health related outcomes.  The Leavers’ Survey suggests that ESF interventions have helped diminish the extent to which poor skills are perceived as a barrier to progression.  However, for those respondents still outside the labour market a number of barriers remain. While lack of available jobs was the most commonly cited barrier, lack of or poor transport was also seen as a barrier by around 45% of those still unemployed.  This was significantly greater than, for example, lack of affordable childcare.

The final report is available from the WEFO website and can be accessed by clicking here.

A power point presentation providing a summary of key findings can be downloaded here.

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