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About Us

Overview of the ESF

Welcome

The European Social Fund created in 1957, is the European Union’s main financial instrument for investing in people. The specific objectives of the ESF are to help prevent and fight unemployment; to make Europe's workforce and companies better equipped to face new challenges and to prevent people losing touch with the labour market through investment in education, skills and employment support. By the end of the current round Ireland will have received over €7 billion from the ESF since joining the EU in 1973.

 Activities supported by the ESF include: - 

  • Training for the unemployed
  • Training for people with disabilities
  • Education/training for early school leavers  
  • Social Inclusion programmes
  • Employment programmes


The Department of Education and Skills is the designated authority in Ireland for policy and operational matters related to the ESF. The Department's ESF Policy and Operations Unit oversees all matters relating to the ESF, insofar as they relate to this country, and represents Ireland's position at European level. 

The ESF Policy and Operations Unit comprises two distinct and independent sub-units: