Hints and Tips for Successful ESF Applications

Managing Authority Feedback – Common Themes with Submitted Applications

The do’s and don’ts when completing an ESF application

MAs have given us the following feedback on typical themes for improvement with submitted applications; see below, we hope this helps you to enhance your next applications!

Outline Application

  • There can be a lack of clarity in terms of the participant journey/delivery model that is being presented; a pictorial representation of this journey/model is needed and often not given.


  • Applicants are not providing sufficient rationale for their delivery model and unit cost assumptions. It is not sufficient to simply reply on the call to provide the unit cost; there must be a clear statement on how the cost has been produced. A significant number of applicants simply state that it is ‘in-line with the call’.


  • Inconsistency between the data contained in the application narrative and both the Indicator and Financial Annexes. In addition, there may be inconsistencies between the three tabs within the financial annexe – Cost Profile, Funding Profile and Funding Sources


  • The submitted Financial Annexe has cost headings which are not relevant to the project. All projects should use only the following headings – ESF Direct Staff Costs, ESF Other Direct Costs and ESF Flat Rate Intervention Cost (FRIC)


  • Applicants are not completing the Indicator Annexe in line with the requirements of the call and are either submitting an annexe with some of the required indicators and/or are including additional indicators not relevant to the Investment Priority the call relates to. The applicant must submit an Indicator Annexe which includes all of the Outputs and Results as set out in the call specification.


  • A small percentage of applicants are not submitting either a Financial or Output Annex.


  • Applicants are selecting either the 15% or 40% FRIC option, however, many of the applicants are not using the correct calculation to produce the relevant cost.


  • Applications submitted with incorrect level of match for the Category of Region, and limited information included in the Financial Annexe.


  • There is a lack of information supplied to meet the minimum requirements for Cross Cutting Themes (CCTs) at the Outline Stage. There has also been a number of projects which have incorrectly interpreted the requirements of the question and related it to behavioural changes they have to provide training on rather than how they will embed the CCTs in the project.


Full Application

In addition to the themes seen at outline application, some of these can then reappear at the submission of the full stage, plus other key themes:

  • Applicants are failing to provide the necessary financial documents to enable the Managing Authority to undertake the Due Diligence checks. This requires a number of chases by MA representatives and delays decision making.


  • Insufficient response or no response provided to conditions set at the Outline stage


  • Limited information provided regarding the changes that have taken place since the outline application.


  • More in depth information should be provided to show how the project meets the key requirements of the Operational Programme and the Call Specification, including a rationale on how the applicant has benchmarked deliverables.


  • Insufficient description of the Delivery Model approach, including how it has been tested and/or whether it has been successfully used before or it is testing a new approach.


  • There is limited or no coverage of the medium to long term benefits of the project


  • No or incorrect match letters being provided with either an inconsistency between the application and the letter in both the amount and the time covered by the match, or inconsistency with the amounts and name of the provider listed in the Financial Annexe.


  • If the applicant has chosen 15% there is limited or no information provided on how the applicant has arrived at the overall and component elements of the costs, e.g. travel costs


  • Limited information provided on the management and controls, including the document retention approach and an in depth description of the processes for drawing together claims for submission and the level of scrutiny undertaken.


  • More in depth information is required in relation to the applicants risk process, including the level of responsibility, and ensuring all risks have been considered (e.g. GDPR).


  • Inconsistency in the use of the ESF logo and strapline in presented material, and additionally, limited narrative response to how the applicant with meet at least the minimum publicity requirements.


  • Granular Budget is inconsistent with the total and individual elements of the project as quoted either in the Application narrative or the Financial Annexe.


  • There is a limited response provided in terms of State Aid and how the applicant has considered whether aid is relevant, including if they have sought independent legal advice, and/or the monitoring arrangements which will be in place to record the aid.


  • Incomplete or no presentation of Procurement Annexes, and an inconsistency between the Annexes and narrative in the application form. In addition, information clarity is provided on the procurement process to be used and how it will meet ESIF requirements.


  • In addition to the CCT point above there is no significant change to the replies from applicants between the outline and full stage where the requirements are higher, including a lack of presentation of CCT Policy and Plans which set out how the themes will be embedded and implemented in the project.