Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion

News 07/04/2021

E-vouchers for social inclusion under the new ESF+: New study available

The study provides in-depth evidence on the operation of existing e-voucher schemes in EU Member States, and analysis on the feasibility of support of such schemes by the ESF+.

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A new European Commission study on “E-vouchers for the most deprived” provides in-depth evidence on the operation of existing e-voucher schemes in EU Member States. It explains their potential for transferability into the new 2021-2027 Common Provisions Regulation and European Social Fund Plus (ESF+).

Six case studies from Belgium, France, Italy, Lithuania and Spain are presented in the annex to the study, highlighting how FEAD and e-vouchers have supported the delivery of food and/or basic materials and non-material assistance to the most deprived across Europe.

As the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD) was merged into the new ESF+, broader complementarity between the former ESF and FEAD-type of actions has been introduced. Combining social inclusion with material support in ESF+ programmes will not only be possible, but will be highly encouraged under the ESF+.

Material deprivation will be addressed through food and/or basic material assistance, including for children, and accompanying measures supporting their social inclusion. In this context, e-vouchers – reusable magnetic payment cards which can be topped up with funding  – can play a crucial role in the implementation of ESF+ programmes supporting Europe’s most deprived. E-vouchers can have many benefits, including:

  • Reduction of costs and administrative burden. In Belgium, actual spending of beneficiaries is monitored automatically through the financial provider involved, significantly reducing costs and administrative procedures.
  • Reduction of transportation and storage costs for implementing organisations, thus increased efficiency of the process. For example, EU-level organisations involved in FEAD noted that e-vouchers allow NGOs without the necessary infrastructure to transport and store food and material assistance to involve small teams for shipping and disseminating e-vouchers.
  • Positive impacts on local merchant sales that support the local economy.
  • Potential to give end recipients a greater sense of dignity and autonomy. For example, the FEAD impact assessment in Spain showed that 55% of those who were eligible to receive food aid but were not requesting it reported that this was due to “fear of what people will say".


The Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD) supports EU Member States’ actions to provide food and/or basic material and non-material assistance to the most deprived. This assistance needs to go hand in hand with social inclusion measures, such as guidance and support to help people out of poverty.

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