Letter: Off the dole

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The Independent Culture
Sir: The percentage of leavers from New Deal returning to the "dole" is not 50 per cent, but only 3 per cent ("Blair praises New Deal", 29 January). A further 12 per cent are not able to work because they are on other benefits like sickness and incapacity benefit. Compared to the 100 per cent who were on benefit before we introduced the New Deal, I'd say the programme was proving its worth. The 58,000 young people who have found a job through New Deal so far would no doubt say the same.

Of the very small number who have left the full-time education and training option early - it lasts up to a year and most New Dealers are still on it - about half so far have gone straight into work and a majority of the rest on to other things rather than the dole.

Finally, Damian Green's claim of an pounds 11,000 per job cost is fabricated by loading all the investment up-front. It's a bit like dividing the whole cost of the Channel Tunnel by the number of passengers in the first six months. The true amount spent on each of those finding employment to date is around pounds 1,000, although this figure will obviously rise as young people who have needed more investment through the options, come through and find jobs.

It is too early to calculate a meaningful average cost per job because the majority of the participants are still in the early stages of the programme. But it will be a lot less than pounds 11,000, and good value too.

ANDREW SMITH

Minister for Employment

Department for Education and Employment

London SW1

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