Small firms fail to take up New Deal

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The Independent Online
ALMOST HALF the country's small firms are confused about the Government's flagship New Deal jobs scheme, according to a survey published today. Many complain that job centres either fail to contact them or send inappropriate candidates to interview.

The Federation of Small Businesses said its poll of 1,800 business owners found the take-up of small firms under the scheme was "disappointing".

However, the Department for Education and Employment hit back, saying the survey was encouraging in key aspects, including a high awareness of the New Deal among small businesses.

The poll showed that just 15 per cent had been contacted by their local job centre about the New Deal, even though two out of three found the scheme appealing because of the subsidy offered to employers to take on an unemployed worker.

The Federation said job centres should be privatised if the "disappointing performance"continued.

Employment spokesman Dr Bernard Juby said: "The survey suggests new impetus is needed to get New Deal working for small businesses.

"Although it is early days, a time limit should be given to get things working smoothly. If it cannot make the grade, the Employment Service has prime high street locations which would be attractive to the private sector."

Employers are offered a pounds 60-a-week subsidy to take on New Dealers, and pounds 75-a-week for older long-term unemployed.More than 3,500 employers have signed up to the scheme.