State of the nation: So, Tony, on a scale of one to ten, how does your government rate? Welfare: 8/10

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The Independent Online
Targets

1. By May 2002, to get 250,000 under 25-year-olds off benefit and into work by using money from the windfall tax.

2. To reduce the number of lone parents dependent on income support by 10 per cent by 2002.

3. To maintain or improve pensioner income as a percentage of average earnings.

4. To reduce benefit losses from fraud and error in income support and jobseeker's allowance by 30 per cent by March 2007, with at least a 10 per cent reduction by March 2002.

5. New 10p rate of income tax introduced.

Verdict

Although the "new deal" has been criticised for not providing real opportunity, it has replaced much worse schemes for tackling long-term unemployment. Since the scheme was introduced over 100,000 people have gone on to find work, but the jury is still out on whether or not it will make a difference to employment in the long term.

The difficulties of providing decent affordable childcare need to be tackled, along with income support, so that it is worthwhile for the estimated 900,000 lone parents who wish to work to do so. The Government has introduced a minimum income guarantee for pensioners of pounds 75 per week.

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