Letter: Welfare to work

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The Independent Online
Sir: I write in response to Polly Toynbee's article on "How Welfare to Work will succeed (yet still fail)" (22 September).

We at the Department for Education and Employment are certainly well aware of the excellent job that Foyers do. David Blunkett and I were with Gordon Brown at the launch of Welfare to Work at the Camberwell Foyer, and David Blunkett praised their work when he opened a new Foyer in Sheffield on Thursday. We are in the middle of discussions at national level with the Foyer Federation to see how best the Foyers model can work with the New Deal. The detailed arrangements need to be worked out at local level between individual Foyers and local New Deal partnerships and I am very encouraged that that is already beginning to happen across the country.

The Employment Service and its local partners have been asked to look at ways of helping our most disadvantaged young people in the New Deal. This would be done by having separate local contracts for the provision of "Gateway" services - the intensive period of individual counselling, advice and guidance through which young people will commence on the New Deal.

While having to keep within the total funds available, the cost of such provision is bound to be higher than for other young people and this would allow Foyer to bid alongside others as part of the contracting process. We would also be very happy to consider bids from Foyer and others to provide the education and training element of the New Deal.

Andrew Smith MP

(Lab, Oxford East)

House of Commons

London SW1

The writer is Minister of State in the Department for Education and Employment