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Tuesday, November 9, 1999 Published at 16:42 GMT

Business: The Economy

Jobless New Deal extended

The New Deal will now include over 25s

The chancellor has set out his vision of "enterprise and fairness for all" by announcing an extension to the controversial New Deal for the unemployed.

Gordon Brown, in his pre-Budget statement to the House of Commons, signalled the government's commitment to its New Deal programme, despite criticism of its effectiveness from some quarters, by announcing it would be extended to include unemployed people over the age of 25.

The programme is currently targeted at 18 to 25-year-olds who have been out of work for six months or more.

It aims to give them the skills they need to find full-time employment by providing work-placement and training schemes.

Business start-up help

The training "carrot" is backed up by the "stick" of tough penalties for those failing to take up training opportunities.

The scheme has been criticised by some employers groups for providing trainees who were frequently unsuitable.

Welfare groups have attacked it for providing inadequate training and advice.

The government insists it is producing results.

Mr Brown also announced that more money would be made available to help unemployed people set up their own business, with a new enterprise development fund for people moving off benefits and into self employment.

There will be up to £3,000 assistance for long-term unemployed people over 50 in their first year of setting up a business.

Jobs helpline

Mr Brown also announced the creation of a new national jobs phoneline, which the Employment Service will use to keep unemployed people up to date on vacancies for which they are suitable.

He told MP's the government would help move the long-term unemployed from benefits to their own businesses with a new Enterprise Development Fund, cash help and new business scholarships.

He also said the number of entrepreneurship courses in schools would double and the government would increase the number of information technology college places by 50,000.

The chancellor promised to step up the government's get-tough policy benefit fraud.

Mr Brown announced a "crackdown on the hidden economy", saying an investigation led by a QC and involving the Treasury, Inland Revenue, and Customs and Excise would target fraud and consider whether some benefit claimants ought to sign on every day.

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