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Thursday, August 26, 1999 Published at 10:36 GMT 11:36 UK

Business: The Economy

New focus for New Deal

The New Deal is aimed at the young long-term unemployed

The govenment has launched a scheme designed to help young jobless people into work and counter criticism of its New Deal programme.

David Blunkett with John Humphrys on BBC Radio 4's Today programme
Employment Secretary David Blunkett announced the new Trailblazers plan on Thursday.

The pilot scheme, which will operate in 12 areas initially, will give unemployed young people more intensive training in the first four months of a New Deal programme.

The New Deal is targeted at 18-24-year-olds who have been out of work for six months or more.

Social skills

It aims at giving them the practical skills they need to get full-time jobs through work-placement and training schemes.

The training will focus on literacy, numeracy, social and commercial skills.

The BBC's Nick Wood: "The government's get tough policy is already taking effect"
Mr Blunkett said: "The jobs are there. We need to match people to them.

"We want to build and improve upon the success of the New Deal."

The employment secretary said the government had listened to employers who wanted to see more done to develop young people's basic communication and social skills.

The scheme has been brought forward following criticism from employers that many of the young people offered for work under the New Deal are not suitable.

Last week, the government announced it was intensifying training on the New Deal, but also toughening up the penalties for those who refused jobs or training offered under the programme.

Scheme 'is working'

Under the revision, young long-term unemployed people who refuse a job or training offer three times could lose benefit for six months.

The New Deal has attracted criticism from some youth groups, which say it is not doing enough to equip people for work.

Last month, the Prince's Trust published a report calling on the government to improve training and the quality of advice offered on the programme.

But Mr Blunkett said the scheme was producing results, with new figures showing 123,000 young people had found work since the scheme began.

The Trailblazer areas will be Sheffield, Sunderland, Glasgow, Shropshire, Forth Valley, Dunbartonshire, Liverpool, north Devon, Wrexham, Lincolnshire, Bedfordshire and Hackney.

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