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Last Updated: Monday, 14 May 2007, 09:04 GMT 10:04 UK
New Deal job scheme 'a failure'
People look for work in a Jobcentre
The scheme was set up to help young unemployed people
A former government minister has made a stinging attack on the New Deal scheme to help young unemployed people - one of Gordon Brown's flagship policies.

In a report for think-tank Reform, former welfare reform minister Frank Field called its performance "woeful".

He said there were more young people out of work now than when the scheme began in 1998, despite 3.5bn funding.

The Department for Work and Pensions said the New Deal had been a "success" at helping young people into work.

Mr Field's comments come as Mr Brown continues his campaign for the Labour leadership.

His report for Reform rebuts government claims that youth unemployment has been "virtually abolished".

Mr Field suggests limits should be set for receiving benefits and that control of the New Deal should be devolved to local benefit offices.

Figures showed there were more than half a million 18 to 24-year-olds out of work - 70,000 more than in 1998, he said.

"The results show that even if the money was available, which it isn't, more of the same won't work and will be a betrayal of young unemployed people," he said.

"As part of the Labour leadership contest, it is important for the chancellor and the candidates for the deputy leadership to tell the electorate how best to move the 505,000 unemployed young people into work, as the New Deal is failing to do so," Mr Field added.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman said: "The New Deal for young people has been a success, helping over 700,000 18 to 24-year-olds into work.

"Since 1997 the number of young people on unemployment benefits has fallen - not risen - by well over 100,000.

"However, as [Work and Pensions Secretary] John Hutton has made clear, we recognise the need to refresh the new deal so it continues to deliver jobs and opportunities to those hardest to help."

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