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Angela Eagle, Junior Social Security Minister
"The New Deal is a very cost effective and very worthwhile scheme"
 real 28k

David Willetts, Shadow Minister for Social Security
"It is an expensive flop"
 real 28k

Thursday, 1 June, 2000, 14:48 GMT 15:48 UK
New Deal 'an expensive flop'
Searching for job vacancies
The Tories say lone parents find jobs more easily without the New Deal
The New Deal for lone parents is ineffective and an "expensive flop", shadow social security secretary David Willetts has said.

An investigation into the welfare-to-work scheme by the Conservatives suggests that the cost to the public purse of each job obtained under the scheme has been 22,500, and not 1,388 as the government claims.

Ministers are fiddling their own figures

David Willetts
Accusing the government of "fiddling the figures", Mr Willetts said ministers were including in their successes people who have approached job centres voluntarily to find work.

Social Security Secretary Alistair Darling defended the project, saying that 50,000 people - more than one in three on the scheme - had found work since it was established.

The Tory investigation - put out as a pamphlet, "A raw deal for lone parents" - makes further claims about the failures of the deal.

It says single parents are more likely to find jobs in areas where New Deal pilot schemes do not actually operate rather than where they do.

Although each lone parent on the 220m scheme is given a "personal adviser" to help them find work, the Conservatives claim that 34% of lone parents actually found jobs through friends or relatives, rather than through their adviser.

Mr Willetts said that ministers were wrongly implying that a fall in the number of lone parents claiming benefit was down to the success of the scheme.

Government counter-attack

Alistair Darling
Minister Alistair Darling has defended the scheme
Mr Darling said in March that the number of lone parents claiming income support was "3.3% lower than it would have been without the New Deal".

But Mr Willetts said the reason for this fall in the claimant count was that the New Deal had flushed out couples who have "repartnered" whilst continuing to claiming lone parent benefit illegally.

"The main effect of the scheme appears to have been the discovery of partners previously unknown to the benefits agency," Mr Willetts said.

But government ministers have gone on the counter-attack, insisting the project has been a success.

"The new deal is working, there 50,000 people in jobs now that wouldn't be in jobs without it", Social Security Minister Angela Eagle told BBC Radio.

"It is a very cost-effective, very worthwhile scheme which is working very well indeed".

Tory plans under fire

The row over the New Deal is the latest attempt by the Opposition to seize the agenda on social security issues and suggest that resources are being wrongly targeted.

Last week Tory leader William Hague announced that his party would scrap the scheme and instead use the money to fund a rise in the basic state pension of up to 10 a week.

The National Council for One Parent Families has condemned Conservative proposals to scrap the New Deal for Lone Parents and to encourage them to work once their youngest child was 11.

Andy Keen Downs, deputy director of the council, said: "Scrapping the scheme would be a retrograde step since it is the best chance many lone parents have of escaping poverty."

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