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Options to be offered by New Deal

Your story ("Labour backtracks on jobless pledge", TES, July 11) is based on a number of false premises.

First, we have always made it clear that the New Deal is about offering high quality options to young people.

An option will only be offered if it is felt to be suitable for the young person and no one will be sanctioned (lose the Jobseeker's Allowance) while waiting for a suitable option.

Second, every young person will be offered a place on one of the options, and while every effort will be made to give each young person their choice of option any sensible person would realise that no one can guarantee that every option will be available everywhere: for example, in the case of the job with an employer, that will depend on sufficient places coming forward in an area and on an employer agreeing to take a particular individual.

It is also important to remember that there will be the possibility of choice within each of the options as well as between them.

The key point about the New Deal is that it represents a fresh start and new hope for the young and long-term unemployed. The Government is putting very significant resources into it, and there has been an enthusiastic response from business, the voluntary sector, environmental groups, colleges and local authorities. The quality of the opportunities opened up, and the support and advice available to young people, will be crucial to the programme's success.

Rt Hon Andrew Smith MP Minister for Employment Department for Education and Employment Sanctuary Buildings Great Smith Street Westminster London SW1

Labour's programme for government, New Labour, New Life for Britain, promised young people unemployed for more than six months "the choice of four high-quality options". Labour's election manifesto also said "four options" would be on offer to 250,000 unemployed under 25s.

Editor

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