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National Audit Office to investigate New Deal


After several years of conflicting reports and claims from the scheme's supporters and detractors, The National Audit Office is to launch an in-depth study into the success of New Deal, which should provide an objective view of how the scheme has fared.

The Audit Office will investigate how many young people have secured sustained, unsubsidised jobs as a result of the scheme, and how much this has cost to achieve. Since the scheme was introduced nationally in April 1998, over 500,000 18-24 year-olds have begun the programme, receiving training, help with job searching and either subsidised employment or full-time education at a total cost of around £1.48bn. Around 250,000 of those have found work. The government has always promoted what it sees as the successes of the scheme on a regular basis, last week quoting new figures from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research which it says show the economy is richer by half a billion pounds a year due to the Government’s investment in New Deal. Typically this report followed one from two academics which claimed that New Deal has done "relatively little" for those it is meant to help.

The government and the Conservative party have long been in dispute over the exact figures involved for New Deal participants, each party using different interpretations of the figures to support the case that either the scheme is being successful (the government) or that it is an expensive failure (Conservative party). With the National Audit Office responsible for auditing the accounts of all Government departments and agencies, the hope is that the report will provide a definitive view on the strengths and weaknesses of the scheme so far.

An NAO spokesperson told TrainingZONE that the Audit Office decides which studies to undertake on the basis of value for money and importance. Although the Audit Office itself decides which studies to undertake, it receives and considers suggestions from MPs and other outside sources. Although the spokesperson was unwilling to say where the impetus for this study had come from, the Independent on Sunday reported yesterday a spokesman for the NAO had told the paper that the investigation had been prompted by a complaint about the New Deal from the House of Commons Public Account Committee, which oversees the running of the National Audit Office itself.

Since the findings of the study will not be published until the Autumn, they are likely to have little effect on the government's general election campaign, although the results could be controversial. The Independent reports that the Conservatives are unhappy with the timing of the report, as they would like at least interim results to appear before the election takes place.


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