Pubdate: Sun, 12 Apr 1998
Source: Sunday Times (UK)
Contact:   Kenny Farquharson


YOUNG drug addicts and persistent criminals will be asked to submit to
intensive counselling to get them fit for work under Labour's New Deal
programme for unemployed 18 to 24-year-olds.

Donald Dewar, the Scottish secretary, said 3,000 "hard-core cases" will be
identified for the New Futures scheme, which is being piloted in Scotland.
Counselling would be done by specialist agencies with practical experience
of specific social problems.

But the Scottish Office is staying silent on whether a refusal to accept
help for addiction or personality problems would result in a cut in
benefit. This would represent a significant extension of the compulsion
element of the New Deal, in which young jobless can have their benefit
docked if they refuse to accept one of five alternatives to the dole queue.

These options are: a subsidised job, work on an environmental task force,
voluntary work, full-time training or education, or assisted

Dewar said New Futures showed Labour was serious about confronting the
challenges in Scottish society. "Some of these people have very real
problems in terms of addiction and trouble with the law which have
destroyed confidence and made it difficult for them to be candidates for

"This is another example of our very strong determination to try to ensure
that everyone, however difficult their situation, has a genuine chance to
compete effectively in the job market."

The New Deal was launched throughout the UK last Monday after a number of
pilot schemes including one in Tayside. Details of the New Futures scheme,
including its cost and the methods by which the 3,000 will be selected,
will be announced in the summer.

Concern about New Futures was expressed yesterday by Irene Adams, Labour MP
for Paisley North and a member of the Commons Scottish affairs select
committee which voiced reservations about the New Deal in a report
published earlier this year.

Adams said: "It could be a very welcome development if it gives assistance
to young people who might have low self-esteem and might not think
themselves capable of work. But it absolutely has to be voluntary. I firmly
believe that 99.9% of young unemployed people desperately want something to
do and there's no need to beat them over the head.".

But David Macauley, director of the government agency Scotland Against
Drugs, was supportive of the proposals. "In the west of Scotland we have
8,500 heroin addicts who commit on average 2.5m crimes a year. The state
has to become more intelligent in dealing with these people instead of the
revolving door of the courts," he said.

"For addicts, this sounds like firm compassion and as far as treatment to
prepare them for work goes, it's a case of 'Good morning and welcome to the
real world'. The taxpayer cannot afford to keep people forever and a day,
that's the reality of it."

An SNP spokesman said last night: "The SNP supports the objective of
getting people out of unemployment and into work. But we are opposed in
principle to the element of compulsion which is at the heart of the New

"Our concern is that when compulsion was introduced in relation to young
unemployed people, it it could later be replaced throughout the welfare