BLAIR’S SWITCHED-ON PROJECTS

Welfare To Work scheme will help, not hinder, budding pop stars...

Under pressure from the music industry, the government has finally come up with a plan that will allow under-25s to claim benefits while building a pop career.

NME triggered the campaign 18 months ago with the March 14, 1998, issue ‘Ever Had The Feeling You’ve Been Cheated?’, where musicians took Tony Blair‘s new administration to task over youth issues, including benefits for young musicians.

One of the main criticisms centred on New Labour’s ‘Welfare To Work’ scheme, which dictated that any under-25s out of work for more than six months must take up any job available, go into full-time education or take an “approved course”.

Alan McGee, Clint Boon, Gene‘s Martin Rossiter and Badly Drawn Boy Damon Gough have all thrown their weight behind the new scheme, called New Deal For Musicians.

In particular, Creation boss McGee and head of press Andy Saunders have worked closely with the Department For Education & Employment (DFEE) to develop the New Deal, which was launched last week (October 27) in Liverpool by employment minister Tessa Jowell.

The scheme is open to all 18-24-year-olds who have been out of work for six months. Participants will receive #51 a week and also a weekly #15 bonus to put toward “band funds”. They will have access to advisory support from “music industry consultants” and the DFEE will monitor their progress.

Speaking at last week’s launch, Saunders welcomed the scheme, commenting: “Musicians were being forced to lie about what they did, now it’s a valid thing to want to be. Hopefully, your mum won’t be saying, ‘Why don’t you get a proper job?’

“One of the big stereotypes about musicians is that they’re all long-haired layabouts sitting round smoking dope, and that couldn’t be further from the case.

“The people that I tend to work with are all very focused and motivated… although we’ll leave a couple of brothers to one side.”

Ex-Inspiral CarpetsClint Boon, who is working as one of the industry consultants, said that when the band split: “There was absolutely no support and no encouragement for a person of my sort of standing to stick around and get another job in pop music. I’d be visiting the job centre to try and get the sort of dosh you need to support your kids, and they’d say, ‘There’s a forklift truck driver job here, Mr Boon‘ and I was like, ‘I’m a pop star, not a truck driver.’ This is a positive thing.”

For details of the New Deal For Musicians call the DFEE on 0171 925 5555 or visit your local job centre.

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