Jobless get free mobile phones

And prisoners get free games consoles

The Government is launching a pilot scheme to give away free mobile phones to Britain's unemployed. Phones or pagers will go out to those over 25 who have been jobless for more than 12 months, the Department of Education and Employment said yesterday. The gadgets will be paid for by recruitment company Reed in Partnership, and will target four unemployment blackspots - Haringey and Newham in London, Doncaster, and Sefton, Merseyside. Reed will get paid around £300 for each placement that lasts at least three months, and aims to give out 19,000 phones and pagers over the next two years. The move is part of an attempt by the Government to give the unemployed quicker access to jobs. As part of the scheme, people will be matched to vacancies and be contacted by text message within minutes of jobs being advertised. Other planned perks include grants towards buying a new suit, a car, or even taking driving lessons. Speaking yesterday, the Chancellor Gordon Brown said there would be no excuse for people to continue signing on. "I say to the unemployed who can work - we will meet our responsibility to ensure that there are job opportunities and the chance to learn new skills," he told Radio 4's The World at One. "You must now meet your responsibility – to earn a wage." Meanwhile, the Government's Chief Inspector of Prisons was praising another give-away scheme. A programme to reward young criminals' good behaviour with Nintendos and TVs was deemed "very impressive" by Sir David Ramsbotham yesterday. When Ramsbotham visited Werrington Young Offender Institution, near Stoke-on-Trent, eighteen months ago he described it as "a disgrace". But yesterday he said the scheme, which also included rock-climbing and canoeing trips, had led to a "transformation" for the jail and its 106 inmates. "These were not expensive junkets, but challenging episodes in the young people's lives," he said. Twenty-five youngsters at the centre have so far earned the right to have a Nintendo console in their cells. Another four GameBoys are also given out each week to those who have behaved exceptionally well. Managers claimed that the hand-outs had cut the number of violent incidents and improved discipline. "The computer sets are only given out as reward for very good behaviour. If offenders' marks slip, the sets are taken away and the offenders know it," on prison representative said. ® Related stories: Truents rewarded with £1K notebooks UK is mobile phone laggard

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