By Claire West

Launching a New Enterprise Allowance Scheme, the Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, moved to bridge the gap between unemployment and work by offering the jobless cash payments linked to the value of their benefits as they seek to set up a business.

At the same time, he pledged to work with the voluntary sector to set up business mentoring back -up for those taking advantage of the scheme, while also clearing access to loan finance, worth up to £1,000, to be used for the purchase of initial equipment.

Announcing the initiative in a keynote speech to the Conservative conference in Birmingham, Mr Duncan Smith revealed that he had won approval for the project from David Cameron and George Osborne, and had this message for the jobless: 'If you have been unemployed for six months and want to start your own business, we want to support you. We will provide business mentoring and a financial package worth up to £2000 to get your business up and running. We want to see 10,000 new small businesses by next year.'

With around 10 million people of working age languishing without jobs, and 5 million of those claiming benefits, the new Government has pinpointed the need to offer those with the drive and determination to start their own business a helping hand to do so.

Hence the New Enterprise Allowance, which will be available to people who have been claiming Jobseekers Allowance for more than six months, in parts of the country where the recession has hit hardest. To secure assistance, applicants will have to demonstrate that their business idea is viable.

Click here for more information about the New Enterprise Allowance, including a summary of the scheme's pros and cons.