The Department for Work and Pensions has concluded that the £8m volunteer brokerage scheme, which matches jobseekers with volunteering placements, is unlikely to meet its original target.
The DWP's latest figures show that 4,710 people took up places under the scheme, which is being run by volunteering charities BTCV, CSV, Volunteering England and v, in its first six months. Its target was to match 40,000 people with placements in two years.
A spokeswoman for the DWP said it had reduced to 230,000 the number of people, unemployed for six months or more, that it expects to benefit from extra support, of which the brokerage scheme is one aspect. It originally aimed to reach 500,000 people.
She said it had not drawn up a new target for the volunteer brokerage scheme, but the department expected fewer people to take it up because the number of jobseekers reaching six months of unemployment "has been significantly lower than independent forecasts at the time suggested".
The figures show that 90 people took up the scheme last May, but that number rose every month to 1,350 in October. Provisional figures for November 2009 are more than 1,500.
Nick Hurd, the shadow charities minister, said: "Our view is that the DWP did not really know what it was doing when it started. So it is the usual story of good intentions and poor delivery."