Fewer people have taken up placements under the volunteer brokerage scheme than the Department for Work and Pensions first thought.
The DWP's latest report on the scheme, published earlier this month, says 13,550 people took up placements in the first year of the scheme from April 2009. Figures published last month said 13,790 people had done so. Now the DWP has raised doubts about the initiative's future.
The Labour government set up the £8m scheme to match jobseekers with volunteering placements. It wanted 40,000 people to take up volunteering placements in two years.
Volunteering charities BTCV, CSV, Volunteering England and v are the main providers of the placements. Some volunteer managers say the scheme has been hard to implement.
A spokeswoman for the DWP said the department was considering the future of the programme as part of the transition to the new Work Programme, which will replace existing welfare-to-work schemes. She said: "Work is continuing with Jobcentre Plus and the volunteering brokers to improve take-up."
The new report says previous statistics were based on summary reports by organisations delivering the scheme. The new figures are based on records of individuals who have taken up volunteering placements, it says. The revised figures show more people took up the placements in the first eight months than was reported by the DWP at the time. But they also show that levels of participation have fallen since February 2010.
Kerry Tweed, chief executive of Greater London Volunteering, the umbrella body for volunteer centres in the capital, said the brokerage scheme was a difficult programme.
"Charities delivering placements are often relying on free support from under-resourced volunteer centres that do not have the capacity to create the placements," she said.
Denise Wilson, manager of Springboard Sunderland, which runs the brokerage scheme for CSV in the city, said: "The scheme is difficult because unemployed people often don't turn up for the placements." She said Jobcentre Plus staff often did not refer people to the local volunteer brokers.
The DWP conceded in January that the scheme was unlikely to meet its target. Nick Hurd, then shadow charities minister, said at the time the scheme was "the usual story of good intentions and poor delivery".