The Department for Work and Pensions is unable to confirm whether charities will be eligible for subsidies under the new £1bn youth unemployment scheme.
Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, last week announced a new three-year Youth Contract, starting in April, designed to create work placements for up to 500,000 18 to 24-year-olds and reduce the number of unemployed young people, which this month reached a 17-year high of more than one million.
The programme will include wage subsidies worth £2,275 per person handed to companies to take on a total of 160,000 young people for six months. A DWP spokesman said he could not say whether charities would be able to access this money.
The spokesman was also unable to confirm whether charities would be eligible for 20,000 extra incentive payments worth £1,500 each for employers to take on young people as apprentices.
He could also not say when the details of the Youth Contract, including whether charities are eligible, would be available.
Charities accused the government of ignoring the voluntary sector and overlooking its role as an employer.
Martin Sime, chief executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, said: "We are disappointed that the special contribution which voluntary organisations and charities can make to building the confidence and skills of young people has been ignored."
Oliver Reichardt, head of public services and partnerships at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, said he expected charities to be able to benefit from the employers’ subsidy. He said that, if not, "we will be extremely annoyed and making a lot of noise about it."
Barbara Hern, deputy chief executive of the National Children’s Bureau said: "There is no sign that the government recognises the voluntary sector as a big employer. We have 64,000 organisations in the children and young people’s sector alone, and we have jobs ranging from marketing to finance to hospitality."
The government sometimes "sees the voluntary sector as the volunteering crowd," she said.
Clegg’s announcement comes a day after the heads of the NCVO and the chief executives body Acevo wrote to the Chancellor, George Osborne, asking for a greater role for the sector in tackling youth unemployment.
Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the NCVO, and Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of Acevo, wrote that an "incredibly small proportion" of the UK’s 170,000 voluntary organisations are involved in the Work Programme, the government’s current unemployment initiative through which these new measures will be delivered.
The letter proposed an independent fund that would use the "untapped potential" of the sector not only to create and find jobs, but also to ensure that "young people, particularly those in deprived areas, are job-ready".