The National Citizen Service Trust narrowly missed its participation targets, the latest accounts show.
The trust’s accounts for 2018/19, which were published yesterday, show that 99,674 government-funded participants took part in NCS programmes in the 2018 calendar year, against a target of 100,000.
The total number of summer programme participants was 85,938, against a target of 92,260.
But overall participation figures were a record for the programme.
Each participant cost the taxpayer £1,764 – against a target of £1,710 – and places on the programme that were not filled cost £96 per place, against a target of £20.
The government has committed more than £1.5bn since 2010 to the NCS, which consists of a number of two to four-week programmes for 15 to 17-year-olds during school holidays in the spring, summer and autumn.
The latest accounts say: “The level of spend on places that went unfilled was disappointing this year.
“This spend went to our network of delivery partners (mostly made up of non-profit youth sector organisations) and was used for the purposes of delivering the NCS – for example, through running recruitment events and hiring programme staff.”
The accounts say that changes to its supplier contracts from 2020 onwards “have been designed to minimise the risks of the trust paying for places which are not filled in future”.
The programme cost £55.5m to run for the year, the accounts show.
The NCS Trust has faced repeated criticism over recent years about the cost of the programme, having failed to meet targets in a number of years since it was set up in 2011.
But the NCS did exceed targets on diversity, with 33 per cent of participants on its programmes coming from minority ethnic backgrounds, against a target of 23 per cent.
Participants on free school meals accounted for 16 per cent of the total – the target was 12 per cent – and 5 per cent had special educational needs, with a target of 2 per cent.