Almost a quarter of places in the first National Citizen Service pilot programmes went unfilled, according to figures given to parliament yesterday by Nick Hurd, the Minister for Civil Society.
Speaking during Cabinet Office questions, Hurd told MPs that 8,500 young people had participated in the scheme, which offers six-week summer volunteering placements to 15 and 16-year-olds.
The government had previously said that 11,000 spaces would be available on the scheme.
Several charities involved in the pilot scheme told Third Sector in July that they had struggled to recruit teenagers, the scheme was too expensive and it diverted resources from more useful youth volunteering initiatives.
Hurd told MPs yesterday that the government was "absolutely delighted with the progress of National Citizen Service" and that feedback had been "fantastically positive".
He said the government still intended to fill 30,000 places next year.
But the government’s youth volunteering provision was questioned by several MPs, including Huw Irranca-Davies, Labour MP for Ogmore, who urged Hurd not to "reinvent the wheel" and to make sure he involved existing providers such as the Prince’s Trust.
"Can I urge him not to break the spokes on the wheel by shattering some of the youth service provision in the country, as very good schemes go to the wall under this administration," said Irranca-Davies.
Hurd said that the scheme was "very new and different" from other youth volunteering initiatives.
A spokesman for the Office for Civil Society said that some providers were unable to fill all the places allocated to them, but others were oversubscribed. Two-thirds of people on the courses had no previous experience of youth volunteering, he said.