Less than a quarter of job seekers who took part in a government programme where they were sent to work for eight weeks for £15.38 per week, were employed at the end of the scheme.

Figures from the Department of Employment and Learning show that from September 2008 until December 2010 - the latest date when the statistics were available - just 2,451 people were employed out of the 10,421 who took part in the Steps to Work programme.

The Steps to Work programme is a government scheme to try and help the unemployed back into work. As well as providing training and guidance to job seekers, they are also given an eight week work placement with employers such as retailers and are paid £15.38 on top of their benefits.

The scheme is designed to help people back into work and give them a ‘foot in the door’ and experience in the work place.

One local 20-year old who asked not to be named, said he took part in the scheme earlier this year by working in a large retailer but at the end he was not offered a job.

“I worked for about six weeks in the shop doing loads of work and thought at the end of it they might give me a job,” he said.

“But at the end they just let me go because the next people from the scheme would be coming along.

“Why would they even bother keeping me on if they know they have a whole bunch of other people coming in that they don’t need to pay.

“I know that they want people to go back out to work, but it seems like the big shops get the free labour and we are just spat out at the end.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Employment and Learning said:

"Work experience placements are an integral part of the Steps to Work (StW) programme and allow participants to acquire the disciplines of work,” she said.

“The Department records the number of participants who find work following their participation on Steps to Work regardless of whether or not it is with the work experience placement provider.

“Employers who are willing to provide work experience placements to StW participants are not required to offer employment following placement.

“In the period September 2008 until December 2010 (the latest date for which these statistics are available), 2,451 participants moved into employment following their placement on the programme. "