THE New Deal in Northern Ireland is failing people who lack basic skills, say two separate inspection reports.
One report also reveals little success in getting people into jobs.
Under the New Deal, young unemployed "clients" pass through an assessment or "Gateway" that directs them to one of four paths hopefully leading to either a job, full-time education or training; projects to improve the local environment; work in the voluntary sector; or full-time work.
The education and training inspectorate paints a bleak picture of the full time education, environmental and voluntary options in south and east Belfast.
Only 12 out of 62 who took these options completed them; only two of these got jobs and just four achieved the target qualification. Most returned to unemployment.
The report acknowledges that the Government's New Deal advisers helped clients with career planning but criticises the lack of support to help clients improve their motivation, literacy and numeracy.
The inspectors say: "This is a significant weakness, particularly for those clients with weaknesses in social and basic skills.
A repor on the employment option for 18 to 24-year-olds in north Belfast and Newtownabbey says support for most clients is adequate, but "a small number with weaknesses in literacy and numeracy are not supported sufficiently during the Gateway".
It reports that 89 per cent of those who completed the six-month subsidised employment option were offered jobs by their employer, but 39 per cent did not complete their placement.
"Insufficient attention is given by the personal advisers to identifying why clients leave the programme early."
Three of the four organisations in the Belfast New Deal consortium, including Belfast Institute for Further and Higher Education, have poor arrangements for the initial assessment of clients, which the inspectors regard as "a significant weakness".
Nearly all the directed training was well-planned and delivered and the match with work-based training was usually good. However, some clients lost out: for example: one person doing a vocational qualification in retail operations could not complete it because his work placement in a sweet factory did not involve enough customer contact.