Up to 60,000 jobless people could miss out on help for three months this summer under the Government's flagship New Deal programme.
The scheme for the long-term unemployed is to be suspended in 27 regions from the end of June through to October before it is revamped and handed over to private firms to run. The Tories claim the three-month gap in provision undermines Labour's claim to be providing "real help now" in the recession.
The scheme provides intensive support to try to get people back to work.
The gap emerged in documents that the Department for Work and Pensions produced for the companies that will provide the Flexible New Deal, which is to be launched on 5 October.
Existing contracts for the 27 regions – which include Birmingham and Solihull, home to the second highest number of jobseeker's allowance claimants – expire on 29 June.
Theresa May, the shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said the gap was "breathtaking incompetence".
A spokesman for the Work and Pensions Secretary, James Purnell, rejected the criticism: "As of this month, there is more help for long-term jobseekers, not less."Reuse content