MINISTERS have been accused of a cover-up, to hide the “failure” of flagship plans to solve the region’s youth jobs crisis.

The Government refused to release figures believed to show that just a few hundred jobless youngsters are being helped by a much-hyped £1bn Youth Contract.

Such a low figure is dwarfed by the huge numbers of long-term young unemployed across the North-East and North Yorkshire, which has sparked fears of a “lost generation”.

Latest figures show that 10,850 under-24s have been out of work for more than six months – of which 5,700 have been jobless for more than one year.

To tackle that crisis, Nick Clegg pledged that “all jobless young people” would receive Government help to get a job, or into training, “before long term damage is done”.

The centrepiece of the ‘Youth Contract’ was ‘wage subsidies’ - payments of up to £2,275 to persuade companies to take on 160,000 18 to 24-year-olds, over three years.

But, in the first 12 months of the scheme, just 4,690 incentive payments were made across the whole country, department for work and pensions (DWP) figures revealed.

However, the DWP refused to reveal how many wage subsidies were taken up in different parts of the UK, despite apparently acknowledging the figures existed.

Yet Mr Clegg had promised extra help in jobless ‘hotspots’, including Hartlepool, Redcar and Cleveland, Middlesbrough, Sunderland and South Tyneside.

The refusal triggered suspicions that take-up is likely to be very low in parts of the North where youth unemployment is high – and an incentive of £2,275 too little.

Liam Byrne, Labour’s work spokesman said: “Nick Clegg promised his Youth Contract would tackle jobless hotspots, but the truth is it has been a disaster in places like the North-East.

“This Government has let down an entire generation desperate for work and they can’t escape that failure by hiding the figures.”

Yesterday, work minister Mark Hoban admitted funds for wage subsidies would be “reinvested in other programmes” if take up remained low.

However, he pointed to the 21,460 wage subsidy forms issued to employers who have recruited young people – suggesting payments would follow, after six months in work.

Mr Hoban said: “We have vigorously promoted the wage incentive to employers and the response has been increasingly positive.

“Through the different elements of the Youth Contract, this Government is delivering on our commitment to offer young people the best chance to get on in life, but we're not complacent.”

The scheme also pledged an extra 20,000 payments to persuade firms to take on 16 to 24-year-olds as apprenticeships, but no figures were released yesterday.

Labour’s Future Jobs Fund, which guaranteed a job for any 18 to 24-year-old out of work for ten months – before it was axed by the Coalition - helped 3,000 young people in the region.