Paul Lynch.

"The government may have had good intentions, but the implementation has fallen woefully short": Shadow attorney-general Paul Lynch. Photo: Brendan Esposito

A $10 million program to divert troubled young people from a career in crime is falling well short of its target.

The state government's Youth On Track program is supposed to help about 300 young people in its first year, but has reached only 35 since it was launched in July.

Shadow attorney-general Paul Lynch, who obtained a progress report on the service from the government, said it was ''clearly not working'' as promised.

''The government may have had good intentions, but the implementation has fallen woefully short,'' Mr Lynch said.

''They've allocated $10 million per annum for this project, claiming it will involve 300 young people.

''Almost half way through the program's first year, they've got about 10 per cent of that figure.''

Government figures show that of the 60 young people referred to the Youth On Track service by police, 21 refused to participate, as at October 31.

Mr Lynch said the high proportion of young people refusing to be involved reflected a flaw in the program's design.

''To qualify for the scheme, a young person is probably already subject to interventions and a caseworker,'' he said. ''Adding another level of caseworker is probably not very attractive.

''Some people in the field have argued that police probably don't see themselves as social workers and aren't making referrals that they don't think will be accepted.''

Youth Action director of policy Eamon Waterford said it was too early to judge the success of the program, which he believed, once established, would become a ''vital'' early intervention program to reduce the number of young people committing serious crimes.

''Although it is clear this program has had some teething problems, we are confident it will show great results over the life of the pilot,'' he said.

A spokeswoman for Attorney-General Greg Smith said Youth on Track was an early intervention program for youth at risk of becoming entrenched in crime.

She said it was on track to meet its expected level of referrals.

The spokeswoman said the rate of referrals was expected to grow in coming months with the help of the police computer database and the involvement of schools.

The Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research will evaluate the program after its first 12 months.