More than 200,000 people on the government's controversial Work Programme have returned to the Job Centre to find employment, according to official figures.

The scheme, which is part of a number of welfare to work reforms the government has introduced aimed at getting unemployed people into sustained work, uses private and public companies to find work for benefit claimants who have been unemployed for at least one year.

But the Department for Work and Pensions revealed 219,000 individuals – of the 1.41 million people who have been referred to the scheme - have returned to Jobcentre Plus after completing 104 weeks on the programme between June 2011 and the end of September 2013.

Rachel Reeves MP, Labour's Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, slammed the programme for its results.

"These new figures show David Cameron's flagship Work Programme is still failing. It's astonishing that people who use the Work Programme are more likely to return to Jobcentre Plus than find work," Reeves said.

But the figures also found around one in six of all referrals who had spent sufficient time on the programme to do so, achieved a Job Outcome payment – culminating in 207,950 payments overall.

The DWP said two thirds of those are still in employment at the end of September.

In addition, the government said 1.39 million sustainment payments were made to providers for 188,000 participants, but only 22,000 claimants have stayed in sustained employment long enough to qualify for the maximum number of sustainment payments possible on the scheme.

The Employment Related Services Association, the sector body for the welfare to work industry, welcomed the data and claimed it suggested long term unemployed jobseekers are increasingly going into sustained employment on the Work Programme.

"The Work Programme is increasingly helping the long term unemployed into sustained work, thus transforming their lives and those of their families," said Kirsty McHugh, ERSA chief executive.

She added: "Performance levels for those on Employment and Support Allowance however remain depressed by the inclusion on the scheme last November of jobseekers found by their Work Capability Assessment to be around 12 months away from work."

DWP had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.