The government plans to cut up to a fifth of posts at UK Jobcentre Plus, it has been reported.

Job losses could be as high as 2,400 posts in the next 12 months and include the closure of 17 benefit processing centres and five contact centres, according to leaked plans seen by the Guardian newspaper.

Compulsory redundancies are not expected and high street sites will be protected as the government restructures the Jobcentre.

However, the Department for Work and Pensions refused to comment on the leak and said “when making any announcement to staff we do so in the proper way”.

News of the cuts came as the government announced a £60m investment to help more young unemployed people find work.

The money will pay for more work programme places and aims boost the ability of Jobcentre Plus to support 16 and 17-year-olds.

Youth unemployment has continued to rise, while overall joblessness has dropped.

Unemployment among 16 to 24-year-olds reached 963,000 in the three months to February, making the youth joblessness rate 20 per cent, much higher than the UK average of 7.8 per cent.

David Cameron said: “It’s time to reverse the trend of rising youth unemployment that has held back our country for far too long and help our young people get the jobs on which their future – and ours – depends.”

But Liam Byrne, Labour shadow work and pensions secretary, accused the government of sacking Jobcentre staff to pay for the youth scheme.

Earlier this year Jobcentre members of the Public and Commercial Services union have taken strike action on two separate occasions over new working conditions and management targets.