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Jobcentres have been criticised for offering women as young as 17 work as strippers and lap dancers, with some vacancies listing the ability to “discuss sexual fantasies” as a useful skill. A charity that works with women in the sex trade told MPs on the home affairs select committee that the government was acting irresponsibly by putting the jobs on its database.
“We have had contact with two 17-year-olds who have gone into the jobcentre and it brought up a number of vacancies,” said Denise Marshall, director of the Poppy Project. The jobs included webcam strippers, adult show hostesses and escort agency workers. “Their mother and older sister contacted us because they were so distressed that this had happened.”
The database does not ask applicants to confirm their age before displaying the vacancies, Marshall said. Some adverts offered only a mobile phone number for the employer, she added. The jobs can also be viewed over the internet.
“When you are offering £20 an hour to be a webcam stripper to a 17-year-old, the chances are they may be naive,” she said. A member of staff from the Poppy Project accessed the adverts at jobcentres around London, despite the charity’s protest to the Department for Work and Pensions.
Members of the home affairs committee criticised the practice. “I am not happy at the government promoting this sort of inappropriate work for women,” said Labour MP Ann Cryer. “I did not know this was happening and I hope the jobcentres will rethink it.” The DWP said it was legally obliged to carry the vacancies after a test case brought by the Ann Summers sex shop chain in 2003. A spokeswoman said the jobs were clearly labelled as unsuitable for under-18s.