Auditors made shock discovery while examining ‘welfare-to-work’ placements
By David Hencke | 22 May 2012
The Bootle office of A4e sent the job-seeker to work at ‘X In The City’, a Liverpool lap-dance club favoured by football stars. A4e works with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) under government contracts worth £200 million to place unemployed people in jobs.
The lap-dancing and strip bar made headlines earlier this year after the Manchester City striker, Mario Balotelli, was fined a week’s wages for breaking a team curfew while visiting the nightspot less than 48 hours before a crucial Premier League match against Bolton Wanderers.
The bar advertises lap dances at £5 a time, and offers a ‘VIP’ deal in private rooms where a half-hour lap dance with champagne costs £50.
A4e auditors made the shocking discovery of the case when it found that more than one quarter of the company’s placements was potentially fraudulent, irregular or unverifiable.
They compiled a report of their findings, but they did not record the male job-seeker’s role at ‘X In The City’.
The auditors found that A4e’s records reveal that a jobseeker was working at the club for more than 16 hours a week for 13 weeks in 2009. Auditors tried to verify the job placement, but never visited the club themselves to check.
Their report says: “It was not possible to conduct a visit to ‘X In The City’ to verify the documents for [name redacted by Exaro]. This employer is a lap-dance bar and was not open during the hours of the audit.”
Someone describing himself as the club’s manager told Exaro that he could not recall whether the person concerned had worked there, and that ‘X In The City’ does not use A4e for recruitment now.
Although A4e was not breaking government rules at the time, it is not allowed to send job-seekers to carry out any work at lap-dance bars now.
A DWP spokesman said: “The secretary of state, Chris Grayling, issued a ban on job centres carrying advertisements for jobs in sex clubs and sex shops. Therefore, we are hardly likely to sanction a job provider placing a person in a sex or lap-dance club. It would be banned.”
A former Labour minister for work, Nick Brown, confirmed to Exaro that in 2001 the government banned advertising or allowing sub-contractors to place people in sex shops or clubs. Job centres strictly enforced the ban, he said.
Helen Goodman, another Labour minister in the DWP at the time, also told Exaro: “I would not have expected anybody to have been placed in a lap-dance bar as part of a government work-programme.”
However, according to both A4e and the DWP, neither was aware that any such guidelines existed on lap-dance bars.
DWP said in a statement: “Our general guidance to providers makes clear that claimants should not be helped to engage in activities that put them at risk.
“When we stopped taking lap-dance vacancies at Jobcentre Plus, this related to jobs involving the direct stimulation of others (eg lap-dancers and strippers).
“(It) said at the time: ‘Jobcentre Plus will no longer advertise jobs that involve the direct sexual stimulation of others because publicly-funded services should not be a conduit to this work. The ban would cover jobs such as lap dancers, web-cam performers and strippers. However, Jobcentre Plus will continue to accept other vacancies in the retail, manufacturing and distribution sectors of the industry. A cleaning job in a lap dancing club could still be advertised, for example.’
“Nobody has – or ever would be – required to consider – or apply – for a job in the adult-entertainment industry, or be penalised for failing to do so.”