Job-seekers struggling to find work because of prominent tattoos are being given taxpayers' money to have them removed, it was revealed today.
Staff at Job-centers across the country can direct those on benefits to receive the expensive treatment in a bid to lower unemployment levels.
In a move set to spark disbelief, staff have been directed to approve the funding of surgery under 'exceptional' circumstances.
But at least one claimant has already benefited from the generous offer, worth up to £1,500.
Darra Singh, chief executive of Jobcentre Plus, said in a letter: 'There is no automatic entitlement, but when an adviser deems it necessary to facilitate the take-up of a specific job offer and the cost represents good value for taxpayers' money, an award could be made.'
Mr Singh, who was being questioned by MPs at the House of Commons on the performance of Jobcentres, said no records were kept on the numbers handed the benefit.However, he added that he recalled a case as far back as 2002.
Visible face and neck tattoos are banned in the armed forces and many employers frown upon them.
Conservative MP David Ruffley told the The Daily Telegraph: 'Tattoos are very expensive to have done in the first place so I think it is completely reasonable from the taxpayers' point of view to get individuals to help pay for the removal of unsightly tattoos.'
Privately, the cost of tattoo removal can cost £100 a session, with larger tattoos requiring about 15 sessions before they disappear.
Emma Boon from TaxPayers' Alliance told MailOnline: 'It's unfair to ask taxpayers to fork out for tattoo removal because those who've had a design now regret it.
'Removing ink is a cosmetic procedure and at a time when the government needs to cut spending it's not a priority.
'Those who have been tattooed found a way to pay for it so they should take responsibility for that and pay for removal themselves.
'Many designs can simply be covered up with clothing and having a tattoo isn't an excuse for not getting a job.'
The popularity of tattoos has increased in recent years, spurred on by celebrities such as David Beckham and Cheryl Cole, who have markings all over their body.
Even the Prime Minister's wife, Samantha Cameron, has a tattoo on her ankle.
A 2008 poll showed that 19 per cent of British people with tattoos suffered regret after the event.