THE government is to pay the unemployed to hang around shopping centres pretending to be clinically insane, it emerged last night.
Ministers want to exploit the full potential of Britain's worldwide reputation for potentially dangerous eccentrics who loiter outside shops, clutching kitchen utensils and muttering about the fish-headed ones.
A spokesman for the department for employment and learning said: "After the success of our scheme to pay genuinely mentally ill people £15 a week to take their pills, something went 'ping!'.
"You can never have enough oddballs. So why not take people out of the dole queues and pay them to act a prawn ring short of a buffet for eight hours a day? They are a huge tourist draw and enrich the country's cultural fabric."
Former farm manager Roy Hobbs has recently taken up a £24,000 a year position as lunacy facilitator at Swindon's Brunel Centre.
He said: "My job is to sit in a wheelchair wearing one of those comedy hats that looks like it's got a knife through it, brandishing a wooden lizard at passers-by in a way that's simultaneously threatening and pitiful.
"Once a week I get to work from home calling local radio stations and asking the presenters in a very loud voice if they want to come in my helicopter so I can cut their hair."
Meanwhile ex-cab driver Wayne Hayes now makes up to £80 per day as a freelance 'square peg' for Birmingham City Council.
Mr Hayes said: "My main role is to go into Habitat-type shops and pull my tracksuit bottoms down. I then wander around with my arse and balls on display, nonchalantly examining curtain rails like I haven't a care in the world."
He added: "It's a great job but it's difficult to switch off and I often catch myself naked from the waist down at family functions."