Workfare ruled illegal?
The Court of Appeal has ruled university graduate Cait Reilly’s claim that requiring her to work for free at a Poundland discount store was unlawful.
Three judges in London ruled that the regulations under which most of the Government’s back-to-work schemes were created are unlawful and quashed them.
24-year-old Cait Reilly has won her Court of Appeal claim in court. 24-year-old Cait Reilly has won her Court of Appeal claim in court.
Miss Reilly, 24, from Birmingham, and 40-year-old unemployed HGV driver Jamieson Wilson, from Nottingham, both succeeded in their claims that the unpaid schemes were legally flawed.
Their solicitors said later the ruling means “all those people who have been sanctioned by having their jobseekers’ allowance withdrawn for non-compliance with the back-to-work schemes affected will be entitled to reclaim their benefits”. More here.
And – smashing a hole in plans to make Workfare (Community Action Programme) compulsory for the long-term unemployed – this!
“A graduate who was forced to work at Poundland for free has won an appeal, in a major blow for the Government’s back-to-work schemes.
Cait Reilly, 24, from Birmingham, had argued that being made to work in the discount shop for nothing while she looked for a permanent job was illegal.
Jamieson Wilson, 40, an unemployed HGV driver from Nottingham who was stripped of jobseeker’s allowance for refusing an unpaid cleaning role, also won his legal challenge.
Lord Justice Pill, Lady Justice Black and Sir Stanley Burnton, sitting in London, agreed the regulations behind most of the back-to-work schemes were unlawful and quashed them.
The pair’s solicitors said the ruling meant anyone docked jobseekers’ allowance for not complying with the schemes could demand the money back.
Miss Reilly was forced to leave her voluntary post at a museum to work unpaid at Poundland in Kings Heath, Birmingham, in November 2011 under a scheme known as the “sector-based work academy”.
She was told she would lose jobseekers’ allowance if she refused and spent two weeks stacking shelves and cleaning floors.
Mr Wilson, a qualified mechanic, was told that he had to work unpaid, cleaning furniture for 30 hours a week for six months, under a scheme called the community action programme.
He objected to doing unpaid work that would not help him re-enter the jobs market and refused, leading to him losing jobseekers’ allowance for six months.
Following the ruling, Miss Reilly said: “I don’t think I am above working in shops like Poundland. I now work part time in a supermarket. It is just that I expect to get paid for working.
“I hope the Government will now take this opportunity to rethink its strategy and do something which actually builds on young unemployed people’s skills and tackles the causes of long-term unemployment.
“I agree we need to get people back to work but the best way of doing that is by helping them, not punishing them.”
Law firm Public Interest Lawyers, which represented both claimants, said the decision was a “huge setback” for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).
Solicitor Tessa Gregory said the judgment had sent Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith “back to the drawing board” to come up with new regulations.
“Until that time, nobody can be lawfully forced to participate in schemes affected such as the work programme and the community action programme,” she said.
She claimed the case had shown that the DWP was “going behind Parliament’s back” and failing to seek proper approval for mandatory work schemes.
Employment minister Mark Hoban pointed out that judges had agreed requiring people to join the schemes was legal, meaning they could continue.
He said there would be an appeal against the ruling of unlawful regulations, but new regulations will be tabled “to avoid any uncertainty”.
“Ultimately the judgment confirms that it is right that we expect people to take getting into work seriously if they want to claim benefits,” Mr Hoban added.
It is to be noted that the reason the appeals won is because of a “lack of information” given to the people forced onto these schemes.
The principle of workfare – work for benefits – itself was not ruled unlawful.
Mandatory Work Activity continues unaffected by this judgement.