Ipswich Unemployed Action.

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High Court Challenges Unpaid Workfare: What now for ‘Community Work Placements’?

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After High Court challenges UK work schemes Everybody is asking: what now for Community Work Placements?

Poundland store
Poundland was one of the employers 

The High Court has ruled emergency laws underpinning a government back-to-work scheme are “incompatible” with the European Convention on Human Rights.

The government says it should not have to repay claimants docked benefits for not doing all they could to find work.

But a judge said the retrospective application of legislation passed in 2013 “interfered with the right to a fair trial” of those affected.

Ministers said they were “disappointed” and would appeal.

The case originates in a legal challenge brought by Cait Reilly in 2012. She maintained that her participation in an unpaid work placement in a Poundland store in 2011 breached her human rights.

The 24-year-old graduate challenged the legality of the scheme, part of the government’s “mandatory work activity” programme, where claimants risk losing their Jobseeker’s Allowance if they do not take part.

She said she had not been informed prior to the placement that she would, as a result, have to give up her voluntary work in a museum – where she hoped to build a career.

‘Minority of cases’

The government was forced to pass emergency legislation amending the regulations last year after the Court of Appeal ruled that Ms Reilly had not been properly notified about the scheme and its undertakings.

Cait Reilly

The legislation, which came into force in March 2013, strengthened the rules to make it clear that claimants must do all they could to find work in order to claim benefits.

It also sought to ensure the government did not have to repay claimants who had been penalised for not complying with the conditions of their benefit claims by retrospectively “validating” sanctions.

But claimants argued that this was unfair and insisted they were entitled to compensation.

Mrs Justice Lang, sitting at the High Court in London, ruled on Friday that the retrospective nature of the legislation interfered with the “right to a fair trial” under Article Six of the Convention on Human Rights.

She said the claimants could apply for a judicial review of the relevant legislation.

The Department for Work and Pensions said it was “disappointed” by the ruling – which it said applied to a minority of claimants – and would appeal.

“We disagree with the judgement on the legislation and are disappointed,” a spokeswoman said.

“It was discussed, voted on and passed by Parliament. While this applies to only a minority of past cases and does not affect the day-to-day business of our Jobcentres, we think this is an important point and will appeal.”

She said the legislation remained “in force” and the government would not be compensating anyone pending the outcome of its appeal.

Slave labour

But Paul Heron, a solicitor for Public Interest Lawyers, said it was a “massively significant” ruling and the DWP’s decision to appeal against it would be a further blow to the “upwards of 3,000 cases sitting in the tribunal system waiting for this judgement”.

About £130m was owed to people who had fallen foul of the retrospective legislation, he said, ranging from four weeks’ benefit, about £250, to several thousand pounds.

He told BBC News it was “about time the DWP just held their hands up, admit they made an error, and pay people the money they were entitled to at the time. That is what a responsible government would do”.

The back-to-work schemes have been condemned by critics as “slave labour” because they involve work without pay. But they are seen by supporters as a good way of getting the unemployed back into the world of work.

The Supreme Court upheld the Court of Appeal’s ruling on the regulations last year, although the judges also rejected claims that the schemes were “exploitative” and amounted to “forced labour”.

Ministers said that the most recent legal judgement had upheld this view.

“We’re pleased the court recognised that if claimants do not play by the rules and meet their conditions to do all they can to look for work and get a job, we can stop their benefits,” the spokeswoman added.

Poundland, one of several employers which took part in the scheme, withdrew from it in 2012.


What will happen with Community Work Placements, such as clearing up litter and graffiti in their local areas, which are to be introduced for the long-term unemployed?

This is the case by the Public Interest Lawyers:

  1. Our clients do not object to work or to work experience.  Cait Reilly was doing voluntary work experience in a museum when she was sent to Poundland.   Our clients, like the vast majority of jobseekers, are desperate to find paid work of any description, including stacking shelves.  The term “job snobs” is therefore a misleading and offensive buzz word being used by the Government to discredit Britain’s 2.6 million unemployed.  What our clients say they need is support from the Government to make the most of their skills and plug their skills gaps, in order to ensure that they not only enter the job market, but stay there.
  2. The Government is not “paying them… through benefits” to work, as the Deputy Prime Minister has claimed today.  Jobseekers allowance ranges from £53.45 to £67.50 per week.  It is paid for one specific (and obvious) purpose – to support people whilst they seek employment.  It is not remuneration for work, and even if it were it would mean that people on Back to Work schemes would be getting paid as little as £1.78 per hour, often whilst working for some of our biggest retailers.  Many of those retailers are now realising that such a scenario is unacceptable and have either pulled out of the schemes or demanded that the Government thinks again.
  3. People are not being given a choice. Ministers claim that work under these schemes is not forced but voluntary.  This is not correct.  The Community Action Programme, Work Programme and Mandatory Work Activity Scheme (the clue is in the name) are mandatory, and jobseekers will lose their jobseeker’s allowance if they do not participate.  The Government says the sector-based work academy and work experience schemes are voluntarily, but Cait Reilly was told in no uncertain terms that her participation was “mandatory”.
  4. The schemes do not work. Ministers claim the schemes help people into employment.  Yet, the international research the Government commissioned before introducing them gave it two very clear answers:

There is little evidence that workfare increases the likelihood of finding work.  It can even reduce employment chances by limiting the time available for job search and by failing to provide the skills and experience valued by employers”; and

Workfare is least effective in getting people into jobs in weak labour markets where unemployment is high.”

They add:

  • The schemes do not target benefits scroungers or “the something for nothing generation”: the Government’s internal guidance makes clear that such people who are taking advantage of the system are noteligible for the schemes.  They must receive the appropriate sanction of removal of their jobseeker’s allowance as they are not “jobseeking”.
  • These legal challenges are not simply about “human rights”.  What our clients object to is 1) the forced or compulsory nature of the work required, and 2) that Parliament has been by-passed by the Government in creating these schemes.  They argue that this breaches basic democratic and legal requirements.
  • The Government schemes do not amount to slave labour, as some campaigners have suggested.  The ILO’s Forced Labour Convention of 1930 defines slavery as connoting “ownership” over an individual.  What our clients are arguing is that the Government schemes are “forced or compulsory” labour.  This too is prohibited under UK civil and criminal law.
  • These schemes are not all aimed at the long-term unemployed.  For example, the sector-based work academy can apply to any jobseeker, even if he or she has only been unemployed for one day
  • Press attention has focused on the sector-based work academy, but that is only one of a plethora of complex schemes, many of which are much worse.  The sector-based work academy involves 6-8 weeks of unpaid work.  Other schemes involve six months, and there appears to be nothing to stop those six-month periods from being renewed.  One of our clients was told that his Community Action Programme placement would last six months “to begin with”.
  • The Government’s sums do not add up.  The Employment Minister has stated that “half” or “something like half” of those on work experience have received permanent jobs.  He has not advanced any evidence to support this, and Tesco has offered only 300 jobs having taken on 1400 unpaid workers.

We would say that many of these legal, moral and political criticisms apply to Community Work Placements, and the whole ‘Help to Work’ fiasco.


37 Responses

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  1. the government will always go against human rights and like those in the middle eastern countries have always done so just like in colonel times in India etc


    July 4, 2014 at 3:40 pm

  2. When in Hole? Stop Bloody Digging!


    July 4, 2014 at 3:55 pm

  3. A DWP spokesman said the Government will now appeal.
    “We’re pleased the court recognised that if claimants do not play by the rules and meet their conditions to do all they can to look for work and get a job, we can stop their benefits,” the spokesman said. “That is only right.
    “However, we disagree with the judgment on the legislation and are disappointed. It was discussed, voted on and passed by Parliament.
    “While this applies to only a minority of past cases and does not affect the day to day business of our Jobcentres, we think this is an important point and will appeal.”


    Andrew Coates

    July 4, 2014 at 3:58 pm

  4. Appeal Court ruled against you?
    Has the High Court declared your ‘back-to-work-schemes’ illegal?
    You can challenge the decision.
    Contact us now.

    IDS Advice Bureau

    July 4, 2014 at 5:16 pm

  5. Reblogged this on Britain Isn't Eating.


    July 4, 2014 at 7:58 pm

  6. Slight change of subject:

    Any of you being using “Tor” to anonymise your web activities? Have a read at this:


    Secret Agent

    July 5, 2014 at 7:34 am

    • I haven’t read that actual story but im well aware of how agencies view people who use tor tools, encryption tools and the likes. Myself and growls were talking about this “you make it and ill break it” lifestyle not so long ago.

      The biggest threat to governments isn’t as you might expect terrorists and criminals as these are mere banners they hide behind to justify their actions. No the real threat is freedom of the people and that anyone on a good rig with a net connection can deal a massive blow to a countries infrastructure.

      This article you posted along with the previous ones ive read elsewhere by others and news agencies is why you get the full low down from the tor site itself on what can and cannot be achieved by using it. It strongly advises using other tools and technics but do bare in mind that the NSA will sit on anything they cant immediately crack.

      Tor is if you like training wheels for the knowing and just another VPN to everyday users looking to safe guard their data from industry rather than government. If you want total isolation secret agent then you going to have to get more creative. Hiding your sh*t online is but one part but in earnest if you get the packets contents encrypted good enough it wouldn’t really matter providing both parties are using someone elses IP.

      Computers run on logic so no matter how random you think something maybe its still based upon an equation/s and hence decodable. Only your brain is still truly random so its here that encryption must be made and broken and not through a program devised to create them.


      July 5, 2014 at 9:12 am

      • There has been no ‘back-door’ identified in the OR… as of yet. And if there ever is it will go the same way as JAP.

        Banana Skin

        June 4, 2015 at 8:56 am

    • I use hushmail. When I receive an email, there is a banner that reads. Images are not shown for your protection. It then advises that by opening images, it will reveal your IP address

      Mr Northolt

      July 6, 2014 at 9:35 am

      • Flash and java are the most attacked software on the market dew to people not being the most diligent when it comes to keeping stuff updated. Hushmail,tails, they all block these two contents.

        What I like about hushmail Mr Northolt is that once setup on a PC, makes that a master and all others slaves as so to speak. The outcome of this is that it blocks these slaves systems from recording the data despite using them to enter hushmail. You cant even print out what your looking at on screen.

        The only way to get around that is a keylogger but to have one installed without mentioning it and gaining consent is a criminal offence.


        July 6, 2014 at 10:31 am

  7. Tobanem

    July 5, 2014 at 8:06 am

    • It will be interesting to see how that goes.


      July 5, 2014 at 9:18 am

  8. “European Convention on Human Rights”

    Without being a member of the Eu,people would be open to any rights abuse that the government cares to dream up.hence the “fair trial”

    Jobcentre plus seem to think its right for people to work for benefits,the excuse is to gain references’. if employment was plentiful there would be plenty of opportunity to gain experience and references,also have a proper living wage.

    People are not lazy by nature.


    July 5, 2014 at 4:10 pm

    • If we came out of the EU we would have no human rights at all and would be like any of the middle eastern countries that’s for sure

      thank god nick clegg wants to stay in and i think we will as this country would just be a tipping point from disaster


      July 5, 2014 at 5:45 pm

      • I believe the proposed social bill was to replace the HRA if UK leaves the EU or renegotiates terms.


        July 6, 2014 at 8:51 am

      • with the likes of David Cameron just running around in government or as a mp you would need the support however minor of the EU

        it is because of the likes of David Cameron we see so much unrest and death in the world he does not see this himself but i as an old fashioned conservative do and that’s the state of play

        Today’s conservatives only wont a small state if any with everything privatized so i say to David Cameron if that’s what you wont fine but go and live in Switzerland because we will never be able to end up like them however much we try


        July 6, 2014 at 10:41 am

    • You cant actually work for your benefit as then it would imply under law that you have made an employment contract for remuneration and such move you from being a claimant to an employee.
      As you can imagine it opens a can of worms the tories don’t want so even though its been said, it certainly wont come as part of a written policy.


      July 6, 2014 at 8:57 am

      • That is a very important point Gaia – what rights do ’employees’ of a workfare organisation have, what pay, what conditions, what holidays, and so on.

        Andrew Coates

        July 6, 2014 at 9:16 am

      • Does this now mean that those that have been sanctioned through no fault of their own making will have the sanction lifted

        Mr Greenford

        July 6, 2014 at 9:40 am

  9. Andrew Partridge Post this one then as well if you like ….. When you turn up for a work placement in dirty unwashed clothing looking like you were dragged through a hedge backwards wearing dark sunglass’s it don’t give any body a decent image now does it !!!!!


    super ted

    July 5, 2014 at 6:00 pm

    • Come on now tobanem, you know this is all made up by delusional conspiracists like me, it couldn’t possibly be true?


      July 8, 2014 at 12:05 pm

  10. well they removed all my posts and Andrews of there fb page as they dont like the public to know what scum they are and what there up to using mwa.

    showed jcp adviser the posts against my so called scruffy self bus tickets and internal paper work from pinnacle ppl with his mobile no on it to prove i went and was speechless not a word to utter from its gob pmsl.

    so i ask what now any more fun a games to send me on got any cwp to send me on, no any cv course to do,no, can i sign on every day,no,can i do mwa at the jcp,no. got my exit report from the wp yet,no, why cos i never went lol any hit squad adviser going after i burnt out the last dum fooker,no.whats happens now,dunno ??????????????????????????????????

    so there you go folks i fucked um dead get to sign on 10 mins from closing now and not even wanted in the building g4s staff was pissing them self laughing as i was ripping the piss out of my adviser in a nice way pointing out every thing since the wp they have sent me on that was mandatory has sent me home in 10 mins and a complete waste of tax payers money just to try and stop me jsa and you even failed at that.

    i came they saw i kicked there ass 😉

    super ted

    July 7, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    • Nice turn of events their super ted and im surprized DWP didn’t offer you a job as you seem to know more about their policies than they do.


      July 8, 2014 at 12:08 pm

  11. they want me out the place faster than the providers they send me too lol, i know what there going to do b4 they do it then sit there scratching there heads wondering why i win all my sanctions and not giving in.

    they still do not have my cv email addr or phone number refuse to use ujm and have no account now and they cant do jack shit about it.

    super ted

    July 8, 2014 at 2:04 pm

  12. wonder if “the right to a fair trial” could equally apply to tribunal hearings’.if they try to charge those on benefits who would not be able to meet the costs.

    some typical conservative ignore all the facts,headline grab from the express on this.



    July 8, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    • Thanks for the post Ken as I couldn’t resist entering the the posts underneath the news article so as to attempt to address this I pay your way mentality all to often practiced by tax payers.

      This is what I posted on the express news site

      Please stop with this I pay your way lark and I will explain why

      Theirs 31.2 million people in the UK working and 1.2 million unemployed

      This means it takes 26 tax/Ni paying workers to pay one persons JSA, meaning they each contributes £2.84 which is to put context to this 15p more than what it costs to buy a 400g kellogs box of special K at sainsburys.
      Even if we add £100 pounds for housing benefit the 26 still only contribute £6.69 a week, thats 38p above what a person gets paid for one hour at national min.
      So yearly if a person only claims JSA the individual tax/Ni payer only contributed £147.68 in a year meaning a person solely only covered around 2 weeks of an individual claimants unemployment benefit. Its the same turnout after including housing benefit of a £100 a week when we consider the £6.69 contribution.

      If we now say lets include all tax/ni payers to a single individual rather than individual to individual then we see that actually in the case of just JSA that an individual in the collective only contributes 0.000002371 of a pence (so way way less than one pence a week) a week. Even with a £100 a week housing benefit its still only 0.000005576 of a pence per week.
      To put context to this a person works if we assume no breaks 55 years of their life meaning if we stay inline with above that an individual tax/Ni payer only ever in the case of just JSA contributed 0.00678106 of a pence or 0.01594736 of a pence if we include a £100 week housing benefit.

      NOW I know a tax/Ni payer will say I pay more than that and your right BUT heres the THING, it mostly goes on private companies, civil servants and ministers in charge of welfare even if you include other benefits, so you see what the claimant gets in the hand ISNT THE ISSUE, ITS THE MACHINE BEHIND IT THAT EATS AWAY AT YOUR CONTRIBUTIONS RIGHT FROM TAKING OFF YOU TO HANDING IT OUT.


      July 9, 2014 at 7:37 am

  13. mwa cannot be used to gain recent work experience, mwa tool kit page 2 section 23

    super ted

    July 8, 2014 at 2:12 pm

  14. Community Work Placements are community benefitting jobs (which is why they’re often voluntary roles with charities). These include things such as mentoring, working in an Oxfam shop etc. A CWP placement would not be in Poundland or any other business/shop that is not a not for profit business.


    January 10, 2015 at 4:21 pm

  15. Currently on the CWP did my first week at a charity shop and then I got offered a Web Design job so I started part time work, failing to understand the point of me still being on there considering they sell it off as CV building, gaining experience & Giving back to the system which is more than reasonable, however, on anything I earn in my job I’m paying back in tax or JSA allowance as my work is commission based and I mainly use JSA as a safety net (as I’m not entitled to working tax credits due to being under 25) I don’t make enough to cover myself, I do put into the system – a lot more than what I do at the placements, which is usually standing around because there’s nothing to do as my CWP provider seems to like offloading us all at the same places.
    We’re immensely overstaffed, stood around for hours just waiting for the end of the day, this isn’t helpful to me, this is soul destroying, I battled with depression due to being made homeless when I was younger, I fought back against it and overcame it, but every single day I am made to do this stupid, pointless work fare I feel those old feelings again, they are making people ill, just earlier today during an appointment I witnessed a 69 year old Man be referred to a warehouse, 8:30 till 4:30 five days a week and the bloke looked like a fall would shatter him, never mind warehouse work (Which by the way, HOW IS THAT BENEFITING THE COMMUNITY?) .Anyone in favour for the CWP need to educate yourselves on it, if you still think it’s great then I am almost certain if there is a Hell, there’s a reservation for you.
    I’m gaining experience at work and of course building my CV with actual relevant skills to my area of expertise. So why is it when I ask the CWP providers (LearnDirect for me) why I’m still doing this, all they do is scratch their heads and tell me I’m still signing on so must attend, valuable time I could be using to build my skills up in order to take any work load I’m given in the future which could take me off part time completely, which is surely what the aim should be. They’re not interested in our circumstances, they only want one thing and that’s to meet a target, through sanctions, bullying, manipulation and lies, in order to receive their bonuses they must get us all into a placement within a week of us being referred, so it doesn’t matter if you have difficulties in certain areas of work, not to them, you’ll struggle on or you’ll get sanctioned and starve.


    February 20, 2015 at 4:41 pm

  16. you have to do it other wise ld will not get there fee or in my case the provider sub contracted it to another for the placement.

    the store will also get a fee each day you are there 15-20 quid per person per day.

    if you dont sign the contract from the provider then they will ask you to leave the store and prob try a sanction doubt and send the good reason letter for non attendance even if you do show up so keep proof and you will win.

    super ted

    February 20, 2015 at 5:49 pm

  17. i keep forgetting that lol, had my atos letter today with the question air to fill in fkn pages of it. now i did tell them i had broken my arm in 2 places n its the 1 i Wright with lol want it back in 4 weeks. now as im on esa when i go back to jsa can will they send me back to the work programme? as it will be a new claim i take it. or does it not matter.

    super ted

    February 20, 2015 at 7:00 pm

  18. who has ever heard of an unemployment benefit that you have to work for. The logic behind these schemes is illogical you have to unemployed to claim jobseekers allowance then you have to be employed on these schemes to carry on receiving it


    June 3, 2015 at 8:27 pm

  19. ive just been placed on one of these community work placements turns out will be working 30hours week for 26week for my benefit of £102 a fortnight even have to pay for my dinner on gonna be left with like £40 after messing around getting the food for a fortnight working think it works out like 1.70 a hour slave labor


    September 2, 2015 at 10:08 am

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