Court of Appeal rules government ‘workfare’ schemes illegal

Judges at the royal courts of justice have declared that almost all work-for-your-benefits schemes were unlawful, owing to a lack of basic information given to those unemployed. In a damning blow to the government’s back-to-work schemes, Lord Justice Pill, Lady Justice Black and Sir Stanley Burnton ruled that the secretary of state for work and pensions had acted unlawfully by not informing people on jobskeer’s allowance about the penalties they faced and their rights to appeal against being made to work unpaid for up to hundreds of hours.

Cait Reilly, 24, won her claim that being made to work unpaid at Poundland while she looked for a permanent job was illegal. Reilly, a Geology graduate from Birmingham, was told that she would lose her jobseeker’s allowance if she did not spend two weeks working full-time at the discount store, under a scheme called the ‘sector-based work academy’. She was consequently forced to leave her voluntary position at a local museum in order to participate in the scheme. Jamieson Wilson, 40, also won his claim that the community action programme scheme which required him to work for free for 30 hours a week cleaning furniture for six months, was legally flawed. A qualified mechanic from Nottingham, Wilson objected to the unpaid work on the grounds that it would not improve his chances of finding employment in his sector of work. As a result of his objection, he was denied jobseeker’s allowance for six months.

Speaking shortly after the judgment was delivered, Reilly said she was “overjoyed and relieved”. “Obviously I don’t want to get rid of the government helping people get into work because that’s what we want, that’s what we’ve been fighting for really. But we wanted to get rid of the aspect of punishment about it, where people are forced into things that they necessarily don’t need to be doing” she said, adding “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.” Reilly has been hailed as a “hero” by many unions.

The pair’s solicitors have claimed that the ruling means that any people who have been sanctioned under schemes from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), such as the Work Programme, are now entitled to a rebate. However the DWP responded that it would not be making any payments until all legal avenues had been exhausted. Although the court refused a right of appeal, the DWP said it would now be taking the case to the supreme court.

Sources include: The Guardian, Sky News, BBC News

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One Response to Court of Appeal rules government ‘workfare’ schemes illegal

  1. I’ve just posted my take on the whole issue on politicoid if you wanna take a look. I haven’t nearly finished what I really think though!

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