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DWP's unpaid back-to-work policy takes another legal battering

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DWP's unpaid back-to-work policy takes another legal battering

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Central Government and also in Legal, Regulation

DWP's unpaid back-to-work policy takes another legal battering DWP's unpaid back-to-work policy takes another legal battering

Image: Gavel via Shutterstock

The Department for Work and Pensions' attempt to remould its spluttering back-to-work scheme has been found contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights.

The DWP composed retrospective legislation in 2013 in an attempt to shore-up the policy after it was successfully challenged by a 24-year-old graduate.

Cait Reilly complained that her human rights had been breached when her jobcentre demanded she did unpaid work for Poundland. Ms Reilly risked losing her jobseeker's allowance if she didn't take part.

The Court of Appeal agreed with the graduate and ruled that she had not been properly informed about the policy and what it involved.

In desperation, the government last year drafted new legislation in just three days designed to bolster the rules.

However, last week London's High Court ruled that the Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act 2013 is incompatible with the right to a fair trial guaranteed by Article 6(1) of the European Convention of Human Rights.

Ruling at the court, Justice Lang said that the retrospective nature of the legislation interfered with the "right to a fair trial" under Article Six of the Convention on Human Rights.

The DWP said it was disappointed with the ruling and would appeal.

Phil Shiner, a solicitor at Public Interest Lawyers, said: “This case is another massive blow to this government’s flawed and tawdry attempts to make poor people on benefits work for companies, who already make massive profits, for free.

"Last year the Supreme Court told Iain Duncan Smith and the coalition government that the scheme was unlawful.

"In this case the High Court has now told the government that the attempt to introduce retrospective legislation, after the DWP had lost in the Court of Appeal, is unlawful and a breach of the Human Rights Act and is a further disgraceful example of how far this government is prepared to go to flout our constitution and the rule of law.

"I call on the DWP to ensure that the £130 million of benefits unlawfully withheld from the poorest section of our society is now repaid.”

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