Court ruling casts doubt on back-to-work schemes in DWP blow
Published by Brian Church for 24housing in Housing and also in Central Government
A university graduate forced to work for free in a Poundland store has won at the Court of Appeal in a case which could have significant implications for the Department for Work and Pensions' flagship back-to-work schemes.
Cait Reilly, 24, said being forced to work for nothing at Poundland was in breach of forced labour laws. In Tuesday's ruling, the Court of Appeal quashed the regulations underpinning two work schemes which threatened to withdraw Jobseeker's Allowance from those refusing to take part.
While leaving the option open to appeal to the Supreme Court, a clearly irritated DWP said new regulations will now be introduced to ensure the schemes' regulations are legally watertight.
According to the Daily Telegraph, Reilly's legal team is now seeking to have the two back-to-work schemes – the Community Action Programme and Work Academy Scheme – declared unlawful. In addition, those forced to work on the schemes could now seek to have benefits repaid to them.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: "This blows a big hole through the Government's workfare policies."
The DWP, headed by Iain Duncan Smith (photo), said the Court of Appeal had backed an earlier High Court judgment that "requiring participation in the schemes does not breach human rights."
Employment Minister Mark Hoban said "the court has backed our right to require people to take part in programmes which will help get them into work. It’s ridiculous to say this is forced labour. This ruling ensures we can continue with these important schemes."
"We are however disappointed and surprised at the court's decision on our regulations. There needed to be flexibility so we could give people the right support to meet their needs and get them into a job. We do not agree with the court's judgment and are seeking permission to appeal, but new regulations will be tabled to avoid any uncertainty."
The two claimants - Reilly and 40-year-old unemployed HGV driver Jamieson Wilson - had been placed on two different Government schemes. They were granted permission to seek a judicial review, arguing that they shoud not be forced to work for free and in jobs which added nothing to their career prospects.
The Community Action Programme trialled the provision of mandatory community work for the very long-term unemployed, while the Work Academy Scheme includes work experience and training, the DWP said.