Today we are asking the High Court to quash the regulations under which the Government has made many of its “back to work” schemes. We represent two clients who have been subject to very different schemes. Cait Reilly, will speak about her experiences shortly.
Our other client, a qualified mechanic, under a scheme known as the Community Action Programme was required to work unpaid, cleaning furniture, for 30 hours per week for six months. The scheme was not once properly explained to him. Whilst he desperately wants to find a job he objects to doing unpaid work that is unrelated to his qualifications and will not help him re-enter the job market. He refused to participate and as a result has been stripped of his Jobseekers Allowance for six months.
Our clients argue that what the Government is doing is unlawful because:
- The Regulations fail to provide any description of the schemes to which people like our client can be subjected. This is contrary to statute;
- The Government has failed to publish any policies setting out the limits of the schemes; and
- The schemes are contrary to the prohibition on forced labour under Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Government’s mismanagement of these flagship reforms has resulted in a complete shambles where nobody understands the plethora of schemes that have been created and where the only ones benefiting are the companies getting free labour. Nothing has been done to improve the employment prospects of those like my clients.
Last year in November I was forced to leave my voluntary work at a local museum and work unpaid at a branch of Poundland. I was told that if I did not carry out the work placement I would lose my Job Seekers Allowance. For two weeks I was made to stack shelves and clean floors. Poundland got free labour. I gained nothing. I received no training, I was not given a job interview at the end of the two weeks and the museum where I volunteer was left short staffed.
My experience only lasted two weeks, but under these regulations, some people will have to do unpaid work for up to six months. Forcing people to work for free does nothing to tackle the causes of long term unemployment.
I am bringing this claim because I think the regulations under which thousands of jobseekers like me can be forced to work for free are unlawful and should be quashed. It is time to support people looking for work, not punish them.