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Chambers and Partners
 
 

Appeal hearing on Government’s unlawful “Back to Work” schemes

19 December 2012

                                                                                      

Today, Cait Reilly and Jamie Wilson, will ask the Court of Appeal to reverse the earlier decision of the High Court and quash the Regulations[1] under which the Government has made many of its “back to work” schemes. Over the two day hearing, the Court will also hear a cross-appeal by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions who is seeking to overturn the High Court’s decision that stripping our client of his benefits for six months was unlawful because the DWP failed, as required by law, to provide him basic information about the consequences of not participating in the scheme. Iain Duncan Smith knows that if he is not successful in the cross-appeal then tens of thousands of other jobseekers who have had their benefits stripped by his department will also be able to seek repayment.

We represent two clients who have been subject to very different schemes:

Cait Reilly – the sector based work activity scheme

In November 2011 Cait was forced to leave her voluntary work at a local museum and work unpaid at a branch of Poundland. She  was told that if she didn’t carry out the work placement she would lose her Jobseekers Allowance.  For two weeks she was made to stack shelves and clean floors. Poundland got free labour whilst she gained nothing and received no training. She was not given a job interview at the end of the two weeks and the museum where she volunteered was left short staffed.

Jamie Wilson – the Community Action Progamme

In November 2011, Jamie, a qualified mechanic, was told that he had to work unpaid, cleaning furniture for 30 hours a week for six months under a scheme known as the Community Action Programme. Whilst he desperately wanted to find a job he objected to doing unpaid work that was completely unrelated to his qualifications and would not help him re-enter the job market. He refused to participate and as a result was stripped of his Jobseekers Allowance for six months.  

 

On behalf of our clients, Public Interest Lawyers, will argue that:

  • 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;
  • The schemes are contrary to the prohibition on forced labour under Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights; and
  • The six month sanction imposed on Jamie Wilson was unlawful as Jamie had not, as is required by law, been provided with basic information related to the consequences of failing to participate and/or what he could be asked to do under the scheme.

The hearing will begin at 10:30 am in Court Room 63, Royal Courts of Justice, the Strand, London.

Cait Reilly states:

I hope that the court will uphold our appeal. It is time that these “back to work” schemes were scrapped. They do not help ease unemployment – they cause more by taking away paid jobs. The government is subsidising free labour for high street stores and profit making corporations.

 

Joanna Long, a spokesperson for Boycott Workfare notes:

"Inventing ad hoc policy and failing to make information publicly available is causing chaos and misery for tens of thousands of claimants. We are regularly contacted by people who have been wrongly forced onto workfare schemes or else risk losing their subsistence benefits. The government has seriously failed in its duty to inform claimants of their rights. We hope that human rights will be upheld for the millions of claimants who face the threat of workfare."

 

Tessa Gregory, solicitor, Public Interest Lawyers, added:

“Our clients are bringing this appeal not only for themselves but also for the thousands of others who are being bullied into unpaid work. We maintain that the regulations themselves are unlawful and ought to be quashed. It must be time for Iain Duncan Smith to go back to the drawing board, when figures show that less than 3.5% of those referred to such schemes actually get long term work.”



[1] Jobseeker’s Allowance (Employment, Skills and Enterprise) Regulations 2011


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