Back-to-work scheme, unlawful, says Court of Appeal
Remember when the government made a load of people do work for no money in a bid to fudge their unemployment figures? Well, Cait Reilly thought something was amiss and ended up winning a legal challenge on appeal, claiming that a government scheme forces people to work without pay.
The graduate claimed that forcing her to work for free at a Poundland store breached laws banning slavery and forced labour. Emotive language, but she has a point.
Initially, Cait lost her case at the High Court, but on appeal, she was successful, which is likely to have a gigantic impact on other jobseekers. Basically, anyone being forced into unpaid work can now point out that three judges have ruled that the regulations under which most of the government's back-to-work schemes were created are unlawful and have subsequently been quashed.
Reilly said that in 2011 she was forcibly removed from voluntary work at a museum and made to work for Poundland unpaid under the "sector-based work academy" scheme and told that, if she refused the placement, she would lose her Jobseeker's Allowance.
Elsewhere, HGV driver Jamie Wilson was told that his dole would be stopped if he didn't take part in the Community Action Programme, which basically forced him to work 30 hours per week for six months without pay.
Solicitor Tessa Gregory, of Public Interest Lawyers, which represented the duo, said: "This judgment sends Iain Duncan Smith back to the drawing board to make fresh regulations which are fair and comply with the court's ruling. Until that time nobody can be lawfully forced to participate in schemes affected such as the Work Programme and the Community Action Programme. All of those who have been stripped of their benefits have a right to claim the money back that has been unlawfully taken away from them."
Miss Reilly added: "Those two weeks were a complete waste of my time as the experience did not help me get a job. I was not given any training and I was left with no time to do my voluntary work or search for other jobs. The only beneficiary was Poundland, a multimillion-pound company. Later I found out that I should never have been told the placement was compulsory."
"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."