Following this week’s court ruling regarding Government work programme regulations and Poundland, the Government is being forced to re-evaluate its back-to-work schemes.
Three judges at London’s Court of Appeal found in favour of university graduate Cait Reilly who argued that being made to do unpaid work at Poundland under a Government work programme was unlawful.
Under the Government’s ‘sector-based work academy’ scheme, which includes gaining training on the job, Ms Reilly was told to abandon her voluntary work at a museum in order to carry out unpaid work at discount shop Poundland in Birmingham. If she refused, she was told that her jobseeker’s allowance payments would be revoked.
The regulations under which the unpaid back-to-work scheme had been created were deemed to be legally flawed by the Court, and were quashed. Following the ruling, the Government now plans to seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court and is attempting to get its series of back-to-work programmes back on track. It is seeking to push through “more precise regulations that it said would allow its schemes to continue uninterrupted,” according to the Financial Times.
Solicitors working for Ms Reilly made plain that the ruling ensured that those who had had their jobseeker’s allowance docked for not complying with the work schemes would be able to demand their money back. However, according to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), options are being investigated to ensure that this will not be allowed to happen, even though the Supreme Court appeal was lost.
The DWP told the Financial Times: “We have no intention of giving back money to anyone who has had their benefits removed because they refused to take getting into work seriously.”
Employment Minister Mark Hoban said that the ruling had confirmed the Government’s right to run back-to-work schemes. He explained, “It’s ridiculous to say this is forced labour. This ruling ensures we can continue with these important schemes. What the judge said is that there should be more detail in the regulations. What we are doing today is introducing emergency regulations to provide that detail.”
Following the ruling, union leaders are now campaigning for the Government to abandon the schemes.