Latest Public Sector News

07.08.12

Legal challenge to work schemes fails

A legal challenge to get the Government’s back-to-work schemes declared unlawful as ‘forced labour’ has failed. 

Cait Reilly, a University of Birmingham geology graduate, had argued that being forced to work unpaid at a Poundland store for two weeks, or risk losing her benefits, breached her human rights. 

But the scheme has been ruled lawful by the High Court, and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has said any comparison with slave labour was “ridiculous”. 

Reilly’s fellow claimant, unemployed driver Jamie Wilson, was told his Jobseeker's Allowance would be stopped because he refused to join the Community Action Programme, which his lawyers said would have meant working unpaid for 30 hours per week for six months. 

The pair’s lawyers said the back-to-work schemes breaches article four of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits both forced labour and slavery.

The High Court did decide that letters setting out possible sanctions should be clearer, which the Government said it would contest. 

A DWP spokesperson said: “Those who oppose this process are actually opposed to hard work and they are harming the life chances of unemployed young people who are trying to get on.” 

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