By Michael Northcott Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Court rules government 'back-to-work' scheme is unlawful

The government's initiative for getting more people into work - by effectively forcing them to work for companies for free to earn their welfare payments - has been largely ruled unlawful.

Ministers have found their policy in a bit of a mess today, after university graduate Cait Reilly won a Court of Appeal claim that the government’s requirement that she work without pay at Poundland was unlawful.

Reilly originally took the government to court after she was informed that she would not be entitled to her jobseeker’s allowance if she did not work for free in a placement at the discount store.

Her solicitor said that the ruling will mean: ‘All those people who have been sanctioned by having their jobseekers’ allowance withdrawn for non-compliance with the back-to-work schemes affected will be entitled to reclaim their benefits.’

The ruling also essentially means that any semblance of a ‘welfare to work’ type scheme will be extremely difficult for the government to implement. 

Employment minister Mark Hoban said: ‘We are…disappointed and surprised at the court's decision on our regulations. There needed to be flexibility so we could give people the right support to meet their needs and get them into a job.

We do not agree with the court's judgment and are seeking permission to appeal, but new regulations will be tabled to avoid any uncertainty.

‘Ultimately the judgment confirms that it is right that we expect people to take getting into work seriously if they want to claim benefits.’ Not sure how you worked that one out, minister…

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