Workfare in court
This week, the High Court in London is hearing a challenge on the legality of the government's highly contentious workfare schemes.
This is a short information post on the statements that one claimant, Cait Reilly, and her lawyer Tessa Gregory made before they went into court yesterday morning. There is also video and full transcript from their statements below.
Cait Reilly and a claimant who was not named are challenging two of the government's workfare schemes.
One is the sector-based work academy scheme (Reilly). The second is the community action programme.
Say Public Interest Lawyers (the lawyers representing the two claimants):
"Cait Reilly participated in the "sector-based work academy" scheme against her wishes. She was forced to leave her voluntary work at a local museum to work in Poundland stacking shelves for two weeks."
"The second claimant refused to participate in a scheme known as the "Community Action Programme" when he was told that he had to work cleaning furniture without pay for 30 hours per week for six months. No detailed information or guidance was provided to him about the scheme itself and he has recently been informed that he is being stripped of his jobseekers' allowance for six months because he refused to participate in the scheme."
The outcome of the hearings could have major implications for the government's controversial "back-to-work" schemes.
Public Interest Lawyers again:
"If it succeeds, the court will quash the regulations under which the schemes are made and Iain Duncan Smith, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, will be sent back to the drawing board."
Tessa Gregory said yesterday that "the government's mismanagement of these flagship reforms has reulted in a complete shambles, where nobody understands the plethora of very different schemes that have been created and where the only ones benefiting are the companies receiving free labour. Nothing has been done to improve the employment prospects of our our clients."
Full transcripts: Tessa Gregory (Public Interest Lawyers):
"Today, we're asking the high court to quash the regualtions under which the government has made many of its back-to-work schemes. We represent two clients who have been subject to two very different schemes under the same regulations. Cait will speak about her experiences.
Our other client, a qualified mechanic, under a scheme known as the community action programme, was required to work unpaid cleaning furtniture for 30 hours a week for six months. The scheme was not once properly explained to him. While he desperately wants to find work, he objects to doing unpaid work which is unrelated to his qualifcations and which will not assist him in re-entering the job market. He refused to participate and as a result, has been stripped of six months benefits of jobseekers' allowance.
Our clients argue that what the government is doing is unlawful, because the regulations fail to provide any description of the schemes which people like our clients can be subject to.
This is contrary to statute... because the government has failed to publish any policy setting out the scope of the scheme and the schemes are contrary to the prohibition on forced labour under Article Four of the European convention on human rights.
The government mismanagement of these flagship reforms has resulted in a complete shambles, where nobody understands the plethora of very different schemes that have been created. and where the only ones benefiting are the companies receiving free labour. Nothing has been done to improve the employment prospects of our our clients. Cait will now speak about her experiences."
"I'm Cait Reilly. Last year, in November, I was forced to leave my voluntary at the local museum to work unpaid in a branch of Poundland. I was told that if I did not carry out the work placement, I would lose my jobseekers' allowance.
For two weeks, I was made to stack shelves and clean floors. Poundland got free labour. I gained nothing. I received no training and I was not given a job interview at the end of the two weeks.
The museum I volunteered with was left short-staffed. My experience only lasted two weeks, but under these regulations, some people have to have to do unpaid work for up to six months.
Forcing people to work for free does nothing to tackle the causes of long-term unemployment. I'm bringing this claim, because I believe that the regulations under which thousands of jobseekers like me can be forced to work for free are unlawful and should be quashed. It is time to support people looking for work, not punish them.
Reporter: Cait, they told us it wasn't mandatory, that you could have said No.
Cait Reilly: I was told by my personal advsior at the job centre that it was mandatory, so I felt that I had no chocie but to go.
Reporter: Are you happy to go ahead with this - with all the publicity? Cait Reilly: Yep, definitely. I think soemone needs to challenge it and I'm happy to be that person.
Reporter: Any luck finding a job since? Cait Reilly: Not as of yet.
Also from False Economy on workfare:
For ongoing updates and analysis, see:
Kate Belgrave blogs on the experience of public service users facing cuts.
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