The Department for Work and Pensions is set to appeal a recent court ruling on emergency legislation which was implemented following a previous judgment on welfare schemes. Following a High Court ruling the government may have to shell out as much as £130m to jobseeker’s allowance claimant’s after the judgement declared the laws introduced which aimed to shore up back to work schemes as inconsistent with European legislation.
The government’s flagship welfare-to-work scheme was successfully challenged by human right lawyers when the court ruled that it was “legally flawed”. The retrospective legislation was held to be incompatible with Article 6(1) of the European Convention for Human Rights (the Right to a fair trial) by Mrs Justice Lang. The assessment was said to be damning by campaigners who are also of the opinion that if the appeal is upheld this could lead to thousands of payouts to people who have suffered by being denied benefits under this scheme.
Critics of the back-to-work scheme have described it as “slave labour” due to the government forcing people into unpaid work placements where they are to conduct “work experience”. However, supporters of the project have backed it up by saying that this is a great way of getting unemployed people back into work and further down the line back to paid jobs. The DWP introduced this legislation retrospectively following flaws identified in the Poundland case. In the 2011 judgment three judges agreed that the regulations omitted to provide people with sufficient details regarding sanctions and in particular the subsequent loss of job seekers allowance if an unemployed person chose to turn down a work placement under the scheme.
The ruling was great news for 24 year old Birmingham University graduate Cait Reilly who challenged an order requiring her to work for Poundland, in addition to Jamie Wilson the 40 year old HGV driver who did not want to take part in an unpaid placement requiring him to clean furniture. The pair were as a result denied the benefit of Job Seekers Allowance for a period of six months.
The public interest lawyers who represented both of the above people stated that following the latest ruling, thousands of people in the UK who were punished by having their JSA taken away from them would now be able to claim the money they should have been entitled to back from the government.