Workfare ruling: who won the 'Poundshop slavery' case?
Both government and Cait Reilly claim victory after Supreme Court deems scheme 'legally flawed'
THE Supreme Court has upheld a ruling that the government's back-to-work scheme was legally flawed, but rejected claims that forcing the unemployed to work for no pay in Poundland amounted to "slave labour".
It marks the end of the long-running case between the Department for Work and Pensions and geology graduate Cait Reilly – with both sides today claiming victory.
Reilly first took legal action against the government after being forced to work in Poundland to keep her unemployment benefits. She was outraged that she had to give up her voluntary work in a museum – her chosen career path – in order to get 'work experience' unrelated to her skills. She claimed the scheme was legally flawed and that it amounted to "slave labour", breaching her human rights.
The Supreme Court today ruled that the government unlawfully failed to supply Parliament and jobseekers with proper information about the so-called "workfare" scheme – but rejected claims that the scheme amounted to forced labour.
Reilly, who has since found part-time paid work in a supermarket, said she was "really pleased" with the judgment. "I brought these proceedings because I knew that there was something wrong when I was stopped from doing voluntary work in a local museum and instead forced to work for Poundland for free," she said.
But Employment Minister Esther McVey rejected suggestions that the ruling was in any way a blow for the government, describing it as a "victory for common sense".
The government has listened to the concerns about the schemes, she told the BBC, and will introduce further safeguards to clarify what is expected of those taking part. But she insisted that judges had backed the fundamental basis of the scheme – to give people experience of holding down a job – and the potential use of sanctions.
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith added: "We have always said that it was ridiculous to say that our schemes amounted to forced labour, and yet again we have won this argument." ·