Official: Workfare is…. unfair!


Well, it was a political victory yesterday when the court of appeal quashed “Back to Work” regulations. Cait Reilly and Jamie Wilson were represented by Public Interest Lawyers.

The case was brought by our clients Cait Reilly, who was made to stack shelves in Poundland for two weeks, and Jamie Wilson, who was stripped of his Jobseeker’s allowance for 6 months after refusing to participate in a scheme[3]which required him to work 30 hours a week for six months for free.”

In a carefully reasoned judgment the Court found that the Secretary of State, Iain Duncan Smith, has acted beyond the powers given to him by Parliament by failing to provide, any detail about the various “Back to Work” schemes in the Regulations. The Government had bypassed Parliament by introducing the Back to Work schemes administratively under an “umbrella” scheme known as the Employment, Skills and Enterprise Scheme, claiming the need for “flexibility’. The Court of Appeal held that this was contrary to what Parliament had required. Stanley Burnton LJ stated:

“any scheme must be such as has been authorised by Parliament. There is a constitutional issue involved. The loss of jobseekers’ allowance may result in considerable personal hardship, and it is not surprising that Parliament should have been careful in making provision for the circumstances in which the sanction may be imposed. There are well known legislative formulae for conferring complete flexibility of decision on a Minister.”

The result is that over the past two years the Government has unlawfully required tens of thousands of unemployed people to work without pay and unlawfully stripped thousands more of their subsistence benefits.

According to Newsnight last night said 130,000 people who have been unlawfully sanctioned are affected.

And no doubt Hoban, IDS and Freud are furious by the fact that workfare has been given a sound kicking. Hoban came out with fighting talk yesterday.

“The Court of Appeal has today ruled that the Government’s back to work schemes do not breach article 4 of the European convention on human rights.

While the judgment supports the principle and policy of our employment schemes, and acknowledges the care and resources we have dedicated to implementing them, the Court of Appeal has ruled that the Jobseeker’s Allowance (Employment, Skills and Enterprise) Regulations 2011 (“the ESE regulations”) do not describe the employment schemes to which they apply, as is required by the primary legislation. The Court of Appeal has therefore held the ESE regulations to be ultra vires and quashed them.

We are seeking permission to appeal against the Court of Appeal’s judgment and, if permission is granted, we will take our case to the Supreme Court. As we are currently seeking permission to appeal, claimants who have already served a sanction will not be able to appeal on the basis of the Court’s decision until our appeal is heard. We are considering a range of options to ensure we do not have to repay these sanctions.

Today we intend to lay new regulations, which will come into force immediately and enable us to continue to refer jobseekers allowance claimants to our employment schemes and to provide the best chance for people to find employment.”

So it seems that they rushing through regulations at breakneck speed. John McDonnell has put down an EDM

That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Jobseeker’s Allowance (Schemes for Assisting Persons to Obtain Employment) Regulations 2013 (S.I., 2013, No. 276), dated 12 February 2013, a copy of which was laid before this House on 12 February, be annulled.

But what has confused me is that I can’t find any reference to the Statutory Instrument 2013, NO.. 76, which John McDonnell has referred to in his EDM. The reason for the judgement, it seems, was due to the fact the government bypassed Parliament, then surely what the ConDems are doing now rushing through replacement regulations means they are STILL bypassing Parliament, won’t they be falling foul of the judgement…again?

Workfare is unpaid labour that is seen as a way of beating the cuts coupled with the ideology of attacking pay and conditions, driving down salaries. To fight workfare we need an organised political campaign with the trade unions at the forefront as, to reiterate, it’s a wholesale attack on pay and conditions, workers rights, criminalising the unemployed and it’s all ideological. One day we will wake up finding ourselves part of an unpaid labour force.

The high street walk of workfare shame still includes… Tesco (well every little helps… their profits), Argos, Superdrug, Scope. And as we are experiencing the impact of austerity, these capitalist firms need to protect their profits and what better way than forcing someone to work for nothing. Of course that denies that person a wage for a day’s work.

What also occurred to me is whether once the impact of the attacks on legal aid come into force this April, will we be able to challenge again any similar government unlawfulness?

See Boycott Workfare

Johnny Void

NB: seems like Poundland has withdrawn from the workfare programme.

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6 thoughts on “Official: Workfare is…. unfair!

  1. Excellent article———We should be outside all these stores showing our disapproval of them taking part.if there is work available for someone not being paid —-that means there is a vacancy to employ someone and pay them

  2. Hi Louise, no SI 276 has not been published yet. It should be on the site. Statutory instruments (regulations allowed to be made under primary legislation – i.e. acts of parliament) count as ‘going through parliament’ as MPs can pray against them (prayers are tabled as EDMs and like EDMs are not ordinarily voted upon) so what the government has done in presumably setting out the schemes more definitively in SI 276 is legal. The only way for an SI to be voted upon is if either the government or opposition party make time for it to be debated and voted upon. The government won’t (for obvious reasons), but I doubt Labour will either since the frontbench still supports workfare (the enabling primary legislation for these workfare schemes is the 2009 Welfare Act that Purnell guided through the Commons).

  3. That Poundland article is out of date. Are they still involved as of now though?

    From waht i’ve seen of the new regulations – and what I understand of them – it sounds like people can be mandated forever: until their claim stops or the DWP says otherwise.

    So it looks like the government’s response is more full on workfare.

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