Today, the first ruling was made in a case which challenged the legality of workfare – forced unpaid work schemes. The outcome is a big blow to the government: it means tens of thousands of people who have been sanctioned on workfare may be able to claim their money back.
While the judge did not go as far as ruling that the government practice of constituting multiple, confusing schemes and not publishing sufficient information about them is unlawful, this could well be overturned in the coming appeal.
The judge found that the letters sent to the two claimants in this case failed to set out the necessary information for sanctions to be lawful. These were standard letters, sent to tens of thousands of people who may now be entitled to reimbursement. Public Interest Lawyers have said they intend to appeal the decision that the schemes were validly made.
The ruling comes at a time when despite multiple studies which show workfare does not help people find work, the government intends to roll out the Community Action Programme. This will see 1.6 million people forced to work for six months without pay, potentially replacing thousands of paid jobs and making the minimum wage irrelevant. This is why the brave legal action of Cait Reilly and Jamie Wilson, who brought the case is so important.
The High Court may not as yet have found that forced unpaid work contravenes human rights, but the public know that it does. Our campaign does not rely on judges to challenge the impact of workfare. Thousands of people are taking action online and on the streets and are succeeding in pushing back workfare in the UK. Many organisations have already pulled out, and workfare is rapidly losing all legitimacy.
You can help! Boycott Workfare is calling a UK-wide day of action on 8th September. Put the date in your diary, start thinking about how you would like to take part and keep an eye on the website for more info!
Lord Stapleton said at 8:53 pm on August 6th, 2012:
There is always the European Court of Human Rights if the right judgement is not reached at the High Court. Regardless of the confusion over poor communications, it is blatantly obvious people are being forced to work to retain their benefits, which are subsistence entitlements that apply to every citizen. See Part 2 of Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights: Prohibition of slavery and forced labour.
1. No one shall be held in slavery or servitude.
2. No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour.
3. For the purpose of this Article the term “forced or compulsory labour” shall not include:
(a) any work required to be done in the ordinary course of
detention imposed according to the provisions of Article 5
of this Convention or during conditional release from such
(b) any service of a military character or, in case of conscientious objectors in countries where they are recognised, service exacted instead of compulsory military service;
(c) any service exacted in case of an emergency or calamity
threatening the life or well-being of the community;
(d) any work or service which forms part of normal civic obligations.
Link to PDF: