Ministers lose appeal over ‘unlawful’ welfare-to-work rules

30 Oct 13
The government has lost its appeal against a court ruling that found regulations covering compulsory welfare-to-work programmes were legally flawed

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith appealed to the Supreme Court after the Court of Appeal ruled in February that the Jobseeker's Allowance (Employment, Skills and Enterprise Scheme) Regulations were unlawful.

The regulations provided the basis for the government’s flagship Work Programme and also covered the Community Action Programme and sector-based work academies that require jobseekers to work for their benefits. 

Cait Reilly, a Jobseeker's Allowance claimant, won a challenge on the legality of regulations after she was told to work in the retail chain Poundland.

Following the ruling, new rules to govern the schemes were fast-tracked through Parliament in the Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act.

However, the Department for Work and Pensions also appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court.

Five justices today upheld the appeal court decision that the rules as they stood at the time of the case did not meet statutory requirements to give unemployed people enough information about the sanctions for refusing jobs under the schemes.

However, they also backed the appeal court ruling that it was not unlawful for the government to require those claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance to take part in programmes to help get them into work

Duncan Smith said the government was pleased that the judges had supported the principle of requiring people to take part in programmes that would help get them into work.

However, he did not comment on the regulations that were found to be unlawful.

‘We have always said that it was ridiculous to claim that our schemes amounted to forced labour, and yet again we have won this argument,’ he said.

‘Ultimately this judgment confirms that it is right that we expect people to take getting into work seriously if they want to claim benefits.’


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