Workfare: Time to exercise the courts again

Workfare sinking shipFellow blogger Another Angry Voice has written an excellent article on the results of the Court of Appeal ruling that Workfare is illegal. Everybody should read it because it raises several possibilities that we should explore.

Firstly, despite the fact that the Department for Work and Pensions has stated that it has “no intention of giving back money to anyone who has had their benefits removed”, that is not a decision it can make. The court has ruled that the decisions were unlawful, therefore they may be challenged.

And they should be.

Both the DWP, who took benefits from JSA claimants who refused to take part, and participating companies, who profited from work carried out by the claimants but did not pay the minimum wage required for it, are liable for prosecution – probably at the small claims court.

For people who have lost money as a result of this disastrous scheme, the first stage of the process is to work out how much money is owed – the difference between what they would have had if their benefit had not been stopped/if they had been paid the relevant wage, and what they actually received during the period in question.

Then it is necessary to contact the DWP or the company for which the claimant did Workfare, and request the money that is owed, pointing out that the Court of Appeal had ruled that the regulations under which the scheme was run were unlawful and that the full amount is therefore due. This is an important stage as it shows the claimant tried to settle accounts with the organisation owing the debt before taking it to court.

The Citizens Advice website gives a good overview of the process, pointing out: “The court will expect you to make your claim in writing, giving the other person a reasonable time to reply – a month is usual. You should also warn them that you will take court action if they fail to reply within the given time.”

Once they have refused to settle, it’s off to court – and again I would direct claimants to the Citizens Advice website for help with this.

The aim is, of course, primarily to win back the money that has been lost to benefit claimants through no fault of their own.

The process could also achieve two other goals. Firstly, it could discourage companies from taking part in the slave labour scheme – once bitten, twice shy.

Secondly, it could create bitter embarrassment for the government. People like Monster of 2012 Iain Duncan Smith and Mark Hoban have been swanning around declaring that they can do what they like to anybody they like – they deserve to be humiliated for what they are doing. They don’t have a right to walk all over anyone else. Benefit claimants have a right to receive the social security into which they have contributed.

So – who’s up for it?


  1. gareth morgan February 14, 2013 at 4:21 pm - Reply

    Ive been wondering about this since this story came out wouldnt any person who had had their money stopped also be able to claim compensation on top of the benefits they were owed if it has been stopped in error theres a bit about it on here

    • Mike Sivier February 14, 2013 at 4:27 pm - Reply

      I don’t know; I’m as much a lay-person as anyone with regard to this legal minefield.
      I’d ask why there isn’t a handy guide to the legal system but I think we know the answer – it’s not meant to be used by ordinary people like me and thee.
      What you’re suggesting seems reasonable to me, though.

      • Matt Emulsion (@mattemulsion1) February 15, 2013 at 8:06 am - Reply

        Last year I received a cheque for £50 which the DWP had recovered ‘illegaly’ some seven years previously. As the original over-payment had been the result of an error on their behalf, a court had ruled that they were not legallly entitled to reclaim this money. I believe this was the result of a successful legal challenge and the establishment of a ‘precedent’ that the DWP was bound to recognise.
        Slightly different circumstances here but it may only require one successful challenge to force the DWP’s hand on this. However from April this will become harder for ordinary folk as the elegibility for Legal Aid is being removed from benefits cases.

  2. Bill Kruse February 14, 2013 at 5:33 pm - Reply

    Then there’s compensation for distress and hardship…

  3. rainbowwarriorlizzie February 14, 2013 at 5:44 pm - Reply
  4. Jaki February 14, 2013 at 8:46 pm - Reply

    What I would like to know is – it’s even worse for the sick and disabled who are forced to do this. Those in the ESA-WRAG group may now face sanctions of up to 70% since Dec 3rd changes. Where does this leave them and why no publicity around this apart from in the usual places? Maybe it is because it’s early days and the full magnitude of it is yet to be seen.

  5. catherine courtney (@comefollowcath) February 14, 2013 at 9:11 pm - Reply

    Are they not contempt of court.? Is there not such a charge for MP’S.?

    • Mike Sivier February 14, 2013 at 10:16 pm - Reply

      I think they’re trying to change the law now, so they don’t fall foul of the Court of Appeal ruling in the future. It seems to me that any refusal to pay back-benefit would be in contempt, but that would have to be tested by a court case, and this is why I’m suggesting that someone should start proceedings and see how far they go.

  6. M.E. In The 21st Century February 15, 2013 at 4:33 am - Reply

    Initiating proceedings BEFORE the law is changed … even if the new law is retro-active…should mean the court has to try the case under the current law. Retroactive only applies to past behaviour in new cases, not cases already on the go.
    It would be very helpful to find out what a barrister thinks.
    I’m certainly no expert either but I fairly certain this is correct.

  7. Stephen Bunting February 15, 2013 at 4:36 pm - Reply

    Whatever happens, we have to stand up and be counted now. Otherwise it will be accepted as a matter of course that we receive “handouts” and have to work for them, and almost everyone with a “disability” is faking it for sympathy and needs a good kick up the arse …

  8. The Politicoid February 22, 2013 at 7:39 pm - Reply

    Recently had a comment piece published on this in The Glasgow Journal – you can see the version on politicoid here or the actual article here if you want a read

Leave A Comment