Fellow 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?