Defeated again over work schemes: Iain Duncan Smith loses his case in court

Victory at last: The Supreme Court's ruling means vindication for Cait Reilly, who has spent nearly two years battling against a system that costs the taxpayer millions while failing to increase employment.

Victory at last: The Supreme Court’s ruling means vindication for Cait Reilly, who has spent nearly two years battling against a system that costs the taxpayer millions while failing to increase employment.

It’s a return to the drawing-board for the man we call ‘Returned To Unit’ after the Supreme Court ruled against Iain Duncan Smith’s Workfare appeal.

The five Supreme Court justices upheld a Court of Appeal decision, made against the government in February.

The case had been brought by Cait Reilly, a geology graduate who, while unemployed but volunteering at a local museum in order to gain experience towards getting a curator’s job, had been ordered by the Department for Work and Pensions to work for her benefits, stacking shelves at Poundland.

It should be remembered that Poundland is perfectly capable of employing its own workers on full wages. At the time, it ran 390 stores nationwide and made £21,500,000 profit in 2010 – enough to employ extra staff at all its branches and still make a good profit.

The amount it was saving by not paying Ms Reilly, coupled with the fiscal multiplier that adds around 60p to every pound she would have earned if she had been an employee, means Poundland could have made a £1,188.48 profit from the work she was doing for the firm at the taxpayers’ expense.

Total profit for all companies using benefit recipients on ‘Mandatory Work Activity’ between June 2011 and July 2012 (878,000 people): £894, 416, 090 – nearly £1 billion.

Loss to the taxpayer: £16,933,000 (not including payments to Work Provider companies).

Together with another claimant, Jamieson Wilson, Ms Reilly brought a judicial review against the scheme, claiming it was a violation of human rights under article 4 (2) of the European Convention on Human Rights: “No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour” – and the government lost the case.

Mr Justice Foskett stated: “Her original complaint arose from what she was wrongly told was a compulsory placement on a scheme that (a) impeded her voluntary efforts to maintain and advance her primary career ambition and (b) having embarked upon it, from her perspective, did not offer any worthwhile experience on an alternative career path. It is not difficult to sympathise with her position from that point of view.”

At the time (August 2012), the right-wing media slanted their reports to make it seem that Ms Reilly and Mr Wilson had lost, but this was soon rectified because the government appealed against the ruling, which stated that, if Ms Reilly had been properly informed of the regulations, she would not have been led to believe she was being put into forced labour.

The problem for Mr… Smith was that Ms Reilly and Mr Wilson were not the only ones to have been misled in this way, and the ruling opened up the government to claims for compensation, from thousands of benefit claimants, for millions of pounds that had been taken away from them because they had refused to take part in the ‘work-for-benefits’ schemes. The illegality of the regulations meant the DWP, under Iain Duncan Smith’s supervision, had broken the law more than 228,000 times – RTU is a criminal more than a quarter of a million times over.

In any case, evidence quickly piled up, proving that Workfare doesn’t work. During its first 14 months, only 3.53 per cent of jobseekers who took part in the government’s mandatory work activity programme – of which Workfare is a part – actually found a job for six months or more. They would have had a better chance of finding a job if the work programme had not existed.

This did not prevent the Department for Work and Pensions from appealing against the ruling and, in February, the Court of Appeal responded – by upholding the claim that the scheme was unlawful.

This meant that anyone who was penalised for refusing to take part, or for leaving the scheme once they had started it and realised what it was, could claim back the Jobseekers’ Allowance that had been withdrawn from them for non-compliance. The payout could have been as high as £130 million.

Smith wasn’t going to have any of that! He launched emergency legislation to reverse the outcome of the decision and change the regulations retrospectively, making it impossible for benefit claimants to demand payouts of between £530 and £570 each for decisions made while the illegal rules were in force.

Lawyers and campaigners branded the DWP’s move as “repugnant” and “unbelievably disgusting”, saying it undermined the rule of law. This blog concurs with that assessment. It is an appalling abuse of governmental power.

But the government succeeded in undermining the rule of law after all but a few members of the Labour Party allowed it to pass, having negotiated a few “safeguards” that have proved to be useless in practice.

Fortunately, some people have a little more backbone and Ms Reilly and Mr Wilson took their case to the Supreme Court. It is from this body that today’s – final – judgement has come.

Now comes the nitty-gritty.

After the introduction of the emergency law, the solicitors Public Interest Lawyers (PIL), who represent Reilly and Wilson, lodged a judicial review accusing RTU of conspiring to undermine basic human rights by enacting the retroactive legislation. They say they will continue to pursue that judicial review after their success in the supreme court.

A spokesperson for PIL said: “Following today’s judgment, any… jobseekers can object to sanctions that have been imposed and seek the repayment of their benefits. It is truly staggering that Duncan Smith has found himself in this position even after fast-tracking emergency retrospective legislation through parliament. We intend to work with advice organisations to ensure that, following this ruling, affected individuals have the right information and assistance.”

It seems the firm believes the retrospective part of the Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act 2013 is no longer valid. That means all 228,000 Workfare victims who were penalised by the DWP will be able to claim their compensation and force the £130 million payout.

Not only that, but it seems reasonable that a legal penalty should be imposed on ‘RTU’ himself. Not only did he enforce the schemes under the illegal regulations, but he also imposed a lengthy and costly legal battle on those who stood up against it, even though it had been found to be wrong in law.

Who knows how much hardship this has caused to people who were already on the breadline before his brutal sanctions were imposed?

How much despair has he caused to people who had no other means of support?

Has anybody died because of this – through health problems, mental health issues leading to suicide, or for other reasons?

It is time for the people who have been most seriously affected by this to get together and start talking to lawyers – Public Interest Lawyers might be a good place to start – about getting restitution from the man who caused this mess.

The taxpayer may well have to foot the bill for the illegal benefit sanctions, and that is only right. They should never have been imposed in the first place and this will only set matters straight.

But the individual minister who caused this should not get away without paying a personal penalty.

Let’s have some accountability in government, Mr… Smith.

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48 thoughts on “Defeated again over work schemes: Iain Duncan Smith loses his case in court

  1. ghost whistler

    So where does this leave the retrospective legislation?

    What does this say about the Labour party who were happy to go along with what has been found to be at best a scheme run extremely badly. They were happy to go along with that and now they looks equally as stupid as RTU.

    1. Mike Sivier

      I was secretary of my Constituency Labour Party at the time the retrospective law was pushed through. Before it happened, on behalf of the CLP, I wrote a very strongly-worded letter to Liam Byrne (then-Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary) and Ed Miliband, calling on them to vote against the legislation.
      So that’s at least one Labour constituency that knows right from wrong, and I’m sure there are more. There were more than 30 Labour MPs who spoke and/or voted against it as well.
      Developments such as this must feed into the Labour leadership’s understanding of the way people feel – but those of us who are members of the Party must ensure that this understanding spreads through Parliament by ensuring that people are selected as electoral candidates who know what needs to be done and are prepared to do it – in my opinion.

  2. Mr No


    I was sanctioned for 6 months whilst on the work programme under the old regulations. Provider error initially, written evidence to prove it.

    But even though the WP is an ESE scheme I believe I am right in thinking that as I wasn’t directly affected by a specific ‘workfare’ component then I will have no right to claim back anything.

    Seemingly it’s not any and all sanctions under ESE schemes. Just those affected by the CAP etc.

    Oh well. My tribunal appeal was stayed due to this case, at least that can now proceed. I could have pursued it further much sooner, but thought I’d wait it out.
    Hopefully the tribunals service will be contacting me soon.
    A shame because the judge seemed very much understanding of my arguments.
    A different judge might not. I could tell any new judge what the first one said I guess. I’m confident and can speak well, but I’m no lawyer.

    A good verdict. Seems there is a little justice left. Albeit scarce.

    Good blog. Thanks for what you do.

  3. Joan Edington

    Great news. I only hope that the solicitors Public Interest Lawyers will continue to pursue their judicial review successfully. If it is being done under the tag of human rights it’s no wonder the scum want to get rid of that act. Oh, to see IDS behind bars.

  4. Joe Smith

    Don’t ever make the mistake of thinking IDS is either stupid or a fool. (AKA RTU) to do so would be a serious error. Being a well known fraudster, liar thief and cheat. He has huge skills in deception, lying, fraud, and manipulation. Let’s list his lies and frauds. Army career, ended abruptly after someone found out about his claimed but non-existent educational qualifications.
    Italian university degree, a well known UK newspaper exposed this one, the university does not and never has had a degree course in any subject.
    He defrauded his expenses paying his wife twice once from party funds secondly claiming against his MPs expenses. Known as bettsygate 2001/2.
    Lying in regards to DWP statistics in Parliment.
    Ian Duncan Smith is a very shrewd operator, as most successful criminals are. Cameron lacks both the backbone and integrity to sack him, that’s because Cameron needs smiths support to keep the coalition in power and Cameron in his job. We need to act with much greater cohesion if we are to stand the remotest chance of ridding ourselves of IDS.

  5. bookmanwales

    Wonderful news and about time too.
    What would be the icing on the cake, as far as I am concerned, is if we could raise sufficient funds to bring a private prosecution or issue a summons against IDS holding him personally responsible for the defrauding of peoples right to benefits by imposing these illegal sanctions.

    It would seem that whilst the government and media seem happy to let this onslaught continue the only recourse those affected will have is to issue court action to challenge each and every attack on the unemployed and disabled as they arise.

    Rather than trying to get people to attend rallies and demonstrations, which while showing some dissent remain largely ignored by the mainstream media, maybe a central finance fund to fight the government through both the British and European courts could be established.
    Do the public interest lawyers have a donation page maybe people could be directed there from all the various campaign websites / blogs / facebooks

    1. Joe Smith

      This would be a great idea, if we could get say 5000 people to donate £2.50 that’s around 50-60 hours of legal time. Let’s go guys. Needs to be kept secret because when the summons arrives on the smug B…..Ds desk his bowels will explode

      1. Nick

        if only we could get around 5000 people paying in 10 pounds each to finish off IDS once and for all in the high court ? for the killing of so many sick and disabled

        if this went out as a petition mike you would probably end up with 50’000 signatures paying in 20 pounds each to finish the government off once and for all

        and it may have to come to that at some point ? and soon if more life’s are to be saved

    2. Steve Cheney

      It seems to have been a standard practice since Hutton for politicians to use the “am I a liar or an idiot? YOU JUST DON’T KNOW SO YOU HAVE TO LET ME OFF” defence; as much as I am pleased with the current result, I would like to see British law amended to the effect that, if someone can be proved to be *either* a liar or an incompetent, but we can’t prove which, they should be punished for the lesser crime, rather than not punished at all.

  6. Pingback: Government Loses Another Appeal – ‘Back-to-Work Schemes Legally Flawed Decision’ Upheld | ukgovernmentwatch

  7. fucking dispies ian bullshit smug cunt smith

    ha ha ha ha i all ways said karma would come to bite the bald barbaric b*st*rd!! might open a cold lager to celebrate and if the ugly vile sick twisted Nazi b*st*rd ever ends up in prison i will celebrate the fact for weeks.

  8. jed goodright

    news just coming in … sorry … David Cameron has expressed his undying loyalty to his DWP Secretary saying he has all the skills necessary to get through this difficulty and is a most treasured member of the Government

  9. Nick

    IDS should be on the ropes for the premature killing of the many lives lost through welfare reform as well dont let anyone forget

  10. Phil The Folk

    It’s great news, but having listened to the BBC News report on it, and what the Dalek McVey had to say about it, you’d think that the government had won something!

  11. Mike Sivier

    The press notice detailing the court’s judgement may be found here:
    It seems the government is crowing about the very last part, which was a foregone conclusion in my opinion.
    I think the interesting matter is the fact that, in the light of the Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act 2013, detailed submissions from counsel are required to decide what the judgement will mean in practise.

  12. jo

    YES!!!!!! WOOHOO!!!!!!! Thank you Mike, now what I would like to see is IDS go to prison and become someones bitch!!!!

      1. Mike Sivier

        I had to edit this a little for public consumption!
        Here’s a fun game you can all play at home: Guess the words I’ve edited out. Don’t send your choices to me because I’m sure they won’t be publishable – just have fun with it for your own benefit (it’ll be the ONLY benefit you get from Iain Duncan Smith)!

  13. Thomas M

    Or make him do….workfare as his punishment so he can see what it’s like. Have him digging ditches with a disabled person supervising him.

  14. Nick Nuttall

    You could also take out a commercial lien agains IDC that is a private matter, and claim damages against him personally,, it falls under Tort Law, check it out on the net

    1. Joe Smith

      If that can be done, can it be done collectively? And, if so would it be effective?
      There’s little doubt in my mind that Cameron is a craven coward, if anything legal happened to IDS the speed and distance our spineless prime minister would put between himself and IDS would take your breath away!!!!
      Needs careful planning and timing to create the maximum impact in the run up to the election with the aim of getting these well fed wealthy corrupt greedy idiots out of politics never to return, culpable manslaughter is key here.

  15. beastrabban

    This case should benefit a lot of people, who’ve either been sanctioned or sent on workfare. I’ve met a number of graduates like Cait Reilly, who are doing voluntary work at their local museum in the hope of eventually finding paid work there or in the museum sector. This should at least encourage them that IDS can’t get away with doing the same thing to them. I don’t doubt, however, that he will try.

    Reading Joe Smith’s comment about the lies RTU has told himself brings to mind the old poem ‘Matilda’ by Hilaire Belloc. The sheer scale of the man’s delusion of grandeur really does make one gasp and stretch one’s eyes. As a fantasist, he even outdoes Lord Archole of Weston-Super-Mare. Archer similarly has told lies about his educational qualifications. He claims he went to Wellington School. This is true. He went to the local school in Wellington, Somerset, not the public school. He also claims he has a degree from Oxford. He has a qualification from a teacher training college in Oxford, not Oxford University. Now that IDS has similarly been exposed as telling porkies about his educational qualifications, the question has to be asked: is there anyone in the Tory Party, who isn’t a pathological liar with delusions of grandeur and intellectual attainment far beyond their own meagre talents?

  16. Mike Sivier

    I’ve just found a press release from Public Interest Lawyers. Interesting paragraph (beginning “Notwithstanding” that makes it clear they believe anyone who was affected by the illegal regulations before the Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act 2013 may – that’s right, MAY, as in “is entitled to” – seek repayment of their benefits from the DWP.
    If that’s you, I hope it’s a nice pre-Christmas present for you!
    Here’s the release:

    Supreme Court Dismisses the Government’s Appeal on the “Back to Work” Regulations

    Today in a landmark decision the Supreme Court has dismissed the Government’s appeal against the Court of Appeal’s unanimous findings in February that the Regulations[1] under which most of the Government’s “Back to Work” schemes were created were unlawful and should be quashed.

    The original case was brought by our clients Cait Reilly, who was made to stack shelves in Poundland for two weeks[2], 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 an important judgment the Supreme Court held that:

    1.The Court of Appeal had been right to quash the Regulations on the basis 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. (paras
    2.On the facts of Jamie Wilson’s case he had, in any event, been provided with invalid notice under the Regulations as the DWP failed to specify the details of what he was required to do by way of participation in the Back to Work Scheme. In line with standard notices issued at that time he was merely informed that he had to do perform “any activities” requested of him by the private provider, Ingeus. (paras 43-52)
    In relation to a cross-appeal brought by the Claimants, the Court found that:

    3.Although the Government does not have a duty to publish a policy about each of its Back to Work schemes, it is under a duty as a matter of fairness to provide jobseekers with enough information about the relevant scheme so that they can make informed and meaningful representations as to whether a scheme is appropriate before a decision is made. This information must, of course, be provided before any notice requiring a jobseeker to participate on a particular scheme is served. Any failure to provide adequate information is likely to invalidate any notice given making it unlawful for the DWP to require a person to participate on a scheme and impose benefits sanction if they do not participate. As a result of this finding we will be seeking the full repayment of benefits unlawfully stripped from our client Jamie Wilson. (paras 58 – 75)
    4.That the imposition of the work condition in this case does not fall within the ambit of Article 4 of the ECHR which protects the right of individuals to be free from forced labour. (paras 76-90)
    The judgment of the Supreme Court has been complicated because in March 2013 the Government rushed emergency legislation – The Jobseekers (Back to Work Act) 2013 – through parliament. This Act retrospectively amended the law and effectively overturned the Court of Appeal’s judgment. The Supreme Court was moved to comment in its judgment that this placed the Government in the “rather unattractive” position of “taking up court time and public money to establish that a regulation is valid, when it has already taken up Parliamentary time to enact legislation which retrospectively validates the Regulation” (para 40).

    Public Interest Lawyers have already issued judicial review proceedings challenging the legality of the retrospective legislation which we will now seek to expedite.[4]

    Notwithstanding the above, the findings of the Supreme Court on the Claimants’ cross appeal were not academic. The requirement on the DWP to provide jobseekers with adequate information about the schemes has far reaching implications as all jobseekers who, like Jamie, were not provided with adequate information will able to seek the repayment of their benefits. We will also be considering carefully whether we will appeal the Court’s finding on Article 4 ECHR to the European Court of Human Rights.

    Following the judgment, Cait Reilly stated:

    “I am really pleased with today’s judgment which I hope will serve to improve the current system and assist jobseekers who have been unfairly stripped of their benefits. I brought these proceedings because I knew that there was something wrong when I was stopped from doing voluntary work in a local museum and instead forced to work for Poundland for free. I have been fortunate enough to find work in a Supermarket but I know how difficult it can be. It must be time for the Government to rethink its strategy and actually do something constructive to help lift people out of unemployment and poverty.”

    Phil Shiner, head of Public Interest Lawyers said:

    “Once again the Department for Work and Pension’s flagship Back to Work schemes have been found wanting. Today’s ruling from the Supreme Court is of huge constitutional and practical significance. My firm will now get on with challenging, by judicial review, the retrospective legislation which was shamefully rushed through Parliament by Iain Duncan Smith in March of this year.”

    A copy of the judgement is available on request.

    For further information and if you have any queries, please contact:

    Tessa Gregory, Public Interest Lawyers, on 0121 515 5069 or 07739 822 980 or [email protected]


    [1] Jobseeker’s Allowance (Employment, Skills and Enterprise) Regulations 2011

    [2] On the Sector Based Work Academy (sbwa)

    [3] Community Action Programme (CAP)


    Press Coverage:

    Sky News –

    The Telegraph –

    BBC News –

    The Independent –

    Guardian –

    The Times –

    Belfast Telegraph –

    The Mirror –

    London Evening Standard –

    Metro –

    The Huffington Post –

    Third Sector –

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  19. jaypot2012

    I want IDS to pay, I truly do, for all the deaths, mental anguish, discrimination against the disabled, the poor, the working poor and the unemployed etc.
    Can you also let people know that you CAN get your details back from the DWP from 2006 as I have not long had a run in with them and I’ve got everything back from 1995!
    Don’t let them try putting you off by saying that you have no records – THEY DO!

  20. Joseph Smith

    Public interest lawyers are not interested, obviously, they fight shy of difficult battles, they’re not much better than the Ambulance chasing lawyers. We all want that lying sly fraudulent piece of dog crap Ian Duncan Smith to brought to justice for the crimes he has inflicted on humanity. For me a bullet would be to easy. I want him exposed and publicly shamed for his crimes. I want all of his possessions money and assets removed and disposed of. I want him in prison and gang raped as the prion bitch, the he will know just what arse pain is. In the absence of that, complaints and appeals to the ICC is pretty much all we have. That and any government must know that to even consider employing IDS means active votes against.

    1. Mhara Costello

      You don’t want much, do you. Quite frankly, your comments are disgusting. ” I want him in prison and gang raped as the prion bitch, the he will know just what arse pain is”. I too loathe Ian Duncan Smith, but comments like yours do nothing but harm to the many people here in the uk, working so hard (blogging, marching / protesting, signing numerous petitions, etc) to get this excuse for a human being removed from his post asap and made to suffer the shame and disgrace resulting from such an action. Offensive rants such as yours only serve to discredit the rest of us who also loath IDS, but manage to express the fact without resorting to the levels you have. Who needs enemies…….

      1. Joseph Smith

        You fail to understand the animal you are protesting against. IDS is clever shrewd and incredibly cunning, he has years of experience lying to cover his backside and shrugging off restrained, polite protests. When faced with an overwhelming force of huge cunning, a bigger, stronger force with more effective strength is the only answer. He would see and interpret your response as support and justification for his activities. I believe IDS believes he’s doing right and the victims are collateral damage required to achieve the higher goal. Consequently, he has mentally absolved himself from both guilt and responsibility. Suggest you read up on Germany in the 1920s and 1930s. You may disagree with my comments but no offence was intended. I personally have not suffered from any of the social reforms but I’ve witnessed the effects first hand. And I’m very, very angry.

      2. Mike Sivier

        Okay, I’ve edited Joseph’s comment because I don’t want people who are, at heart, on the same side to be attacking each other on this blog. While Joseph’s original opinion was extreme, I think he was putting into words what many, many people, across the country, feel. They are appalled at what RTU (we call him ‘Returned To Unit’ in recognition of his failed Army career) has done, and are angry enough to wish a worse fate on him than any suffered by his victims.

        Personally, I don’t think the man is clever or shrewd. Cunning, maybe. The only reason he has got away with many of the atrocities he has put through is because he and his government have ignored factual evidence. That will catch up with him, once he is out of office.

  21. Joseph Smith

    OK Mike, there was no offence intended, I just wanted everyone to understand I’m incandescent with rage at the activities of this despicable excuse of a human being.
    Mhara Costello and I probably share the same views about IDS and his activities but perhaps disagree on suitable punishment and revenge.

  22. Pingback: Defeated again over work schemes: Iain Duncan Smith loses his case in court | WorldWright's …

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  24. chris berks

    The only thing he did wrong is make them work for firms. Jobseekers allowance should be paid at minimum wage per hour for people to do work in the community. Say 1 day a week. Clean up the country and get people off their arses.

    1. Mike Sivier

      But wouldn’t that be, you know, a JOB?
      Why can’t employers take these people on and pay the wage themselves, rather than having it charged to the taxpayer?
      I’ve proved how much firms are making on these schemes – they don’t have any excuse not to take jobseekers on as legitimate employees.

      1. chris berks

        I agree, but you can’t force employers to employ, you can only deny them access to cheap alternative Labour. I maintain though that jobseekers should be replaced with some form of work placement. It may be a JOB, at least then we’d get something for our money as a taxpayer.

  25. Jordan

    Please fill the system with claims – I would rather my money go to all those struggling than pay to drop some bombs in countries far away or pay for MPs to make business deals which benefit their own agenda and not the real people of this country. Politicians are just admin staff, only there doing the admin for big business. When will we all wake up and see we need to make them do the admin for us?

    This reminds me of how, after the riots, we were given the ‘tough on crime’ act yet only tough if you’re not an MP etc – then, by all means, steal from the taxpayer. I want to see MPs held accountable and not a slap on a wrist but hard jail time with no special treatment. We will end this system of corruption. Remember it is us – the people – who put the power in their hands. It was and always will be our power. We need to put it in people who actually care! Not a political class!

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