Tag Archives: Court of Appeal

High Court throws out Duncan Smith’s “flawed and tawdry” retrospective workfare law

Criminal: Iain Duncan Smith has made the UK government into a criminal regime, illegally victimising its most vulnerable citizens.

Criminal: Iain Duncan Smith has made the UK government into a criminal regime, illegally victimising its most vulnerable citizens.

Iain Duncan Smith took an metaphorical slap in the face from the High Court today when Mrs Justice Lang said his retroactive law to refuse docked payments to jobseekers was not legal.

The Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act 2013 was rushed onto the statute books after the DWP discovered the rules under which it had docked Jobseekers’ Allowance from 228,000 people, who had refused to take part in Workfare schemes, were illegal.

The ruling does not mean that everyone who was penalised for refusing to take part, or for leaving the scheme once they had started it and realised what it was, may claim back the JSA that had been withdrawn from them.

But anyone who appealed against a benefit sanction on the basis of the previous decision will be entitled to win their appeals and be repaid the withheld benefits – as Vox Political advised at the time. That payout could be as high as £130 million.

The judge said retrospective application of the 2013 law conflicted with the European Convention on Human Rights and “interfered with the right to a fair trial” of all those affected.

(This is, of course, one reason why the government wants to repeal the Human Rights Act – your human rights obstruct ministers’ ability to abuse you.)

This is the latest twist in a legal challenge brought by Cait Reilly, a graduate who fell foul of the scheme, in 2012. She demanded a judicial review on the grounds that being forced to give up voluntary work in a museum (she wanted to be a museum curator) to stack shelves in Poundland breached her human rights.

Poundland no longer takes part in mandatory work activity schemes run by the UK government.

Her challenge succeeded when the Court of Appeal ruled that she had not been properly notified about the scheme. This meant that the government was guilty of criminal acts in removing benefit from Ms Reilly and hundreds of thousands of others.

In response, the Coalition passed an Act that retrospectively legalised its actions – but claimants argued that this was unfair and demanded their compensation.

In the meantime, Iain Duncan Smith’s own appeal was heard – and dismissed – by the Supreme Court.

And after the Act was passed, it became clear that the Coalition had known since 2011 that the policies it was enforcing do more harm than good and are not in the national interest.

Mrs Justice Lang said today (July 4) that “the absence of any consultation with representative organisations” as well as the lack of scrutiny by Parliamentary committees had led to “misconceptions about the legal justification for the retrospective legislation”.

The 2013 Act introduced a new “draconian provision, unique to this cohort of claimants” which was “not explained or justified” by the government in Parliament “at the time”.

Mrs Justice Lang rejected the Secretary of State’s assertion that flaws in the 2011 Regulations were simply “a technicality or a loophole”, that the 2013 Act sought to give effect to Parliament’s ‘original intention’ or that repayments to benefits claimants would be “an undeserved windfall”.

She also recognised that it would be “unjust to categorise the claimants in the Cait Reilly case as claimants “who have not engaged with attempts made by the state to return them to work”, as asserted by the Department for Work and Pensions.

“This case is another massive blow to this Government’s flawed and tawdry attempts to make poor people on benefits work for companies, who already make massive profits, for free,” said solicitor Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers, who appeared for the unemployed.

“Last year the Supreme Court told Iain Duncan Smith and the Coalition government that the scheme was unlawful. In this case the High Court has now told the Government that the attempt to introduce retrospective legislation, after the DWP had lost in the Court of Appeal, is unlawful and a breach of the Human Rights Act and is a further disgraceful example of how far this Government is prepared to go to flout our constitution and the rule of law. [bolding mine]

“I call on the DWP to ensure that the £130 million of benefits unlawfully withheld from the poorest section of our society is now repaid.”

So there it is, in black and white. Iain Duncan Smith has made the Coalition government a criminal organisation, guilty of 228,000 human rights violations.

This is a serious matter; some of these people may have been put in serious financial hardship as a result of the Coalition’s actions. One hopes very much that nobody died but if they did, those fatalities should be added to the many thousands who have passed away as a result of Iain Duncan Smith’s homicidal regime for claimants of incapacity benefits.

Let us not forget, also, that we remain at the mercy of these tyrants. Iain Duncan Smith has announced he intends to waste yet more taxpayers’ money on another appeal. In the meantime, a DWP spokeswoman said the legislation remained “in force” and the government would not be compensating anyone pending the outcome of its appeal.

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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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Lobbying Bill rethink – another Tory ‘bait-and-switch’?

Listening on lobbying: Andrew Lansley proved exactly how trustworthy he is with the Health and Social Care Act 2012. Now he stands ready to hear concerns over the Lobbying and Transparency Bill.

Listening on lobbying: Andrew Lansley proved exactly how trustworthy he is with the Health and Social Care Act 2012. Now he stands ready to hear concerns over the Lobbying and Transparency Bill.

It seems we have all been victims of a Parliamentary stitch-up.

Everyone who was getting hot under the collar last week, because the Transparency of Lobbying, non-Party Campaigning, and Trade Union Administration Bill seemed to be attacking the fair and proper work of charities and other organisations, probably breathed a sigh of relief when the government announced it would scrap plans to change the way campaign spending is defined.

The Bill would have restricted any charitable campaigning which “enhances the standing of parties or candidates”, in the full year before an election, to £390,000. That’s a 70 per cent cut – plus it would now include staff costs.

The BBC reported that Andrew Lansley has tabled a series of amendments, including one reverting to the wording set out in existing legislation, defining controlled expenditure as any “which can reasonably be regarded as intended to promote or procure electoral success”.

What the BBC does not say, but is clarified in the government press release, is that “the Bill will still bring down the national spending limit for third parties, introduce constituency spending limits and extend the definition of controlled expenditure to cover more than just election material, to include rallies, transport and press conferences“.

In other words, this is a very minor change. Spending is still restricted during election years (and almost every year is an election year); the work of trade unions will be savaged – in a country that already has the most savage anti-union laws in Europe; and all organisations will still have to watch what they say about anything which might be considered an election issue.

Want to campaign to protect the NHS, introduce fair taxation, fight poverty, improve public health or education, reform the financial sector or civil liberties, or fight the privatisation agenda? Then your budget will be scrutinised and you may not go over. And don’t forget there will be limits on spending within constituencies.

This still means that smaller organisations will enjoy greater influence than larger ones and – perhaps most telling of all – it does not clarify the position with regard to the corporate media. Will the mainstream press be curtailed? Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp UK and the Daily Mail Group spend far more than £390,000 every day, and on material that absolutely is “intended to promote or procure electoral success” – for the Conservative Party. Does anybody seriously believe the Tories will enforce action against their supporters?

One tangential element that this does clarify is the BBC’s political stance. Its story makes no mention of the more-than-100 other amendments that have been proposed for the Bill – possibly because they were put forward by MPs who aren’t in the government. Nor does it mention any of the technicalities that water down yesterday’s announcement. Instead, the BBC presents it as a victory for charities, who are getting everything they want. They aren’t.

It’s another Tory ‘bait-and-switch’ trick.

Doubly so, in fact, because this little circus has diverted attention away from the other aspects of the Bill – its clampdown on trade unions and the fact that it does almost nothing to address lobbying, which was supposed to be its reason for existing in the first place!

Joint co-operation between various trade unions will be made more difficult – to such an extent that the Trade Union Congress will effectively be banned in election years (meaning almost every year).

All unions with more than 10,000 members will have to submit an annual ‘Membership Audit Certificate’ to the Certification Officer in addition to the annual return which they already make. The Certification Officer will have the power to require production of ‘relevant’ documents, including membership records and even private correspondence. What is the rationale for these draconian provisions when not a single complaint has been made to the Certification Officer about these matters?

Is the real motive behind this section of the bill to help employers mount injunction proceedings when union members have voted for industrial action, by seizing on minor if not minuscule flaws which the Court of Appeal would previously have considered ‘de minimis’ or ‘accidental’? Isn’t this about inserting yet further minute technical or bureaucratic obstacles or hurdles in the path of trade unions carrying out their perfectly proper and legitimate activities?

And what about the potentional for ‘blacklisting’? If union membership records are to be made publicly available, as seems the case, then it will be possible for businesses to single out job applicants who are union members and refuse them work.

And then we come to the matter of lobbying itself.

This Bill still does not do what it is supposed to do. A register of consultant lobbyists is not adequate to the task and would not have prevented any of the major lobbying scandals in which David Cameron has been embroiled.

Practically all forms of lobbying, including direct donations to political parties by corporate and private interests, will remain totally unaffected by the legislation and corporations could sidestep it easily, simply by bringing their lobbying operations “in house”.

No less than 80 per cent of lobbying activity will not be covered by the bill – and it must be amended to cover this percentage. The only lobbyists that will be affected are registered lobbying agencies, who will presumably suffer large losses as their clients leave. Perhaps the real aim of this part of the bill is to stop lobbying from organisations that don’t have enough money to make it worth the government’s while?

How does this bill prevent wealthy individuals and corporations from buying political influence through party political donations – direct donations to MPs who then coincidentally vote in ways beneficial to their donors – or directly to political parties, such as David Cameron’s “The Leaders Group”?

How will it stop paid lobbyists like David Cameron’s election adviser Lynton Crosby from having influential roles in politics?

How will it stop people with significant lobbying interests, like George Osborne’s father-in-law David Howell, being appointed as advisers and ministers in areas where they have blatant conflicts of interests with their lobbying activities?

How will it increase transparency when it comes to which organisations have been lobbying which politicians on particular issues?

It won’t.

Nor will it stop lobbyists targeting ministers’ political advisers (SPADs), as was witnessed in the Jeremy Hunt Sky TV affair.

Or prevent corporate interests being invited to actually write government legislation on their behalf – for example the ‘big four’ accountancy firms, who run many tax avoidance schemes, actually write UK law on tax avoidance.

An adequate register would cover all of the above, including details of all non-Parliamentary representatives seeking to influence members of the government, how much they paid for the privilege, and what they expected to get for their money.

Then we will have transparency.

Ed Miliband on the Workfare Bill – we’ve heard it all before

Miliband and Byrne: They did the wrong thing, but was it for the right reasons?

Miliband and Byrne: They did the wrong thing, but was it for the right reasons?

A whole week after the crucial confidence-breaking vote on the Bill that gives Iain Duncan Smith retroactive powers to steal benefits from jobseekers, an email appears “from the office of Ed Miliband”.

Here’s what it said:

“Thank you for contacting Mr Miliband about the Jobseekers Bill and my apologies for the delay in replying.

“We know how strongly many people feel about this and that you are disappointed that Labour decided to abstain.

“Please be assured that we looked very carefully at all the points raised but in the end the vote came down to the question of whether the DWP should have any legal power whatsoever to stop benefits for people who won’t try to find work at all.

“With record levels of young people out of work, we believe young people must be offered a real choice of a real job with real wages. That’s why Labour is moving amendments to the Bill to demand a tax on bankers’ bonuses to fund over 100,000 jobs for young people with pay at the national minimum wage and training.

“Our approach is completely different to the government.

“We would guarantee everyone unemployed for over two years a properly-paid job, but we want it to apply to young people after a year. In return, we think most people would agree that people would be obliged to take up those jobs or face losing benefits.

“These powers have always existed; for example, in Labour’s Future Jobs Fund, if a young person didn’t take the offer of a job, they would have faced having benefits halted. Labour’s New Deal operated on the same principle.

“We would not support a retrospective bill driven through Parliament at lightning speed – and Labour demanded two crucial concessions, which we forced the government to make.

“First, appeal rights must be guaranteed so that others can appeal against mistakes made by the DWP. We can’t have carte blanche retrospective legalisation of sanctions.

“Second, there must be an independent review of the sanctions regime, with an urgent report and recommendations to Parliament.

“While you may not agree with the decision to abstain, we hope you can recognise that the points you and others have raised were carefully considered and the safeguards Labour have secured.

“Thank you again for taking the time to contact Mr Miliband on this important issue.”

It’s not good enough, is it?

Miliband – and Liam Byrne, Stephen Timms, and all the rest of the current Labour team – need to realise that there is a fundamental difference between what they supported and what they say they want. They should have held out for the latter.

The Coalition government’s scheme puts people to work – for employers who are perfectly capable of paying not only minimum wage but the living wage, for an indefinite period of time, to a person who used to be defined as a paid employee – for, and this is the important part, no remuneration other than their Jobseekers’ Allowance.

Contrast that with what Labour offered in the past – “in Labour’s Future Jobs Fund, if a young person didn’t take the offer of a job, they would have faced having benefits halted. Labour’s New Deal operated on the same principle” – and what Labour says it would offer in the future – “we believe young people must be offered a real choice of a real job with real wages“.

Why put up with anything less?

The concessions are paper tigers – it is understood that appeal rights were enshrined in the original legislation and we have seen no evidence that they were ever going to be dropped, while the timetable of the proposed independent review is such that the current Secretary of State for Work and Pensions may never have to act on it.

In other words, Labour let the Coalition run roughshod over the rule of law – for nothing.

Is Labour planning to betray its core supporters by siding with Iain Duncan Smith?

Faces of betrayal: Are Ed Miliband and his work and pensions spokesman Liam Byrne about to engineer the biggest betrayal of working class people in Labour Party history? If so, how do they think they will ever be able to win an election?

Faces of betrayal: Are Ed Miliband and his work and pensions spokesman Liam Byrne about to engineer the biggest betrayal of working class people in Labour Party history? If so, how do they think they will ever be able to win an election?

Last night I read a news report that, if true, shocked me to my core.

Headlined DWP seeks law change to avoid benefit repayments after Poundland ruling, the Guardian article made the following statements:

“The Department for Work and Pensions has introduced emergency legislation to reverse the outcome of a court of appeal decision and “protect the national economy” from a £130m payout to jobseekers deemed to have been unlawfully punished.

“The retroactive legislation, published on Thursday evening and expected to be rushed through parliament on Tuesday, will effectively strike down a decision by three senior judges and deny benefit claimants an average payout of between £530 and £570 each.”

It said lawyers and campaigners have branded the DWP’s move as “repugnant” and “unbelievably disgusting”, saying it undermined the rule of law. That is my belief, also.

Then came the hammer blow:

“The Guardian understands that Labour will support the fast-tracked bill with some further safeguards and that negotiations with the coalition are ongoing.”

What?

Labour, supporting a Bill by the Tories, specifically designed to oppress people who are in work or trying to find work?

This would be a betrayal of Labour’s core support and is something that, in my belief, nobody who supports the rule of law in this country should tolerate.

Allow me to put this into perspective:

The Court of Appeal ruling means that the Department for Work and Pensions, under Iain Duncan Smith’s supervision, broke the law more than 228,000 times. That is the number of jobseekers from whom they have deprived benefit, according to the figures available. IDS is a criminal a quarter of a million times over.

Not only that, but the Workfare programme, by making people work for employers who are perfectly capable of hiring people at the minimum wage or for higher amounts, is taking real jobs out of the economy – something that the Labour Party must abhore (the clue is in the title – ‘Labour’ Party).

There can be no justification for it.

The electorate will never forgive the party if Labour turns on its core voters – the poor and vulnerable – and attacks them in this way.

It is an absolute and certain path to defeat at the next election.

The only reasonable way forward is to fight tooth and nail against this evil subversion of the legislative process.

Just scan the responses to this article on the Labour Party’s Facebook page and the Guardian article’s comment column and you will see that (to the best of my ability to judge) nobody who has professed support for Labour has expressed support for this.

Not one person.

The response has been universally negative. Nobody wants Labour to do this.

Now, it could be that this is all a mistake and the Guardian article (by Shiv Malik) contains information that is wrong.

But I, and others, have been trying to get a response from the Labour leadership for nearly 24 hours now, to no avail. It seems – whatever their convictions – these MPs don’t have the courage to stand by them.

The new Bill is being rushed through Parliament and there will be a vote on Tuesday, so you may well be asking what is to be done.

The immediate thing to do is, if you are a Labour supporter and have a Labour MP – CONTACT THEM. Telephone them, email them, get to them whichever way you can. Make it clear, politely but in no uncertain terms, that supporting Iain Duncan Smith’s evil Bill is a betrayal of the people who support the party and that you will not tolerate it.

PRESSURE. It’s the only way to ensure the will of the people is heard.

Meanwhile, some of us will explore other avenues.

We’ll get to the bottom of this.

What a shame this shot in the foot had to happen just when support for David Cameron and the Coalition has been crumbling. It really is an abomination. My opinion is that those responsible should be ejected from the Labour Party altogether.

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?

Did you turn down Workfare and lose benefits? Claim them back now!

Victory at last for Cait Reilly and all the others who have been forced to work, unwaged, by the Coalition government.

Victory at last for Cait Reilly and all the others who have been forced to work, unwaged, by the Coalition government.

Unemployed people across the UK who refused to take part in the Coalition government’s slave-labour Workfare scheme – and lost benefits as a result – should now claim their money back after the Court of Appeal ruled that the scheme was unlawful.

The ruling comes after Cait Reilly won her legal challenge against the scheme, which she claimed forces people to work without pay.

Ms Reilly feels like an old friend to Vox Political, as this blog has followed her case since early last year. She is a geology graduate who had been working on a voluntary basis at a museum, to get experience necessary to win a curator’s position in the future. Then the DWP uprooted her and forced her onto Workfare, stacking shelves in Poundland – a company that can well afford to employ its own workers on full wages.

The BBC report of her victory today states that she lost her original court case, but that is not strictly true. Mr Justice Foskett found in her favour, but on the basis that she had been given wrong information that the scheme was compulsory.

At the time, the mass media, including the BBC, told us her case had failed, cherry-picking this comment from the judge: “Characterising such a scheme as involving or being analogous to ‘slavery’ or ‘forced labour’ seems to me to be a long way from contemporary thinking.”

The three judges at the Court of Appeal clearly have a different understanding of contemporary thinking as they have made it perfectly clear that the regulations governing the scheme are indeed unlawful.

This means anyone who was penalised for refusing to take part, or for leaving the scheme once they had started it and realised what it was, may now claim back the Jobseekers’ Allowance that was withdrawn from them for non-compliance.

This is a great victory for freedom and justice, a huge vindication of the Appeal court system, and a slap in the face for our dictatorial Coalition government and in particular Iain Duncan Smith, Vox‘s ‘Monster of the Year’ for 2012.

It is to be hoped that news of this victory spreads as quickly as humanly possible, and all those affected put their claims in immediately, so that the system becomes swamped by the consequences of its own crimes.

Poetic justice.