Remember Cait Reilly who was volunteering in a museum then told to work for Poundland or lose her Jobseekers Allowance (JSA)?
However, they also ruled that the scheme’s rules did not constitute forced or compulsory labour. Yet, ‘back to work’ terms and conditions must be fully explained to the JSA recipient.
So, the Cait Reillys of this nation win.
And so do the Iain Duncan Smiths.
The lawyers represented Reilly and 40-year old Jamieson Wilson, also a JSA recipient. An HGV driver looking for work, Wilson objected to cleaning furniture for his weekly ‘allowance’ from the state. In his case, his JSA was stopped for six months.
Lawyers representing the pair said all applicants who had their jobseeker’s allowance withdrawn for non-compliance with the schemes could now reclaim their allowance as a result of this morning’s ruling …
At the Court of Appeal Lord Justice Pill, Lady Justice Black and Sir Stanley Burnton unanimously agreed that the 2011 “work for your benefits” regulations failed to give the unemployed enough information, especially regarding the sanctions for refusing jobs under the schemes.
The paper reported that Cait Reilly was ‘really pleased’:
with Tuesday’s judgment, which she hopes “will serve to improve the current system and assist jobseekers who have been unfairly stripped of their benefits.”
Iain Duncan Smith was also ‘pleased’:
We are very pleased that the Supreme Court today unanimously upheld our right to require those claiming jobseeker’s allowance to take part in programmes which will help get them into work.
We have always said that it was ridiculous to say that our schemes amounted to forced labour, and yet again we have won this argument.
But — and it’s a big but — a spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) stated:
The ruling today changes nothing. We are not paying back any benefits as a result of today’s ruling.
Oh dear. One to watch. I’ll make the popcorn.
I never understood why everyone was so exercised over Cait Reilly’s refusal to work at Poundland when she’d already found herself voluntary ‘work’ at a museum, much more in line with her degree in Geography. Yet, people called her a sponger, spoiled and many other unwarranted things.
That said, her detractors shouldn’t fret too much, because she is currently working at Morrison’s.
Still, as Iain Duncan Smith might paraphrase Gertrude Stein, ‘A job is a job is a job’.
This is a bit of what Reilly wrote for The Guardian back in 2012 (emphases mine):
In a routine appointment with my personal Job Centre Plus adviser last October, I was informed of an open day for people interested in potential retail jobs. Having been unemployed for some time, I was more than happy to attend, and was told by my adviser that, if chosen, I would undergo a week’s “training” followed by a guaranteed job interview. It quickly became clear at the open day, however, that the period of “training” would potentially last for up to six weeks. I explained to my adviser my reservations about taking part: I was already in the middle of a work experience placement that I had organised for myself (and which was more relevant to the museum career I hope to pursue), and I already had retail experience.
I thought the “training” was optional, and it came as a shock to be told I was required to attend or risk cancellation or reduction of my £53 per week jobseekers’ allowance – despite the fact I have always actively sought paid work. So I began the “placement” with Poundland – it was not training, but two weeks’ unpaid work stacking shelves and cleaning floors. I came out with nothing; Poundland gained considerably.
She goes on to say:
The nature of such work is not the problem. I would be happy to do it if I had a say in it and, crucially, was paid …
The coalition’s commitment to getting people into work is admirable, but this is not the right way to do it. Similar schemes have not worked in other countries, and there is evidence that coercing people into unpaid work masks rather than solves the unemployment crisis. The Department for Work and Pensions hired experts find whether “work for your benefit” schemes delivered benefits. After studying similar programmes in Canada, the US and Australia, they found no evidence such schemes increased an the chances of gaining employment. Whether or not my case is successful, I hope it will make the government think again, and work with young people rather than against them.
Unfortunately, The Guardian has blocked out the comments, which I would like to have read.
Yet, Reilly has a point. I am sorry she hasn’t yet found work more in line with her university degree, but with perseverance, that, too, will come.
It is dismal being unemployed. And it would be even worse having to take something unsuitable. She had the right idea in volunteering at the museum, which is akin to an unpaid internship. And, at the time, there was nothing wrong with ‘volunteering’ whilst collecting JSA.
The Poundland position is also a form of ‘volunteering’.
The only advantages to JSA are that it is enough for food and incidentals and that the government pays your stamps towards state pension.
In future, people probably won’t bother to sign on and take their lumps in paying a backlog of stamps themselves — pretty pricey. I know. I’ve been there.
The Guardian has more information here for the unemployed.