Monday, 13 August 2012

Judge rules benefit sanctions unlawful after DWP fails to comply with its own regulations!

Thousands of unemployed benefit claimants who lost money after being sanctioned, may be due a refund following a judicial review brought by two unemployed jobseekers.

In a fifty page ruling, Mr. Justice Foskett, declared that a six-month benefit sanction imposed on Jamieson Wilson a 41-year-old Midlands lorry driver who refused to work unpaid for six-months on the government's 'Community Action Programme (CAP), because he considered it 'forced labour', was unlawful because a letter sent to him by the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP) was "not sufficiently clear and precise to comply with the government's own regulations concerning benefit sanctions." After being sanctioned, Wilson was forced to live on handouts from family and friends after being stripped of his benefits.

The ruling will apply to tens of thousands of jobseekers who received the same or similar letters and were sanctioned. In his ruling, Foskett said:

"It should not be necessary to ferret around for what most people would be inaccessible regulations to find out his or her position...there could be no question of sanctions being validly imposed if no proper notice of the sanction consequences was given."

The ruling says there had been a catalogue of errors surrounding Wilson's right to benefits. He had been told his benefits could be stopped for up to six-months if he refused to participate in the 'CAP' but his benefits could only have been stopped for two weeks.

A claim brought Cait Reilly, a 23-year-old geology graduate from Birmingham, that working for her dole money for 'Poundland', breached Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), that prohibits forced or compulsory labour, was dismissed by Foskett. Although both claims brought by Wilson and Reilly contended that being forced to work unpaid for their benefits amounted to 'forced labour', Foskett ruled that the government work-for-your-dole schemes were "a very long way removed from the kind of colonial exploitation of labour that led to the formulation of
Article 4." But in the Reilly case, he stated that the DWP had broken Jobseeker regulations because she had been wrongly told the 'Work Experience Scheme' was mandatory, when in fact, it was only mandatory after she'd agreed to take part.

Lawyers acting for Reilly and Wilson had also argued that because the DWP had failed to publish enough information about the schemes setting out jobseekers rights and responsibilities, the schemes were unlawful. This claim was also rejected by Foskett.

Although the judge in this judicial review dismissed the main claim that working-for your-dole money was analagous to 'slavery' or 'forced labour', many who have been forced onto these government schemes, perceive it to be so. Likewise, so do the firms who have pulled out who say involvement in the schemes, is damaging their reputations. It is difficult to see how a scheme described as 'mandatory work activity', could not be forced labour even if if it doesn't fall within the meaning of Article 4 of the ECHR. Moreover, there is little evidence that these work-for-you-dole schemes increase peoples' chances of finding work. People who refuse to take part get sanctioned and face destitution and there is increasing evidence that these schemes, are undermining the pay and conditions of those in work. Naturally, employers are attracted to workers costing very little and people who work for nothing, are even more attractive. The government says that it wants to end the "something for nothing culture." We couldn't agree more! Why should the British taxpayer be paying a subsidy to high street stores making billions in profits by providing them with free labour. If these companies want workers, surely, they should be paying for it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi, to some things up I live on the East coast of the UK in Suffolk. 56 years old and had my money stopped because of where i live at a friends on the settee, was told if i move out and find my own place to live i will get my money again. why should i struggle to live on my own when my friend and me use to share buying food, cooking etc we all know it works out cheaper. Anyway I have had NO MONEY from DWP for nearly 2 years, because of this woman claims I was not at the address or sleeping on the settee. as said 56 years old not in best of health, I steal and sell item's from shops, push bikes break into houses all to sell items to buy food and toiletries. I can not get a job, but still try (even now) i look for work. do NOT do drugs of any kind, including alcohol or tobacco. no mobile phone. I use my friends computer to search for work or local papers. And that's my life. summed up in short. Every day i wish i would just die. Yes i use to work, nearly most of my life. But at 56 i find it hard to get a job, but still keep on looking. And NO i do NOT enjoy stealing but have to for FOOD.