Back to work schemes quashed in huge victory for ordinary people

Campaigners celebrated a significant victory against workfare outside the High Court today

Campaigners celebrated a significant victory against workfare outside the High Court today

Today, the Court of Appeal quashed the government’s workfare schemes, which have seen tens of thousands of people put to work without pay and many more put at risk of destitution through sanctions.

Of the numerous workfare schemes introduced by this government, only Mandatory Work Activity remains lawful. With immediate effect, those on the controversial Work Programme, Sector Based Work Academies, Community Action Programme or other workfare schemes may leave without risk of sanction. Sanctions currently in place must immediately be brought to an end.

The government has however threatened to swiftly lay new regulations which may make the schemes mandatory and subject to sanctions. The impact of the ruling remains substantial, since unless the DWP wins the right to appeal in the Supreme Court and succeeds in that appeal, everyone who has been sanctioned on the schemes to date should be entitled to be paid back and all referrals to date will have been unlawful.

The viability of the remaining ‘lawful’ workfare scheme, MWA, is under question due to campaigners’ success in persuading charities and companies to withdraw. A DWP evaluation of Mandatory Work Activity in December 2012 noted that “The high profile withdrawal of placements from a number of larger charities meant a sharp reduction in placements.”

Joanna Long, a member of Boycott Workfare, has said:

“Today’s ruling is a victory of the people against a government which thought it could compel unemployed and sick people to work without pay, backed by a vicious regime of sanctions which made the poorest far poorer.

“We are confident the end is in sight for workfare in the UK. The only scheme found lawful is wobbling due to public pressure on the charities profiting from free labour. If Iain Duncan Smith attempts to put in place new workfare regulations, he should know that the public response will be outrage. Tens of businesses and charities are already boycotting his schemes, and today’s ruling shows that workfare is not only wrong, it is also unlawful.”

Boycott Workfare’s UK-wide week of action on 18th-24th March will go ahead with the aim of bringing Mandatory Work Activity to an end and ensuring the government don’t bring workfare back. The campaign will do all it can to ensure all those who have been sanctioned on the schemes are repaid, so watch this space.

See the full text of the ruling here.


Comments (11)

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Not much of a victory unfortunately:


Thank God...

Well done Cait, you should be very proud.


Damn, the mandatory scheme is the worst of the lot, I start on 19th feb, why is this ot included, it's the only one that won't get me a job or possibility of one...... It's the worst of them all..... So gutted, for 5 minutes I had false hope


I would suggest that you give people the full story and the outcome and not just the chosen paragrphs that suit you ?!

The Court of Appeal has ruled that certain parts of the government’s flagship work programme are illegal.

It found in favour of Cait Reilly and Jamieson Wilson who had appealed various conditions of their participation within the programme and branded the schemes as "forced labour".

Reilly had appealed that she be forced to work for free in a Poundland store or be penalised by losing benefits.

Wilson had disputed his penalty for refusing to do work that was unrelated to his experience or qualifications and would not help him re-enter the job market.

The court ruled that the regulations did not describe the schemes to which they apply and refused permission for the Department for Work and Pensions to appeal.

As a result, the DWP has said it will look to make amendments to the legislation through Parliament.

"While the judgment supports the principle and policy of our employment schemes, and acknowledges the care and resources we have dedicated to implementing these schemes, the Court of Appeal ruled that the regulations did not describe the schemes to which they apply," the DWP admitted.

"The Court of Appeal has therefore quashed the ESE Regulations. We are appealing that verdict, but in the meantime we are tabling new regulations to ensure that we can continue requiring people to take part in these schemes which give them the skills and experience they need to find work."

However, the Court of Appeal has backed an earlier High Court judgment that requiring participation in the schemes did not breach human rights, and that a formal policy statement was not required before regulations could be enforced.

craig mason

the government are already saying that the judges had agreed requiring people to join the schemes was legal, meaning they could continue.
Employment minister Mark Hoban said it would appeal the ruling while also drafting new regulations immediately to remove "any uncertainty".
The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has also vowed not to repay anyone who had not been seriously trying to find work and said it was looking at "options" to avoid paying out.

parry hotter

Anyone who has been on one of these schemes should now be payed for the hours they WORKED!

Workfare on the ropes, occupations spreading: resistance to austerity is taking off. | Cautiously pessimistic

[...] anything else, Mandatory Work Activity remains legal, making it all the more important to support Boycott Workfare’s week of action from the 18th-24th of March. Hopefully, the narrowing down of workfare schemes to just Mandatory Work Activity should allow for [...]


BBC2 Newsnight: Tuesday 12 Feb - said 130,000 people on those workfare schemes affected by todays ruling in the Cait Reilly case had been sanctioned.

And Tessa Gregory of PIL "All of those who have been stripped of their benefits have a right to claim the money back that has been unlawfully taken away from them from the DWP".


[...] Back to work schemes quashed in huge victory for ordinary people [...]

Landless Peasant

Since the High Court ruling in Cait Reilley's favour, NO ONE IS LEGALLY OBLIGED TO ATTEND THE WORK PROGRAMME until new Regulations have been passed & implemented. YOU CANNOT BE SANCTIONED for non-attendance at the moment. I have it confirmed in writing from my Work Programme provider, but they are not making this widely known, only to those who ask ! SPREAD THE WORD. DON'T ATTEND. DO NOT COMPLY. THEY CAN'T TOUCH YOU.

Excerpt from letter:

"You are correct, you are not legally required to attend in the interim period, however I can advise you that ESE Regulations will be re-written at the soonest available opportunity.

As recent as today the High Courts have made a decision regarding the mandation issues to programmes, in favour of DWP, So I’m sure normal business will resume very soon and I will keep you updated on this as far as attending appointments...

I would suggest that anyone genuinely interested in securing employment would utilise every opportunity available to do this, and if this involved visiting a Work Coach/Employment Advisor they would take this opportunity.

Those who don’t, who choose to avoid being proactive ,as you rightly say will not have their JSA sanctioned but may struggle to secure sustainable employment.

The DWP are currently notifying all relevant parties as to their current and future situations, but I am happy to answer any queries from anyone concerned about recent developments if asked.

We will be happy to see you again once the new regulations are in place."


Where does it say the WP is ILLEGAL?