GOVERNMENT schemes designed to help the unemployed gain work experience are lawful, a judge ruled yesterday, in a major victory for the Department of Work and Pensions.
Graduate Cait Reilly won a judicial review of one back-to-work scheme after being told by a Jobcentre that she must work unpaid shifts at a branch of Poundland or risk losing her benefits.
Reilly argued that the scheme breached article four of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prevents forced labour and slavery.
However High Court judge Mr Justice Foskett concluded that the schemes “are a very long way removed from the kind of colonial exploitation of labour that led to the formulation of article four”.
“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,” he added.
But the judge did conclude that there had been failures in providing clear information about the schemes to participants.
Unemployed truck driver Jamieson Wilson also participated in the action, which was funded by legal aid.
Work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith said: “We are delighted, although not surprised, that the Judge agrees our schemes are not forced labour. Those who oppose this process are actually opposed to hard work and they are harming the life chances of unemployed young people who are trying to get on.”