Everyone who is interested in the treatment of the unemployed will know by now that the court cases brought by the courageous Cait Reilly and Jamie Wilson have failed. There are two relevant accounts in the Guardian, here and here. The result was really inevitable, but the reasoning of the judge was interesting. Mr Justice Foskett said that "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." Which amounts to "most people don't think it is so it isn't". I would love to meet the DWP spokeswoman who crowed about the victory. "We are delighted, although not surprised, that the judge agrees our schemes are not forced labour. Comparing our initiatives to slave labour is not only ridiculous but insulting to people around the world facing real oppression. Thousands of young people across the country are taking part in our schemes and gaining the vital skills and experience needed to help them enter the world of work – it is making a real difference to people's lives. 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." Read that again and remember that this woman is a civil servant who has absolutely no business making pronouncements of this kind. The judge made it clear that, "In relation to Miss Reilly and to Mr Wilson it is important that it is appreciated that each has been actively looking for work: they have not taken their objections to the overall scheme as a means of avoiding employment and seeking simply to rely on benefits." What a pity that the woman from the DWP couldn't understand that.
But there was one clear success out of this. Jamie Wilson's lawyers claimed that the stopping of Wilson's benefit for 6 months was unlawful because the letter the DWP sent out didn't provide clear information. The tens of thousands of claimants in the same position should be entitled to payments. The DWP has reacted by both changing the letters and denying that there was anything wrong with the first one. It could be costly, but a blessing for those who have been left penniless. There is no clarity at the moment about whether the ruling affects people on all the various free labour schemes.