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Graduate wins legal battle over unpaid Poundland work


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Cait Reilly, a geology graduate from Birmingham, has won a Court of Appeal battle in which she claimed that her unpaid labour at a Poundland store was unlawful.

Reilly complained she was subjected to ‘forced labour’ which breached her human rights after being told she risked losing her Jobseeker’s Allowance if she refused to work for nothing at her local Poundland.

40-year-old unemployed HGV driver Jamie Wilson, from Nottingham, also succeeded in his claim that the unpaid work scheme he was on is legally flawed.

On Monday the Court of Appeal supported most of Reilly’s claim, undermining the regulations that direct the Government’s back-to-work schemes which aim to help unemployed benefit claimants find jobs. Three judges ruled that the regulations under which most of the Government's workfare schemes were created are unlawful and quashed them.

Reilly said she was ‘delighted’ by the decision and that it was unfair for benefit claimants to be expected to work without additional pay.

The ruling will not eradicate the schemes but will mean the way in which they are written and enforced must change. According to the ruling, those whose benefits were stripped for refusing part in back-to-work schemes could now reclaim them.

Solicitors said the ruling meant that "all those people who have been sanctioned by having their Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) withdrawn for non-compliance with the back-to-work schemes affected will be entitled to reclaim their benefits."

The Department for Work and Pensions said up to 150,000 people had had their benefits stopped for failing to take part in schemes. The ruling could lead to benefit claimants demanding compensation totalling more than £40million.

Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, has said he disagrees with the Court’s decision, and will "fight it all the way", condemning it as "utter madness."

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