New regulations for employment schemes necessary after Court of Appeal ruling

New regulations concerning the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP’s) employment schemes will be created by the department after the Court of Appeal ruled that these did not describe the schemes to which they apply. The ruling is a result of Cait Reilly’s claim (amongst others) that her mandatory work at Poundland, as a requirement for her receiving Jobseeker’s Allowance, was ‘unlawful due to a lack of basic information given to the unemployed’, the Guardian has explained.

Tessa Gregory, the solicitor from Public Interest Lawyers, who was involved in the case has said that the ‘judgment sends Iain Duncan Smith back to the drawing board to make fresh regulations which are fair and comply with the court's ruling.’ BBC News has commented that this ‘case will be seen as a setback for the Department for Work and Pensions flagship back-to-work schemes’.

The DWP will need to put its new regulations before parliament first, before jobseekers can be sanctioned for not complying with the requirements placed upon them in these cases. The Minister for Employment, Mark Hoban, has said the following:

‘The court has backed our right to require people to take part in programmes which will help get them into work. It’s ridiculous to say this is forced labour. This ruling ensures we can continue with these important schemes.

‘We are however disappointed and surprised at the court's decision on our regulations. There needed to be flexibility so we could give people the right support to meet their needs and get them into a job. We do not agree with the court's judgment and are seeking permission to appeal, but new regulations will be tabled to avoid any uncertainty.

‘Ultimately the judgment confirms that it is right that we expect people to take getting into work seriously if they want to claim benefits.’

Kirsty McHugh, Chief Executive of the Employment Related Services Association, said:

‘It is essential that the government gets its house in order. Any lack of certainty about the operation of employment programmes is detrimental to both welfare to work providers and to jobseekers.  We believe fundamentally that good quality work experience placements are a good thing and can really help people in their drive to gain employment.  However, these always need to be well managed and be a positive rather than punitive experience for jobseekers.’

She added: ‘We are also very pleased to hear in an article by Public Interest Lawyers that one of the claimants, Jamie Wilson, is participating on the Work Programme at present and is finding it a very positive experience.’

The news that new and more specific regulations will be created by the DWP might call into question the ‘black box’ approach at the heart of the Work Programme, which allows for providers to decide on how to provide appropriate personalised support.