Volunteer forced to work at Poundland for free wins landmark case in appeal court

Cait Reilly was told she had to work at the shop or face losing her benefits, and the High Court backed ministers - now the Court of Appeal has reversed the decision

High Court
High Court

A museum volunteer who was told she had to work unpaid at Poundland or face losing her benefits has won her case at the Court of Appeal.

Cait Reilly, a volunteer at the Pen Museum in Birmingham, was told in autumn 2011 that she had to stop volunteering and complete unpaid work experience at Poundland as part of back-to-work training or she would lose her Jobseeker’s Allowance.

Reilly contested the order and took her case to the High Court, claiming it was a breach of her human rights. The High Court rejected her case last summer, but Reilly and unemployed HGV driver Jamie Wilson took their case to the Court of Appeal.

In a judgment published today, the Court of Appeal upheld the claim and the three judges ruled that some of the regulations that underpin the back-to-work schemes were unlawful and must be quashed. 

Public Interest Lawyers, solicitors for both Reilly and Wilson, said the judgment meant people would be free to leave work placements immediately without any sanction on their benefits.

"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 by the Department for Work and Pensions," said Tessa Gregory, a solicitor for the firm.

In a statement issued by Public Interest Lawyers, Reilly said she was delighted with the judgment.

"I brought this case because I knew it was wrong when I was prevented from doing my voluntary work in a museum and forced to work in Poundland for free for two weeks as part of a scheme known as the sector-based work academy," she said. "The only beneficiary was Poundland, a multimillion pound company."

The DWP, which is seeking permission to appeal, said the court ruling still gave it the right to require people to take part in programmes that would help them to find work. But the department acknowledged that the judgment meant it would have to redraft regulations surrounding the back-to-work scheme.

"We are disappointed and surprised at the court's decision on our regulations," said a statement from Mark Hoban, an employment minister. "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."

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Follow us on:
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Google +

Latest Jobs

Forthcoming Events

Social Media Exchange

  • Mon 8 Feb 2016
  • Resource for London, 356 Holloway Rd, London N7 6PA

CHASE 2016

  • Tue 16 Feb 2016 - Wed 17 Feb 2016
  • Business Design Centre, London, N1 0QH

Fundraising Week 2016

  • Tue 19 Apr 2016 - Thu 21 Apr 2016
  • London, South Bank
RSS Feed

Third Sector Insight

Sponsored webcasts, surveys and expert reports from Third Sector partners


Expert Hub

Insurance advice from Markel

Is your charity doing enough to protect itself against disasters?

Wendy Cotton of charity insurance specialist Markel explains the importance of a disaster recovery plan, to keep your organisation in operation should the worst happen.


Expert Hub

Fundraising advice from BT MyDonate

Five low cost tips for creating compelling video content that thrives

No matter what size your budget, there are some simple tips that can help keep costs down