Government to rush law to stop benefit refunds to placees

Tue, 19/03/2013 - 11:49 -- nick

The government, aided by the Labour opposition, is to rush through legislation to stop it having to repay those claimants who lost benefits through being wrongly sanctioned over work experience.

The Guardian is reporting that the opposition is likely to abstain from the vote, meaning a bill can move through parliament and become law quickly.

The bill has been drafted in response to the appeal court ruling last month in the case of Cait Reilly and Jamieson Wilson, who had been forced to undertake work experience.

The court found that the two jobseekers had been given insufficient information on work placements and penalties, and that legislation underpinning these schemes did not cover their work fully, opening the government to legal action from those whose benefits had been withdrawn for refusing to undertake placements.

The cost of this legal action to the public purse is estimated at £130 million.

Liam Byrne, Labour's work and pensions spokesperson, said that, to get the opposition's support on quick progression of the bill, "ministers must launch an independent review of the sanctions regime with an urgent report to parliament".

Labour also said they wanted to make sure that the legislation was tightened up so jobseekers' regular rights of appeal were not removed or reduced by the new law.

A spokesperson from campaign group Boycott Workfare, which protests against making benefits conditional on doing unpaid work, said: "It is just as disgusting to hear Liam Byrne say that the social security people are due must be withheld or the entire welfare budget be cut. Everyone knows abstaining is as good as voting for the bill."

UnemployedNet says:

This bill is a waste of time and an affront to the rights of those citizens who need to claim out-of-work benefits.

The government made a mistake in the original law covering work placements; not the poor wording of it which the appeal court pointed out, but its introduction of the compulsory rule.

Unemployed people, contrary to the view of some newspapers and politicians, do not need forcing to find work.

The vast majority only need to have their confidence and skills boosted and for a reasonable number of jobs to be provided; taking the element of choice away reduces confidence and forces workless people into unsuitable roles.

The most common length of time to be unemployed in the UK is 3 months, hardly consistent with the idea that an army of workshy and feckless jobless people spends its time lazing behind drawn curtains.

And the UK has one of the least-generous workless benefits systems in Europe. The only people who could think that large numbers of people want to live on them are those who have never had to.

The government should withdraw this bill, admit its mistakes, repay those it has illegally sanctioned and make work experience voluntary.

Only through these measures can it make a fresh start and begin to give unemployed people the support, and respect, they need.

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