Cait Reilly, the geology graduate who claimed being asked to work a placement in Poundland in return for her benefits was a form of slavery, must be celebrating today after winning her ludicrous case on a technicality in the Court of Appeal.
The back-to-work scheme, she claimed, was “forced labour”, unpaid work and therefore in contravention of her human rights. Worse, “the experience did not help [her] get a job”.
Let’s ignore the fact that there was no force involved, in that she could choose to take part or to refuse to do anything. Let’s ignore that it was emphatically not “unpaid”, in that she was paid benefits in return for taking part.
Let’s focus on her other claim:
“those two weeks were a complete waste of my time as the experience did not help me get a job”
Really? Happily, Ms Reilly has now found work – as a supermarket worker in Morrison’s.
It seems the Poundland work experience did the trick after all. Or was it her geology degree the supermarket hired her for?
The child benefit hoo-hah over the last few days is understandable. It’s controversial, communications within the Cabinet clearly weren’t as hot as they should have been and – inexplicably – it was launched before obvious potential loopholes had been spotted and sorted out. As a result particularly of those unsealed loopholes it has been pretty roundly panned, particularly in the Mail, Telegraph and Express.
However, I think the media have called this one wrong – this idea has the potential to be a big vote-winner. In the words of one lobby editor I spoke to on Monday, the papers swiftly resolved to “pour a bucket of shit over the idea”. As Guido points out, this may in part be because many of those writing our papers are on more than £44k, so are themselves going to lose out from the policy. Whatever the reason, there is now definitive evidence that their assumption that this was an unpopular idea is mistaken.
According to YouGov there is massive 83% support for the principle of the policy. Interestingly, on its implementation (where there have been some screw-ups) the only real concern comes from the 46% of people who want fully-fledged means testing introduced – a much more radical suggestion. Instead of the predicted popular backlash, the Government’s real challenge is that they aren’t going far enough for many people.
From my (now former) colleagues at the TaxPayers’ Alliance comes a new video about the many problems with the welfare system:
I don’t know about you, but for me the most shocking statistic in there was that those who choose to work instead of living on benefits effectively only get to keep 26p per hour of the minimum wage. We have a system that could hardly do more to discourage work – a system that crushes aspiration - and that is a disgrace. The TPA’s proposals to fix that are online here (PDF).
The other thing to note is that the video looks great – thanks to the TPA’s in-house video-whizz Andy Whitehurst. It’s not very expensive to produce these kind of good-looking virals now, and we should see more think tanks and campaign groups doing the same sooner rather than later.