JOBSEEKERS (BACK TO WORK SCHEMES) BILL - undoes Poundland decision

17 March 2013


This Bill is to be rushed through all its stages in the House of Commons on Tuesday. It will undo the Poundland decision. The retroactive legislation, published on Thursday evening will effectively strike down a decision by three senior judges and deny benefit claimants, who were illegally punished, an average payout of between £530 and £570 each. I recieved this from Elizabeth Reed this morning.

In response to lobbying by the Zacchaeus 2000 Trust during the passage of the Welfare Reform Act 2012 Lord Freud, Minister for Welfare Reform said on the 25th January 2012. ;

"We spoke about the Wednesbury principles at our seminar, and I can reassure noble Lords that the decision-making process is and will continue to be consistent with these fundamental principles of public law. The department strives to ensure that no decision is influenced by irrelevant factors and that decision-makers act in a rational and fair manner, taking into account all relevant matters before exercising a discretion. For example, the primary legislation expressly sets out that a conditionality sanction applies only if there is no good reason for the failure. In determining whether there is such good reason, decision-makers will have to consider all relevant matters raised by the claimant within a particular time period, including information about a claimant's health condition and financial circumstances.

It is worth noting that when it comes to failures to meet work-related requirements, we get the vast majority of the decisions right. In 2010-11, just 0.2 per cent of JSA sanction and disentitlement decisions were overturned

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at a First-tier Tribunal. Of course, the aim must be to get every decision right. We must ensure that our training and guidance equips advisers and decisions-makers with the tools to understand the circumstances and needs of vulnerable claimants, such as homeless claimants and those with mental health conditions. We must also ensure that the notifications and explanations of decisions to impose sanctions or penalties are clear, straightforward and easy to understand. I accept that there is room for improvement here, and we will make that improvement."

The Wednesbury Principles were established by the High Court in Associated Provincial Picture Houses Ltd. v Wednesbury Corporation [1948] 1 KB 223. They require all officials to take into account all relevant evidence, ignore irrelevant evidence, to be rational and to follow the laid down procedures. Clearly they did not do that in the Poundland case. They were endorsed by Lord Freud, Minister for Welfare Reform during the passage of the Welfare Reform Act 2012,

There will be more large legal mistakes made when while the Universal Credit is introduced - are we to expect another retrocative Bill every time the Jobcentres get it wrong.