By ANDY DOLAN and LYNN DAVIDSON
Work experience: Cait Reilly said she had to sweep up and fill the shelves at the Poundland store in Kings Heath, Birmingham
A graduate made to work for her jobless benefits as a shelf stacker in Poundland is taking legal action against the Government under the Human Rights Act.
Cait Reilly, who studied geology at university, had been unable to find a job in her subject area and was claiming unemployment benefit while volunteering in a museum in the hope it would lead to a job in that sector.
But the 22-year-old had to give up the placement in order to work in the budget store under a Government scheme designed to encourage the long-term unemployed back to work.
Graduate: Miss Reilly has been looking for work since she left Birmingham University (pictured) and had been volunteering on an unpaid basis
Miss Reilly is now taking landmark legal action against the Government after being told she risked losing her £53.45-a-week Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) payment if she turned down the two-week unpaid work experience stint at Poundland.
Lawyers for the graduate are seeking a judicial review into Department for Work and Pensions rules that compel unemployed people to take unpaid work.
They say the scheme, part of the Coalition’s Work Programme to break the cycle of benefit dependency, amounts to ‘forced labour’ and is against the Human Rights Act.
The Government programme aims to help around 250,000 young people over the next two years through training and unpaid work experience in the public, private and charity sectors. Placement providers include chains such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Argos and Asda.
But Miss Reilly said: ‘I was actually doing something that was helping me work towards a job and was taken away from that to do something of no value to me. It was very frustrating.’
The graduate was sucked into the scheme after attending a retail jobs ‘open day’ in the autumn at the suggestion of her Jobcentre Plus adviser, who said it would lead to a period of training and a job interview.