Intern hero Cait Reilly sees herself as “too good” to stack supermarket shelves, the work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith has said, hitting out AGAIN at the 24-year-old geology graduate who dared to challenge the government’s back-to-work schemes. The attack came after many of his department’s schemes were last week ruled unlawful in a surprise ruling by the court of appeal which backed young jobseekers like Cait.

Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show, Duncan Smith dismissed the judges’  ruling as “rubbish” and issued a direct rebuke to 24-year-old geology graduate Cait Reilly, 24, who challenged having to work for free at a local Poundland store in Birmingham or face losing her jobless benefits. In what is now appearing to become an obsession towards Cait, he said:

“You have to learn early that if you commit to something you stay by and do it… She was paid jobseeker’s allowance by the taxpayer to do this. Most young people love this programme and I am sorry but there are a group of people out there who think they are too good for this kind of stuff.

“…I am not going to give way on this. I absolutely clearly tell you this. People who think it is their right to take benefit and do nothing for it — those days are over.

“The next time these smart people who say there’s something wrong with this go into their supermarket, ask themselves this simple question: when they can’t find the food on the shelves, who is more important: them, the geologist or the person who’s stacked the shelves?”

Graduate Fog  still has no idea what that last point meant (anyone?) but thinks it is high time Duncan Smith stopped bullying Cait like this. Among young jobseekers she is a hero, the poster girl for a generation of unpaid – and very low paid – interns. When he attacks her, he attacks everyone who empathises and agrees with her.

In last week’s ruling, Lord Justice Pill, Lady Justice Black and Sir Stanley Burnton unanimously agreed the government failed to give the unemployed sufficient public information about the complex schemes for them to be lawful. If the Department of Work and Pensions fails to be granted an appeal by the supreme court, lawyers say the department will be forced to pay out millions of pounds in order to refund 130,000 job seekers who had their benefits docked after being sanctioned unlawfully. Late last week, the DWP said fresh guidance letters — required under the law — were being sent to hundreds of thousands of jobseekers placed on the government’s Work Programme, the Work Experience programme and a handful of smaller schemes.

Reilly, who is currently working part-time in Morrisons (paid!), has already insisted that she is no job snob – and told the Guardian last week that she felt angry at being branded workshy:  

“I didn’t want to be on benefits. I hated it. I wanted to get a job as soon as I could. So for them someone as high profile as that to say: ‘Well they’re not trying, they’re a job snob, they’re lazy, they’re a scrounger … ‘ It really made me angry.”

Graduate Fog wonders how long it will take for this government to wake up and realise that this is not about just one young person who is refusing to put up and shut up. Cait Reilly represents a generation of young jobseekers who are prepared to work hard to find a job – but they will not be bullied into giving their labour for free when this offers no gain for them whatsoever. Duncan Smith and his colleagues should also note that Cait’s support is more widespread than they might expect. When the Daily Mail reported on Cait’s victory, they probably expected their right-wing readers to be outraged. But no – all “Best Rated” comments were all supportive of her. How long will it be before the politicians consider the idea that perhaps it’s them who is wrong on workfare, and not everybody else?


What do you think of his latest comments – do they amount to bullying? Was Cait right to challenge the government’s back-to-work schemes? Should the government accept the judges’ ruling – and focus on producing a real plan to tackle youth unemployment? If you support Cait Reilly, please post a note below!

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