A Charedi man has won a landmark appeal against the Department for Work and Pensions after he was denied jobseeker’s allowance for over six months and told he must work on Shabbat.
A tribunal judge said Jacob Slinger, 19, from Greater Manchester, was wrongly refused the £56.80-per-week benefit by the DWP at a hearing of the social entitlement chamber, which adjudicates benefits disputes.
Ordering the government department to back-pay over £1,500 of the benefit, tribunal judge David Hewitt called on other Jewish people denied money to come forward.
The decision, thought to be the first of its kind, does not set down a legal precedent but could lead to a series of fresh appeals.
Following the decision, Mr Slinger said he and his family had been forced into poverty as a result of the DWP’s continued refusal to grant him the allowance. “My grandmother used every penny of her savings to support me,” he said.
The 19-year-old former university student left his course in November last year and applied for the benefit. But he was refused the allowance at the Jobcentre Plus in Prestwich, north Manchester, because his stipulation not to work on Friday afternoons and Saturdays to observe Shabbat was deemed “not reasonable”.
Regulations state that jobseekers must be available to work up for a minimum of 35 hours a week, which Mr Slinger had agreed to.
At the tribunal, Mr Hewitt was told that Mr Slinger was available to work for 53 hours a week, far exceeding the requirement to claim the allowance.
“Mr Slinger has demonstrated that, even within the restraints he has set himself, he has reasonable prospects of securing employment and he is both available for and actively seeking work,” said Mr Hewitt. “If my understanding is correct, their original decision is found to be wrong.
He added: “If people have been turned down for these reasons, they should make an appeal to this tribunal.”
Commenting on the outcome, Jason Coppel QC, an expert in social security law, said he was not aware of such a decision being made by a tribunal before, and that it had implications for the government’s new universal credit, and could affect Christians, Muslims and others, as well as Jews.
A DWP spokesperson said: “We will look at this judgement carefully and consider if we need to make any changes to the guidance given to Jobcentre Plus staff.”