An unemployed graduate who was made to work for Poundland for free in the Government’s ‘back to work’  programme yesterday claimed at the High Court it amounted to ‘forced labour’.

Cat Reilly, who had to work for two weeks at the value retailer or risk losing her weekly jobseekers allowance of £53.45, said the scheme had breached her human rights and asked the High Court to declare two of the Government’s work schemes unlawful.

Reilly had been claiming benefits since 2011 after she failed to find work after she graduated in 2010. The 23-year-old had been volunteering at a museum and had hoped it would lead to paid work.

Lawyers for Reilly are seeking an ‘unlawful’ ruling on the Community Action Programme and the Work Academy Scheme.

When she signed up to the Work Academy Scheme, Reilly did not realise it would require her to undertake unpaid work experience at Poundland last year. A job interview was said to be part of the course but Reilly said no interview ever took place.

The work schemes came under fire this year after a public backlash where the Government was accused of running schemes that amount to ‘slave labour’.

The work experience aspect of the scheme is no longer mandatory and Poundland pulled out of the scheme earlier this year along with several other retailers.