Iain Duncan Smith's department went into crisis-limitation mode today, after the supreme court ruled its back to work scheme was illegal.
The appeal ruling found the government had failed to give recipients enough information about sanctions faced by people being told they had to work without a wage, but stopped short of branding the programme "slave labour".
"Fairness required that the claimants should have sufficient information about the scheme to be able to make freely informed representations before a decision was made, which the secretary of state failed to do," the judgement read.
The decision follows outrage in some quarters of the media and parliament at reports of social security claimants being forced to work for free at high street shops like Poundland.
The Department for Work and Pensions' response has been to focus on the court's refusal to brand the work "slave labour" but avoid mentioning the ruling itself as far as possible.
"It is not slave labour and the judge said nowhere near slave labour, however we do have to make sure that what we’re doing is as clear as possible and that’s a fair point," work and pensions minister Esther McVey told the BBC.
"The last point was the key plank of the argument which was whether this was forced Labour and it is not."