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Official complaint against deliberately misleading DWP adverts

Today, as part of the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), we’ve submited a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about the deliberately misleading government adverts for Universal Credit.

On 22 May the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) launched a weekly advertising campaign in the Metro newspaper. It was designed to be a “myth buster” on Universal Credit, a new benefit replacing six benefits, including Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

We believe the adverts, which are designed to look like news articles, are dangerous to disabled people's health and financial security.

Research shows Universal Credit is hurting disabled people

The DWP’s adverts claim it’s a “myth” that “Universal Credit doesn’t work”. But in reality, a recent DBC survey shows the majority of disabled people moved from ESA to Universal Credit now get less or a lot less money than they did previously.

The DWP are basically killing me.

Survey respondents also said they were left struggling to pay for food (70%), forced to go to food banks (30%) and saw their health worsen – in particular their mental health (80%).

One person said: “I have considered suicide frequently. I’m not sure I can cope with this forever. The DWP are basically killing me.”

Exaggerations and hiding information

Our complaint highlights the DWP’s obvious exaggerations and how it is intentionally hiding relevant information.

These include the confusing claim that the DWP would “pay rent directly to landlords” and its promotion of “advance payments”. The DWP don’t explain these are actually loans that have to be paid back, and that people will receive less money in the following months.

Seriously damaging

Anastasia Berry, our Policy Manager and Policy Co-Chair of the DBC, said: “These adverts, masquerading as facts, are seriously damaging. The DWP say claimants can get an advance to help them, but it’s really just a glorified loan – and one that must be paid back over mere months.

"The omission of this fact is a major cause for concern and, coupled with everything else, points to serious ignorance from the DWP. 

“The DWP must stop messing around with its colourful – not to mention, expensive – PR operation and focus on what matters, which is ending the five-week wait and reintroducing disability premiums cut from the system. Until then, it’s not going to convince anyone that Universal Credit is working for disabled people.”

Together we're stronger

If you’re interested in sharing your story about Universal Credit, then drop us an email campaigns@mssociety.org.uk.

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