Anti-poverty charity Z2K have made an official complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about the DWP’s taxpayer funded fake news campaign.

Earlier this month we revealed that the DWP was launching an advertising blitz disguised as news in the Metro newspaper.

In a leaked memo, Universal Credit Director General Neil Couling boasted that people would not be able to tell that the 9 weeks of fake features were written by the DWP and would instead “wonder who has done this ‘UC Uncovered’ investigation.”

The adverts have now begun running in the Metro and online and Z2K have complained to the ASA on a number of grounds.

They point out that one ‘myth buster’ claims that it’s a “myth” that “you have to wait 5 weeks to get any money on Universal Credit”, followed by “fact: Jobcentres can “urgently pay you an advance.”

Z2K point out that:

“It is not clear that an advance must be paid back, the advert omits that these advances are taken out of future benefits and have to be paid back over several months, leaving people in subsequent months, with less money than they are entitled to, and less money than they will have actually budgeted for.”

The charity also takes issue with the simplistic claim by the DWP that they can pay your rent directly to your landlord.

Instead, Z2K explain that:

“In reality, you have to apply to the job centre for this to happen, and you have to meet certain criteria. As an advice agency, we have applied for people with numerous vulnerabilities to have the housing element of their Universal Credit paid directly to landlords, and we have not been successful in securing this.”

Finally, Z2K takes issue with the statement that it’s a “myth” that “Universal Credit doesn’t work”, followed by: “fact: it does.”

They point to the “damning evidence” the work and pensions committee have published on the hardship caused by UC and also quote the committee’s chair, Frank Field, whose furious reaction to the DWP adverts was:

“If the DWP wants to understand the facts about Universal Credit, it could look to the horrific, harrowing evidence we heard this morning. People – mostly women, single mums, students – are telling us that they are forced through sheer desperation to exchange sex for the means to feed, house and warm themselves and their children. Instead of going out to get the evidence for itself, the DWP just dismisses this testimony as anecdote and brushes it aside.”

“Rather than wasting huge chunks of desperately needed resources on 10 weeks of advertorial, why won’t the Government just take a look at the terrible reality of the facts we and so many others are showing them, for free, and instead spend that money on making some of its claims about UC helping people come true?”

Z2K have warned that the adverts could lead people on legacy benefits to wrongly believe they would be better off on UC and make a claim as a result. They have asked the ASA to act as quickly as possible.

You can read the full text of the complaint on the Z2K website.


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