The DWP Press office allowed its mask to slip briefly last week when it resorted to calling benefits payments ‘welfare hand-outs’ in a press release which later became the Daily Mail’s headline story.{jcomments on}

In an update about the benefit cap on Thursday 9 January headlined “Benefits capped for 33,000 households” the DWP explained that:

‘The Benefits cap limits welfare hand-outs to £500 a week. . .’

The next day, in its front page lead, the Daily Mail regurgitated the DWP press release:

“More than 33,000 households have had their benefits slashed since handouts were capped at £500 a week.”

The term ‘hand-outs’ is a deeply derogatory one, invariably used by those wishing to encourage prejudice and hatred towards claimants.

On Friday we telephoned the DWP press office and asked when the term ‘welfare hand-outs’ had become the officially sanctioned term for ‘benefits’ at the DWP and directed them to the offending paragraph in the press release. A DWP spokesperson said:

“I guess it’s just another way of expressing that point.

“I think it’s something that has been used before.”

When we asked for an email address that our readers could use to complain, if they wished to do so; the spokesperson said they would have to get back to us.

Some hours later we received the following communication from the Head of News at the DWP:

You spoke to my colleague [name given] earlier about our benefit cap press release. We're very careful about the language we use. I've reviewed the example you raised in the final paragraph of the release, and on this occasion think it could have been worded differently. We've updated the release accordingly, and it's available here:

So, not a single word of apology or regret and no information about how to make a complaint.

And the Head of News knows, without a shred of a doubt, that changing the wording of a day old press release is precisely the same as doing absolutely nothing whatsoever. The press release will have been emailed to many hundreds of media outlets on Thursday and its poisonous language was already headlines on Friday morning.

For the DWP to use the term ‘hand-outs’ is a shocking departure from the measured language and impartiality the public have an absolute right to expect from civil servants whose wages are paid by public taxes, not by the tabloids or by propaganda peddling government ministers.

It is this sort of prejudicial language which fuels hatred of claimants. Is it any wonder that there is an increasing level of hate-crimes, fear and suicides - especially amongst sick and disabled people?

The only appropriate response from the DWP would be to send out a press release apologising for its inappropriate and inflammatory use of language.

So, if you are as disgusted as we are by the DWP’s language and by its response when challenged, please email your complaint to:

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

You might also want to forward a copy of your complaint to your MP, using the Write To Them website.

And, if you wish, post a comment below when you’ve done so.


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