The Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) has added its voice to those making a formal complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about the DWP’s fake news universal credit (UC) campaign.
Last month we warned readers about the DWP’s attempt to mislead claimants by publishing adverts disguised as news items which praised UC.
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 are being carried in the Metro and local newspapers.
At that time anti-poverty charity Z2K made an official complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority.
They were particularly concerned that the adverts did not make it clear that advance payments of UC were simply a loan, leaving people with less money to live off whilst they repay it.
The charity was also worried that claimants on legacy benefits might be misled into thinking they would be better off on UC and make a claim which left them much worse off as a result.
In a letter to the ASA the DBC say that they believe the adverts breach the Non Broadcast Codes relating to misleading advertising.
The DBC points to a survey of 500 disabled people about their experience of UC. They say that the survey showed that:
“The majority of respondents who moved from employment support allowance onto universal credit said they now get less or a lot less money than they did previously. People told us that the impact of having less money includes struggling to pay for food (70%), driving a significant number of people to food banks (35%) and a worsening of people’s health, in particular their mental health (85%) and most worryingly driving people to consider suicide.”
This, the DBC argues, shows that the claim that UC supports you if you are on a low income or out of work is not true.
Like Z2K they were also concerned that the DWP did not make it clear that advance payments are simply a loan:
“The fact that people who take out this loan can then look to have 40% reductions in future benefits should have been set out clearly in the advertisement. It is not clear in the language that this payment is a loan and that taking it out can leave disabled people in a worse financial position.”
We will keep readers informed when ASA issues a response.