The ASA calling the ads were "misleading" right at the start the campaign reminds us that politicians cannot control what topics voters will focus onby Dawn Foster / November 6, 2019 / Leave a comment
You can buy a lot with £225,000. Several houses in many parts of the country; a few Ferraris with cash spare; or 45 first-class return flights to Australia leaving tomorrow, if you wanted to bring your entire street on holiday. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) decided to spend the sum on a nine-week advertising campaign for Universal Credit that has now been condemned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for misleading the public.
With Universal Credit now six years behind schedule and having attracted criticism from myriad charities, as well as all opposition parties, the DWP embarked on an attempt to detoxify the policy, with ads posting “myths” and “facts” about the scheme. The ASA reported receiving a total of 44 complaints about the claims in the adverts, from individuals and charities including Motor Neurone Disease Association, the Disability Benefits Consortium and anti-poverty charity the Zacchaeus 2000 Trust. Investigating, the ASA found that, ironically, many of the “myths” presented were facts, and the “facts” the DWP put forward were in fact myths—or at least, impossible to prove.
Three claims were unsubstantiated: that Universal Credit can be paid directly to landlords; that claimants can obtain an advance from the Jobcentre; and that Universal Credit moves people into work quicker. The charities have now called for the DWP to apologise: all support many people struggling to get by on the benefits system, and attacked the department for perpetuating false information that could confuse people in poverty and with disabilities, struggling to make ends meet.
The scheme has been in complete disarray for years: the brainchild of Iain Duncan Smith, technical issues were blamed initially, but it has become clear the entire department is not fit for purpose. Attempting to lower the cost of the benefits bill by introducing work capability assessments for severely disabled people, instituting caps on benefits, and trying to rollout Universal Credit has cost the department huge sums, with the National Audit Office saying the scheme has “not delivered value for money” and it is “uncertain that it ever will.”
For people on Universal Credit, waiting for their first payment, or struggling to have inaccuracies in their payments rectified, small sums make a huge difference. Most people couldn’t last five weeks without any money for food.…