DWP Blows £225k on Universal Credit Propaganda

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The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has come under fire after it revealed the cost of the controversial Universal Credit advertising campaign in the Metro Free Newspaper. A junior DWP Minister revealed that the DWP had splashed out £225,458 on the campaign which ran over nine-weeks online and in print.

It was revealed in May, that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) planned to run a nine-week advertising campaign to “myth bust” what the Department called; “untruths” about Universal Credit.

Before the adverts had even ran, criticism flooded in. This was after an internal DWP memo was leaked revealing the adverts wouldn’t contain any DWP branding. Critics accused the DWP and Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd of attempting to mislead the public by omitting the branding.

Campaign Backfires

The DWP Logo beside a graphic of the Metro Newspaper being recycling.

When the adverts finally ran, disability campaign group; Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) mobilised volunteers. They begun a very successful campaign and hastag on Twitter aptly titled #DumpMetroDWPLies.

This saw volunteers across England, where the paper is mainly distributed, go out and remove the Free Papers from their stands which are mainly on buses and in Train Stations.

Credit: Twitter/@charlotteh71

It culminated on June 19th with DPAC delivering boxes and boxes of the papers that they had collected, to the DWP’s headquarters in London.

Credit: Twitter/@Dis_PPL_Protest

For a brief moment those delivering the boxes where locked inside DWP Caxton House by security guards. This was seen as an intimidation tactic designed to put people off doing similar actions.

Advertising Standards Unimpressed

As previously mentioned, the DWP ran the adverts without any DWP branding. The adverts and editorials did contain the wording “ADVERTISING FEATURE FROM THE DEPARTMENT FOR WORK AND PENSIONS”. However, this was in very small plain print and not noticeable in comparison to the bright advertorial wording.

After receiving numerous complaints, the UK advertising watchdog; The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) confirmed it had opened an investigation in the Universal Credit campaign. The outcome of this is yet to be announced. The Cabinet Office states that any government department advertisement MUST contain the relevant department’s Name AND Logo.

Furthermore, the ASA will look into the claims made by the DWP to see if they are misleading. This is because thew DWP specifically use the word “myth” to challenge an opinion.

It is hard to see how the adverts are not in breach considering how many of the so-called “myths” have been reported in the media.

The DWP defended the campaign saying;

“We regularly advertise Universal Credit and we work closely with stakeholders to help them best advise claimants,

“All our advertising abides by the strict guidelines set by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).” 

More Money Wasted on Propaganda

I previously reported how the DWP paid the production company of popular Channel 4 programme; Gogglebox, £315,000 for a two minute advert.

This was also labelled as misleading due to the fact that it was indistinguishable from the main programme itself.

On Wednesday, July 31st, Work and Pensions Minister Will Quince wrote a a letter to the House of Commons library saying that £225,458 had been spent on the campaign in total.

He outlined this was for any adverts that appeared in print and online, as well as an “online hub” where claimants could find out more about Universal Credit. 

Frank Field MP in the house of commons
Frank Field MP (Credit -BBC Parliament)

Former Labour MP Frank Field, who now sits as an Independent, is the chair of the Work and Pension’s Committee who oversee and give recommendations to the DWP on how to improve their policies.

Giving his reaction to the news of the amount spent he said;

“The DWP has spent almost a quarter of a million pounds on advertising when it couldn’t tell people whether they’d be better or worse off on UC.

“Why doesn’t the department concentrate on trying to get UC right, without dissembling about the wonders of Universal Credit? If it was so wonderful, you wouldn’t have to advertise it.”

Mr Field’s last sentence sums it all up really. If Universal Credit is so good why are the government having to spend so much to prove it’s great?

Given the rising use of foodbanks, survival sex and poverty all being linked to the failing benefit, I think it is safe to say we know why the DWP are so keen to try and divert attention.