Blog: Complaint to ASA about Universal Credit Uncovered

Susie - Campaigns team
Susie Rabin – Head of Policy and Campaigns

This week we’ve lodged a formal complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)’s Universal Credit Uncovered, newspaper advertorials. Not that you would know they are paid for by the DWP as they are deliberately not branded which we feel is itself misleading. This nine-week campaign, which started in May in the Metro is intended to ‘myth-bust’. We believe these adverts, paid for by taxpayers, are deliberately misleading about Universal Credit and the impact it has, particularly on disabled people. We also think the DWP should be spending money making sure the system works, rather than buying advertising.

There are some key issues we take exception to. One advertorial stated job centres can ‘urgently pay you an advance’. Yet the advertorial glosses over the fact the advance is a loan which must be paid back out of future benefits payments leaving people in subsequent months with less money than they’ve budgeted for.

Similarly, the advertorial suggests an advance payment can be paid directly to a landlord – that’s incorrect, and using a different colour ink is not enough of a differentiation for people to grasp that.

The advertorial claims quite clearly that Universal Credit works. It doesn’t. We are aware of extremely disabled people dying of MND who’ve struggled with applications, waited months to receive their first payment and even had to attend a job centre to discuss work aspirations. This is a nonsense. MND is a progressive terminal illness – it kills one third of people within a year of diagnosis. Returning to work isn’t an option and Universal Credit is the key financial support that allows them to live their lives. In 2017, our investigation by Demos revealed that living with MND costs people on average an additional £12,000/year before taking into account their loss of earnings. Some people were spending all their life savings just coping while others were struggling to find £10 for the electricity meter. We found many disabled people, including people with MND, would be worse off by several hundreds of pounds a month under UC.

We feel very strongly these adverts are misrepresenting the situation many people claiming Universal Credit, including those with MND, are finding themselves in. We hope the ASA will investigate these adverts thoroughly and take action as necessary.

For further information about our welfare benefits campaigns, find out more about supporting our Scrap 6 Months campaign

If you’d like benefits advice or support, please contact our Benefits Advice Service

For further information and support contact our MND Connect helpline

mndconnect 0808 802 6262