The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a complaint stating a government advert for Universal Credit is “dangerous to the health and financial security of disabled people”.
The Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), a coalition of over 100 disability charities, is now demanding an apology from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
Earlier this year the ASA launched a formal investigation after it received a complaint from the DBC – along with 43 others – about a DWP campaign in the Metro newspaper. Positioned as a “myth buster” on Universal Credit, the DBC argued the adverts were “misleading” and “dangerous to the health and financial security of disabled people”.
Today the watchdog upheld the complaint, agreeing that government officials had breached the advertising code when promoting supposed advantages of Universal Credit.
In its ruling, the ASA said the DWP couldn’t sufficiently substantiate its claims about Universal Credit. It said the so-called “facts” presented in the adverts were all misleading. These included claims people could move into work faster under Universal Credit, and payments could be made sooner than five weeks, as well as the promotion of “advance payments” without explaining the fact these were a loan, and came with conditions.
One member of the DBC, Z2K – an anti-poverty charity, has today launched a campaign calling for an independent investigation into how and why the DWP approved these misleading adverts.
Jonathan Blades, External Relations Manager at the MS Society and Parliamentary Co-Chair of the DBC, said: “This ruling exposes the DWP’s indefensible attempt to provide inaccurate information to vulnerable people. The fact is that Universal Credit is leaving disabled people significantly worse off, and in some cases forcing them to turn to food banks. It’s equally disgraceful these adverts have cost the taxpayer more than £225,000, at a time when disabled people are typically losing £1,200 a year thanks to welfare system changes.
“The DWP must apologise for its actions and concentrate on fixing Universal Credit. MS is relentless, painful and disabling and benefits are crucial for people to maintain their independence. Instead, people are being pushed needlessly into debt by a government disguising loans as “advanced payments”. They need to stop messing around with misleading adverts and focus on reform – like scrapping the five week wait so people don’t need these loans in the first place.”