The advertising campaign in the Metro newspaper was condemned as misleading
Just over £225,000 of taxpayers’ money was spent on a series of adverts for Universal Credit, it has been revealed.
Advertising watchdogs are investigating the ‘myth-busting’ campaign on the new welfare scheme, which was run in the Metro newspaper.
The DWP denied the controversial adverts were misleading – but has come in for severe criticism on the issue.
And it tonight admitted how much public money it had blown on the ads, the Mirror reports.
After a string of requests by MPs, DWP minister Will Quince confirmed:
The final cost of the partnership was £225,458.
This covered a 9-week campaign, spanning online and print channels.
“It also included an online hub where readers were directed for further important information on the key features and benefits of UC.”
The Metro newspaper has been criticised over a print advert for the Government’s controversial Universal Credit welfare system described as “propaganda” and an “insult to all disabled people”.
The four-page advert in today’s Metro and a page for the campaign hosted on the Mail Online website claim to “uncover” the truth about Universal Credit while hitting out at reporting of the scheme’s flaws.
The Universal Credit system rolls six benefits into one payment including the working tax credit, housing benefit and child tax credit.
In February the Department for Work and Pensions secretary Amber Rudd admitted that an increase in food bank use was linked to its troubled rollout and a report published late last year said disabled people could be left £300 worse off under the scheme.
The DWP advert in the Metro claims to “set the record straight” on “myths” surrounding Universal Credit, adding: “A lot has been written about Universal Credit recently – not all of it correct, sadly.”
Inside the four-page advertorial spread, a DWP “work coach” took a further jab at media reporting of the scheme.
She said: “I find it frustrating to hear the negative stories in the media – if you just listened to what’s reported, it’s not surprising people think Universal Credit doesn’t work.”
A strapline on the ad campaign’s Mail Online page adds: “We’re bringing you the real stories from the frontline of Universal Credit – the stories you don’t get to read about in the news.”
I’ve never seen this before: a government press release/advert on its much criticised Universal Credit dressed up as 4-page investigative news report, basically framed around the ‘fake news’ narrative. pic.twitter.com/Z9sQV8GDWu
— Jane Bradley (@jane__bradley) 22 May 2019
The advert for Universal Credit has landed on the same day UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty Philip Alston published a report on the UK that said the scheme was “fast falling into Universal Discredit”.
Ann Galpin, chair of the National Union of Journalists disabled members’ council, described the campaign as propaganda.
It’s not 1984, attempts by the Government to push out propaganda cannot go unchallenged.
“We are appalled that these misleading wraparounds and features have appeared in the Metro today, coinciding with the release of Philip Alston’s report on poverty in the UK, which heavily criticises austerity and welfare reform.”
The NUJ national executive committee representative Natasha Hirst added that the adverts were “an insult to all disabled people” and journalists who have “ethically reported” on their stories.
She also described the adverts as “inaccurate and misleading” campaigns.
A Metro spokesperson said: “Metro is a non-partisan newspaper, which carries advertisements for a range of clients, including Government departments and unions.
“Metro takes advertising standards seriously and requires our advertisers to comply with all laws and the Advertising Standards Authority code.
“The Department for Work and Pensions has informed us that the advertising was reviewed by the ASA’s Copy Advice Team prior to publication. Metro is happy with this process.”
Independent MP Frank Field – who chairs the work and pensions select committee leading the investigation – said: “If the DWP wants to understand the facts about Universal Credit, it could look to the horrific, harrowing evidence we heard this morning.
“People – mostly women, single mums, students – are telling us that they are forced through sheer desperation to exchange sex for the means to feed, house and warm themselves and their children. Instead of going out to get the evidence for itself, the DWP just dismisses this testimony as anecdote and brushes it aside,” he said.
“Rather than wasting huge chunks of desperately needed resources on 10 weeks of advertorial, why won’t the government just take a look at the terrible reality of the facts we and so many others are showing them, for free, and instead spend that money on making some of its claims about UC helping people come true?”
The campaign has also come under fire from readers, with many questioning whether taxpayer money should be used to advertise the government’s flagship six-in-one benefits scheme.