Government ads banned for ‘misleading’ claims about universal credit

Government adverts extolling the virtues of universal credit have been banned for misleading the public.

The promotions, which ran on the Mail Online and Metro websites as well as the Metro newspaper, were designed by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to dispel "myths" about the controversial scheme, which has been blamed for an increase in demand for food banks.

Dozens of complaints were made to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), citing "misleading" claims that payments could be made sooner than five weeks and that the scheme helped people move into work faster.

Image: The advertising watchdog raised several issues with six adverts that ran across print and online

One of the six ads read: "Myth: universal credit makes it harder to pay your rent on time. Fact: Your Jobcentre can give you an advance payment and pay rent directly to landlords."

Another advert said: "Myth: You have to wait five weeks to get any money on universal credit. Fact: If you need money, your Jobcentre will urgently pay you an advance."


Several charities were among the 44 complainants, including the Motor Neurone Disease Association, which noted how the campaign omitted the fact that advance payments were a loan and came with conditions.

Other charities that complained were Zacchaeus 2000 Trust, which campaigns for a greater welfare benefits system to help the homeless, and the Disability Benefits Consortium.

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The DWP attempted to defend the ads, citing a 2017 report that said universal credit claimants were 4% more likely to have been employed at some point in the first six months of making their claim than those on legacy benefits.

The department said the ads contained additional information that included the terms and conditions for paying back advance payments, although acknowledged it was not possible to convey "all qualifying criteria".

Image: Universal credit has been blamed for an increase in demand for food banks

Those arguments fell on deaf ears, with the ASA ruling that the September 2017 report referred to by the DWP included people who had worked for only a few hours and on one occasion.

The regulator said the 4% figure cited was "not sufficiently relevant" to how readers would understand the reference to moving into work faster, as referring to "secure, ongoing employment".

It concluded that the claim "did not accurately reflect the evidence" as it would have been understood by readers and "was therefore misleading".

The ASA also said there was no data relating to tRead More – Source