The Government’s advert for Universal Credit has been banned, after the Advertising Standards Agency ruled that it was misleading.  The agency received 44 complaints about the adverts, which ran in May and June in the Metro newspaper and on a web page hosted on the Mail Online and Metro sites.  Complaints were made by various organisations, including: Motor Neurone Disease Association, the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) and the anti-poverty charity Zacchaeus 2000 Trust (Z2K).

The adverts included claims people moved into work faster on universal credit, which “did not accurately reflect the evidence”, the ASA said.

Four claims that were made in the adverts were investigated by the ASA, and found to be misleading.  These were (with the true story below):

  • “Myth: universal credit makes it harder to pay your rent on time. Fact: your job centre can give you an advance payment and pay rent directly to landlords.”
    • Significant restrictions are placed on alternative payment arrangements, which are only available to around 1 in 10 claimants.
  • “Myth: you have to wait five weeks to get any money on universal credit. Fact: if you need money, your job centre will urgently pay you an advance.”
    • Advance payments are not necessarily available immediately, and take the form of a loan repayable over 12 months.
  • “Myth: universal credit doesn’t work. Fact: it does. People move into work faster on universal credit than they did on the old system.”
    • This claim is based on all people who have worked for anything from a few hours upwards, in the relevant period, not ‘secure employment’.
  • The fourth claim was partially upheld, which was that the adverts were not sufficiently clearly labelled as marketing.

You can read more on the BBC website.


Other news around benefits

Welfare changes pushing people into poverty

The State of Hunger 2019 report was compiled by Heriot-Watt University academics for the Trussell Trust food bank charity has been looking at people affected by hunger, and what drove people to foodbanks.  It has found that welfare changes have pushed people into poverty. The five key welfare policies that have been implicated are: the rollout of universal credit, increases in benefit sanctions, the bedroom tax, the benefits freeze and the withdrawal of disability benefits.

You can read the whole story on the Guardian website, and find the report on the Trussell Trust website.

PIP internal reviews again

The Disability News Service has reported that the DWP are undertaking another internal review into Personal Independence Payments, after more people were discovered to have been denied payments to which they were eligible. The Benefits and Work website first spotted the review, which looks at claimants who require a special diet, and those who require help monitoring and managing a health condition. This makes the total number of such reviews carried out at least 8, and maybe as many as 10, in the last two years.

Benefits system automation

The DWP is spending millions of pounds on an ‘intelligent automation garage’ to develop welfare robots to replace humans.  The IT systems will introduce machine learning into checking benefit claims, and also judge the likelihood that citizens’ claims about their childcare and housing costs are true when they apply for benefits.  16 bots are already communicating with claimants and helping process claims. However, warnings are being given about the lack of compassion, and rigidity in the automated systems, as well as rising error rates. See the Guardian for more information.