Universal Credit myth-busting ads claiming new benefit system 'works' banned for being 'misleading'

UNIVERSAL Credit ads used by the government to claim the controversial benefit "works" have been slammed as "misleading" and banned from appearing again.

The six ads for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) appeared in the Metro newspaper, online and on the Mail Online from May.

They were part of a PR campaign to defend the benefit.

The Sun has highlighted how the benefit doesn't work as part of our Make Universal Credit Work, particularly in relation to the five-week wait for cash.

One ad listed "myths", such as "Universal Credit doesn't work", and "You have to wait five weeks to get any money on Universal Credit".

Followed by "facts" reading: "People move into work faster on Universal Credit than they did on the old system," and "If you need money, your Jobcentre will urgently pay you an advance."

Another ad said: "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."

The Sun wants to Make Universal Credit Work

UNIVERSAL Credit replaces six benefits with a single monthly payment.

One million people are already receiving it and by the time the system is fully rolled out in 2023, nearly 7 million will be on it.

But there are big problems with the flagship new system – it takes 5 weeks to get the first payment and it could leave some families worse off by thousands of pounds a year.

And while working families can claim back up to 85 per cent of their childcare costs, they must find the money to pay for childcare upfront – we’ve heard of families waiting up to 6 months for the money.

Working parents across the country told us they’ve been unable to take on more hours – or have even turned down better paid jobs or more hours because of the amount they get their benefits cut.

It’s time to Make Universal Credit work. We want the Government to:

  1. Get paid faster: The Government must slash the time Brits wait for their first Universal Credit payments from five to two weeks, helping stop 7 million from being pushed into debt.
  2. Keep more of what you earn:The work allowance should be increased and the taper rate should be slashed from 63p to 50p, helping at least 4 million families.
  3. Don’t get punished for having a family: Parents should get the 85 per cent of the money they can claim for childcare upfront instead of being paid in arrears.

Together, these changes will help Make Universal Credit Work.

Join our Universal Credit Facebook group or email [email protected] to share your story. 

But the advertising watchdog received 44 complaints about the adverts including from charities Zacchaeus 2000 Trust (Z2K), the Motor Neurone Disease Association and the Disability Benefits Consortium.

They argued that while claimants can apply for an advance payment there's no guarantee they'll get this quickly, while it's also taken from their eventual benefits payment – something that may put them off claiming in the first place if they knew.

And after opening an investigation into the claims back in July, the Advertising and Standards Authority (ASA) has now banned the ads labelling them misleading and telling DWP it must have "adequate evidence" to substantiate future claims.

An ASA spokesperson said: "We told the Department for Work and Pensions to ensure that it held adequate evidence to substantiate the claims in its advertising, to include significant conditions, and to present significant conditions clearly."

Z2K chief executive Raji Hunjan says the charity is calling for an independent investigation into DWP's practices following the ruling.

She said: "This damning judgment against the DWP, which finds it guilty of misleading advertising, exaggeration and its failure to substantiate and qualify its claims, reveals an attitude which is not acceptable in public service, especially in the department charged with protecting people from living in poverty."

Jonathan Blades, from the Disability Benefits Consortium and the MS Society, added: "The DWP must apologise for its actions and concentrate on fixing Universal Credit.

"People are being pushed needlessly into debt by a government disguising loans as 'advanced payments'."

A DWP spokesman said: "We are disappointed with this decision and have responded to the Advertising Standards Authority.

"We consulted at length with the ASA as we created the adverts, which have explained to hundreds of thousands of people how Universal Credit is helping more than 2.5million people across the country."

The Sun has also contacted the Daily Mail group for comment.

An inquiry into Universal Credit recently heard how a mum performed a "survival sex" act for food, as MPs called for end to the five-week wait for cash.

If you're struggling, here's how to apply for a Universal Credit advance and how you'll have to pay it back.

But the government has pledged to increase Universal Credit payments and end a freeze on benefit rises in 2020.

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