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It has emerged that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) plan to start a covert campaign to tackle “misinformation” about Universal Credit. A memo first revealed by the Guardian, talks of an unbranded wraparound advert on the Metro Newspaper and a BBC Two documentary they helped make. It is a propaganda campaign North Korea would be proud of due to the fact it won’t look like the DWP even played a part.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have been on a campaign to paint Universal Credit in a good light in recent times. Now it appears they’ve decided to go for full on deception.
The Guardian has reported details of a memo from the Departments internal intranet. The memo signed by Universal Credit’s director Neil Couling begins by telling staff;
“We share your justified frustration when our hard work – in particular our work on Universal Credit – is portrayed incorrectly and/or negatively in the media.”
Mr Couling’s assertion of an ‘incorrect portrayal,’ is exactly the sort of response The UN Special Rapportuer Professor Philip Alston described in his damning report. He reported that members of the DWP and government he met are in complete denial about the impact their policies are causing.
The Universal Credit director may also be upset at the almost weekly occurrences of bad news that comes out regarding the government’s flagship welfare policy.
DWP Propaganda Campaign Begins
Beginning at the end of May, the memo revealed the the DWP will run a large advert wrapped around the cover of the Metro newspaper. There will also be a further be a further four-page advertorial feature inside the paper. However, here’s the kicker;
The advert on the cover and the feature inside WON’T be identifiable with DWP or Universal Credit branding. The memo states;
“the features won’t look or feel like DWP or UC – you won’t see our branding … We want to grab the readers’ attention and make them wonder who has done this ‘UC uncovered’ investigation.”
Basically, they want to trick readers. This raises serious ethical questions on the DWP conduct. More importantly, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) will also likely want to know what’s going on. It’s prohibited for an advertiser to mislead the reader. Looking at the memo, that is clearly the intent here.
A cover wrap on the Metro also costs £250,000. This adds to the £315,000 the DWP paid to the producers of Gogglebox for another misleading advert.
What’s more, the feature adverts will continue for a further nine-weeks costing the taxpayer even more. All while foodbank use rises.
Amber Rudd’s Stage Managed Show
Stage two of the battle to protect Universal Credit will see Amber Rudd invite “a wide range of journalists at regional and national publications … to come [to a jobcentre] and see the great work we do”
So the DWP are going select journalists and take them on a stage managed tours of jobcentres. This literally smack of North Korea’s style of state propaganda it provides to foreign journalists.
It stinks of sheer desperation from the government. Universal Credit and it’s policies have been proven time and time again to be harming people. A few cushy visits to jobcentres isn’t going to change that.
DWP & BBC Partnership
The final and most alarming part of the DWP’s plan involves a BBC Two Documentary showing the inside of three different jobcentres.
The memo even talks excitably about this saying;
“This is a fantastic opportunity for us – we’ve been involved in the process from the outset, and we continue working closely with the BBC to ensure a balanced and insightful piece of television.”
“A fantastic opportunity” they say. This is perhaps because the government banned jobcentre staff from speaking openly to the programme makers. The PCS union who represent jobcentre (JCP) staff, have written a memo to the BBC stating the reluctance to be identified on screen.
The PCS also say that a senior universal credit manager has told the union that “the DWP would have access to the film before transmission”, which the BBC has confirmed. This has raised fear amongst staff in case the DWP single them out for any negative comments made in the programme.
All in all, the DWP are embarking on a covert campaign to trick people into believing that everything is sunshine and butterflies when it comes to Universal Credit. When in-fact, nothing could be farther from the truth.
I contacted the DWP, BBC and Metro for comment but received no comment at the time of publishing.