The UK government spent over £4 million attempting to “airbrush” crisis-hit Universal Credit last year, with advertising spending increasing by a staggering 700% in two years.
According to figures obtained by a Freedom of Information request, the DWP spent a total of £4,059,109 advertising Universal Credit in 2018/19 – compared with just £511,227 in 2016/17.
This week, the Advertising Standards’ Authority launched a formal investigation into the DWP over claims that adverts which appeared in the Metro newspaper, amongst others, were “deliberately misleading.”
Commenting, Bob Doris MSP said: “These figures are frankly insulting for those struggling on Universal Credit – an ill thought-out welfare scheme which has forced families into debt, rent arrears, foodbanks and destitution.
“The DWP has ploughed ahead with the botched roll-out of Universal Credit, despite all the warnings they’ve received.
“Now they’re trying to airbrush the utter failure of their flagship welfare policy – spending millions of taxpayers’ money on a one-sided advertising campaign which is now under investigation for being misleading.
“Rather than face up to the overwhelming criticism of their botched reform and fix Universal Credit, the Tories have decided to push their PR operation into overdrive.
“Westminster have shown us time and time again that they are totally out-of-step with the needs and priorities of Scotland.
“The Tory government clearly can’t be trusted to look after the most vulnerable in society.”
A DWP spokesperson said: “As Universal Credit has rolled out to more than two million people this advertising has made sure they understand how to claim their benefits and how the new system works.”
Financial year 2016/17
Channel Spend Media – Digital advertising £81,107 Media – Radio £124,883 Media – Press £114,927 Media – Out of Home £190,310 Total £511,227
Financial year 2017/18
Channel Spend Media – Digital advertising £828,839 Media – Radio £299,828 Media – Local Press £64,224 Media – Out of Home £499,950 Total £1,692,841
Financial year 2018/19
Channel Spend Media – Digital advertising £2,197,042 Media – Out of Home £1,100,105 Media – Radio £526,533 Media – Local Press £235,429 Total £4,059,109
Source: Department For Work and Pensions (DWP) via Scottish National Party.