Ministers have come under fire after a £200,000 newspaper advertorial vowing to “set the record straight” on universal credit was published on the same day charities revealed claimants were “selling sex to survive”.
A six-page advertorial (an advert in the form of news article) from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was published in the Metro on Wednesday morning under the heading “universal credit uncovered”. A double-sided pull-out states: “A lot has been written about universal credit recently – not all of it correct, sadly.”
One page lists a series of “myths” about the new system, pledging to “set the record straight”. Another page features an interview with a work coach and photos of claimants who are said to have benefited from universal credit.
One charity worker told the Work and Pensions Committee that women were saying they “exchange sex for £2, or for laundry, or for a bottle of cider or for food”.
From The Plymouth Herald, May 22nd
Phillip Alston, an independent expert on extreme poverty and human rights for the United Nations, highlighted the situation after noting in his report that he had met people “who have sold sex for money or shelter”.
In the summary of his report he said that although the UK is the world’s fifth largest economy, one fifth of its population (14 million people) lives in poverty, and 1.5 million experienced destitution in 2017.
He added: “Close to 40% of children are predicted to be living in poverty by 2021. Food banks have proliferated; homelessness and rough sleeping have increased greatly; tens of thousands of poor families must live in accommodation far from their schools, jobs and community networks; life expectancy is falling for certain groups; and the legal aid system has been decimated.
“The social safety net has been badly damaged by drastic cuts to local authorities’ budgets, which have eliminated many social services, reduced policing services, closed libraries in record numbers, shrunk community and youth centres and sold off public spaces and buildings.
“The bottom line is that much of the glue that has held British society together since the Second World War has been deliberately removed and replaced with a harsh and uncaring ethos. A booming economy, high employment and a budget surplus have not reversed austerity, a policy pursued more as an ideological than an economic agenda.”
The Department for Work and Pensions said the UN report was “barely believable” and “completely inaccurate”.
A spokesman said: “The UN’s own data shows the UK is one of the happiest places in the world to live, and other countries have come here to find out more about how we support people to improve their lives.
“Therefore this is a barely believable documentation of Britain, based on a tiny period of time spent here. It paints a completely inaccurate picture of our approach to tackling poverty.”