Universal Credit activists swipe newspapers off the shelves in protest against 'misleading' government advertisements
Activists removed thousands of newspapers from the public eye at Sheffield railway station after claiming the government paid for a ‘misleading’ advert over the controversial universal credit changes.
Sheffield’s Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) took Metro papers off stands across the city after campaigners said the piece was ‘deliberately presented to look like journalism’.
The group of eight confiscated 2,500 copies on Wednesday which added to an estimated 15,000 nationally.
It aims to double this number in another day of action next week.
The protests follow a DWP memo that was leaked to the group and published by The Guardian on May 14, organising for a series of univesal credit editorial advertisements to be printed over the next nine weeks.
A universal credit wrap printed around the national paper last week was said to have cost the government £250,000, according to DPAC.
The DWP memo stated that 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.”
DPAC activist Jennifer Jones said the adversitements were ‘disgusting’.
She said: “We are quite surprised that the government hasn’t even bothered to deny that they have spent £250,000.
“The pieces were written by the Civil Service which is supposed to be impartial, but this is like living and working in a dictatorship.”
Activists across the country are looking out for the advertisements on a daily basis, with groups constantly on stand-by to go out and remove them.
Jennifer said: “We have people who work on the buses and the trains who are looking out it.
“Whichever day the articles come out, we will go to collect them.
“This is a completely munipulative move from the government and the Metro is going along with it.”
The mum-of-two has not yet been moved over to the universal credit scheme, but as a carer for her son, said she would miss out on much-needed money when the change takes place.
She said: “When I move over to UC my son will still be disabled and I will still be his carer 24 hours a day, but I will lose my carers’ allowance.
“What kind of chaos are we going to see when all these people are moved onto universal credit? How is the world going to survive.”
The DWP said it consulted with the Advertising Standards Authority prior to launching the partnership, and advertorials reflect its advice.
It has also made clear that advertising contains the wording ‘Advertising Feature from the Department for Work and Pensions’.
A spokesperson said: “It is important people know about the benefits available to them, and we regularly advertise universal credit.
“All our advertising abides by the strict guidelines set by the Advertising Standards Authority.”