Unite said the government is “throwing good money after bad” after it was revealed the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has spent more than £4m advertising Universal Credit.
The HuffPost UK revealed the DWP has spent £4,289,676 on Universal Credit adverts for digital displays, bus stop posters and social media – despite a wave of criticism that the new all-in-one benefit does not deliver value for money.
A freedom of information request revealed DWP spending on the Universal Credit advertising campaign has risen every year since 2016.
During that year the total amount spent on advertising was £511,226, before rocketing to £1,700,188 in 2017.
The cost of advertising the crisis-hit system in 2018 so far has reached £2,078,062, with even more costs expected as Universal Credit continues to be rolled out.
The campaign uses slogans and images to bestow the supposed virtues of Universal Credit.
“With Universal Credit you get a work coach to help you all the way,” reads one poster from the campaign.
Policy manager at the Disability Rights UK charity, Philip Connolly, said the advertising campaign was misplaced and should have been spent on informing soon-to-be claimants how to navigate the system.
He told the HuffPost, “The best thing the government could have done is to spend the money telling people on previous benefits about this new benefit and write to them. The money would have been best spent telling them about the change.
“Large numbers of people are going to face the shock of their lives that there’s a new benefit that they have to claim for.”
The increase in advertising for Universal Credit comes after the National Audit Office said the new system was estimated to be running at 300 per cent over its original budget and failing to provide value for money.
Head of Unite Community Liane Groves said, “Instead of trying to convince the public that Universal Credit will benefit them with expensive advertising, it could have put the £4m towards helping the people its disastrous policy will leave penniless and desperate during Christmas and into the new year.
“Making this waste of taxpayers’ money even more disgraceful, is that the Tories are intent on carrying on with its rollout even though they know Universal Credit doesn’t deliver value for money. They are pouring good money after bad, all in an attempt to punish the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.”