Department for Work and Pensions faces backlash over 'threatening' Valentine's Day campaign

A “threatening” Valentine’s Day campaign from the Department for Work and Pensions urging people to declare their “true” living circumstances has sparked a backlash.

In a tweet, the department said: “Claiming to be living alone is one of the most common types of benefit fraud – don’t ruin #ValentinesDay by failing to declare your true circumstances.”

The Government body launched the Valentine’s campaign in an effort to warn couples who live together not to commit benefit fraud by failing to declare their living arrangements.

In a release it said people lying about living alone is “one of the most common types of benefit fraud committed in the UK”.

But the advert sparked anger online, with the Government accused of showing a “lack of compassion” towards lonely people.

The tweet attracted the attention of opposition ministers, with Labour MP for Sefton Central Bill Esterson suggesting it had ruined Valentine’s Day.

Mr Esterson wrote: “Valentine’s Day is meant to be about love. This DWP message is a threat.

“They even say “Don’t ruin Valentine’s Day”.

“Is that meant to be irony?”

While the Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham wrote: “Happy #ValentinesDay to you too.”

Debbie Abrahams, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said: “It really is shameful that the Government believes this is the message it should be focusing on at a time when people’s lifelines have been slashed.

“Let’s not forget a record 68 per cent of assessment decisions taken to tribunal are being overturned by judges, with the DWP spending more than £100m in just over two years on reviews and appeals.”

Stephen Lloyd, Lib Dems’ DWP spokesman, said: “This appalling tweet from DWP is such an extreme example of flint-heartedness one could be forgiven for thinking it was a spoof. “

The post also included a festive animation, showing a couple riding in a heart-shaped hot air balloon emblazoned with the word “love”.

It added: “Declaring your true love tomorrow? Don’t forget to declare your true living arrangements too.

“Don’t get separated from your Valentine. Tell us of a change now.”

Since it was published on Tuesday the tweet has received nearly 1,500 comments, with people calling the campaign “unacceptable” and “mean-spirited”.

Some have called on the department to delete the advert.

One woman, named Linda, said: “I hand over my taxes so that the elderly and frail get decent support. You show lack of compassion by creating a toxic environment against these people.

“Your tweet is threatening. Now, lonely people will feel unable to approach DWP for benefits seeing you don’t believe them.

“Delete this tweet. It does not show worthy values of love, acceptance, compassion.”

While Stephen Lingwood said: “Seriously? Someone actually spent their working day making this….

“Making a festival about love into a way to push your mean spirited agenda? Look within and consult your conscience.”

The Department for Work and Pensions said it would not comment on the backlash.

A news release on the campaign said the department “uncovers thousands of benefit fraud cases every year”.

It recovered a “record” £1.1 billion in overpaid benefits in 2017, it added.

You May Also Like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *