DWP admits making up quotes from 'benefit claimants'


Welfare officials have admitted using made-up quotes from fictional claimants in an advice leaflet.

The document carried pictures of two individuals next to what purported to be their personal accounts of the sanctions regime.

But the Department for Work and Pensions was forced by Welfare Weekly to concede "Sarah" and "Zac" did not actually exist and the images were stock photographs.

It has since switched them to silhouettes and added a note making clear the words are "for illustrative purposes" - but has not ruled out using the previous version in future.

A DWP spokesman said he believed the incident was a one-off and not common practice.

In the leaflet, "Sarah" was quoted as expressing delight at having been persuaded to draw up a CV and explaining why she had had her payments docked.

"I got a letter to say my benefit would go down for two weeks. I was told it was longer than a week because I missed a meeting with my work coach back in March," the copy ran next to her picture.

"My benefit is back to normal now and I'm really pleased with how my CV looks. It's going to help me when I'm ready to go back to work," it continued.

But "Zac" was more conscientious, telling readers he had not missed out on any benefits because "I had a good reason for not going to the meeting and proof of the appointment".

Responding to a Freedom of Information request from Welfare Weekly as to whether the comments were genuine, the DWP said: "The photos used are stock photos and along with the names do not belong to real claimants. The stories are for illustrative purposes only.

"We want to help people understand when sanctions can be applied and how they can avoid them by taking certain actions. Using practical examples can help us achieve this.

"We have temporarily changed the pictures to silhouettes and added a note to make it more clear that these are illustrative examples only.

"We will test both versions of the factsheet with claimants and external stakeholders to further improve it in the future. This will include working with external organisations."