DWP’s £51m contract stops Citizens Advice speaking out against Universal Credit

DWP logo Citzens Advice logo
Fréa Lockley

New evidence shows that a £51m contract between the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Citizens Advice (CA) contains a gagging clause. As Universal Credit rolls out across the UK, this agreement means the UK’s leading advisory charity now can’t speak out or take “any actions” which might harm the DWP’s reputation.

Secret agreement

Social welfare activist Frank Zola forced details of the secret agreement using a Freedom of Information (FOI) request. The response revealed that the DWP paid £39m to CA and £12m to CA Scotland (CAS). As Disability News Service (DNS) reported, the agreement means that CA in England and Scotland:

cannot take “any actions which unfairly bring or are likely to unfairly bring [DWP’s] name or reputation and/or [DWP] into disrepute”.

Start your day with The Canary News Digest

Fresh and fearless; get excellent independent journalism from The Canary, delivered straight to your inbox every morning.




This evidence has huge implications. As The Canary has documented for some time, Universal Credit destroys lives. It’s already forced people to use food banks and made others homeless. CA is one of the best-placed frontline services to understand these issues. A pilot scheme for a process called “managed migration” started in July 2019. So more people than ever need CA advice, and most people assume it’s entirely independent.

As Zola noted, this evidence of a gagging clause in the contract raises “serious concerns”. The CA should exist to offer “truly independent advice and guidance”. Because as Zola also told DNS, CA exists to help and advise some of the most vulnerable people in the UK. Those “punished” by the Conservative government’s Universal Credit policy include:

disabled people and families who have ended up losing thousands of pounds by claiming UC, vast rises in debt, rent arrears, evictions, survival crime, five week delays in first payments and the horror of its inbuilt benefit sanctions and excessive conditionality. 

“A pact with the devil”

Despite previous denial, CA did confirm its agreement with the DWP included the “disrepute” clause. DNS reported that it claimed this didn’t “affect Citizens Advice’s ability to publicly criticise DWP”. In a statement, CA’s chief executive Gillian Guy said there’s “nothing in the grant agreement” to prevent it from raising “evidence publicly” about the impact of universal credit.

Guy claimed CA continued to highlight “where improvements can be made to the universal credit system”. She also said:

Citizens Advice is, and always will be, totally independent from government.

Yet CA is one of the frontline organisations best placed to campaign to scrap Universal Credit entirely. Many campaigners feel that suggesting “improvements” simply doesn’t go far enough.

As activist Dr Jay Watts pointed out, it’s vital that people feel able to approach CA because it should “provide a vital service in desperate times”. Yet, as Watts continued, for it to accept this money equates to making “a pact with the devil”. It limits the CA’s “capacity to speak out against” the same policies that cause “despair” for people who seek advice.

Rick Burgess from Manchester Disabled People Against Cuts also said:

At a time when the DWP is engaged in massive and ongoing human rights abuse, for the supposed Citizens Advice organisation to be tied into a legal and financial relationship with the abusers is catastrophic for CA’s integrity and for people who need defending from the DWP, and for open democratic oversight of government policies.

It’s a bribe to stay silent.

“Grotesque government policies”

Despite the CA’s claims, this gagging clause is a massive betrayal. As Zola pointed out:

services delivered and funded by the DWP are fundamentally tainted by association to so many “grotesque government policies” and avoidable deaths.

Zola also posed a vitally important question, asking:

how this dodgy underhand multi million grant came about? Did the DWP approach Citizens Advice on an unsolicited basis and who decided the remit and scope of the UC ‘Universal Support’ service?

As the DWP pushes its devastating policies forward, this deal highlights just how far it’s prepared to go to hide the truth. That truth is literally killing people and starving children. The CA should be ashamed of itself.

Featured images via Wikimedia – UK Government / Wikimedia – Citizens Advice

Since you're here ...

We know you don't need a lecture. You wouldn't be here if you didn't care.
Now, more than ever, we need your help to challenge the rightwing press and hold power to account. Please help us survive and thrive.

The Canary Support
  • Show Comments
    1. You reap what you sow. What we are seeing with the ever increasing violence on our streets is , to put it in simple terms so that even the blindest
      of Etonian MPs, is a symptom. Not a symptom of drug use or of gang crime, but a symptom of poverty, of desperation. A result of 14 million people living below the poverty line. a symptom of hopelessness, a symptom of constant financial pressure and living life on the absolute edge. Where being 5 minutes late for your minimum wage zero hours job will result in absolute carnage.
      If they think that building 10 thousand prison cells will fix their Dickensian problems, then they are sorely mistaken. I am 63 years old and now I feel ASHAMED of my Country.

    2. Isn’t the key word here ‘unfairly’? Surely if the CA collect and produce first-hand evidence (as they are uniquely placed to do) of the DWP’s and UC’s devastating effect on people’s lives, this is truth-reporting and therefore not ‘unfair’? Yes, I know their lawyers will destroy that argument in seconds, but….

    3. DWP’s £51m contract stops Citizens Advice speaking out against Universal Credit.
      Remember this, fact, taxpayer’ we paid for this gagging order on, Top of repaying the claimant their benefit cash after Tory D.U.P. minister lost all her cases in British courts of law not E.U. courts. Fact now Tory Govt spend every day more cash on their SCAM U-CREDIT benefit than Labour did all time they were in Offices on all the old benefits truly over all the years,
      of Labour in power.
      /////
      What I wish to know truthfully off all Tory Govt member,
      Including X-P.M. Ms May + Boris my important question?

      Q–Was any of the Tory SCAM U-CREDIT payment that was withheld from claimant used to settle Grayling bad deal on all Transport matter while he was the Minister of Transport until Boris got shut of him yes or no? Ms May??????
      //
      Q– To Tory Govt plus Labour party when and if a new G.E. is held in 2019 will both parties, for our votes Give us voter,
      a CAST IRON pledge, both parties will SCRAP U- CREDIT,
      as soon as they gain power first day job!
      FINALLY!
      In my opinion this is only what Both main party’s Tory/Labour have to offer now for our votes at any G.E. time possibly in Sept/Nov 2019. Has everything else they both have already trashed and flushed down the toilet forever for us resident in U.K. time for a new Govt party voters.
      How about Brexit party remembering they have also power in E.U. plus rad card votes so could or will look after us residents of U.K./Wales/Scotland/N/Ireland by their votes there.
      //
      Voter the fact as they stand now, we need new Govt plus new eyes in Parliament now not the lies + broken promises all the time by Both main Parties Labour + Tory ongoing now.

    4. Wow! £51 million to look the other way, does that sound like a democracy to anyone or a Fascist regime?

      Considering we are in Austerity because as we were told there isn’t enough money to go around, this surely makes me think that £51 Million could have been used to help people, rather than harm them in yet another deeply despicable act of immorality by the DWP and our fascistic Tory government.

      Has anyone else noticed that for well over 10 years, failed government schemes are deliberately adding to the woes of this nation, by funnelling public money through deliberately made-to-fail governmental schemes, into private coffers.

      They are the greatest thefts of public money in our Nation’s Democratic history, they have increased in more recent years, and are a chilling copy of the conditions that existed just prior to both World Wars (they are also the main reason for those wars, not what most are taught in school and in the MSM).

      I also wonder if like me there are others who have noticed that our government has a deliberate policy of ignoring our democratic wishes, and has deliberately introduced policies designed to kill our poorer/old/unwell/disabled/dissenting/minority groups of citizens, without it being visibly obvious, i.e. with guns.

      David Cameron in particular allowed, and made the way for, 30,000+ UK citizens to be murdered in the first year of ATOS’s involvement with the DWP (a French data controlling company banned in the USA previously because of corruption and bad practices) by deliberately forcing people unfit for work back into work, knowing full well that this would likely kill them, a practice which is still claiming multiple lives daily.

      Of course I ask these questions rhetorically, I know many noticed, but far too many are afraid to not just talk about it, but to arrest those responsible, and try them for mass-murder by political design.

      Seriously, how can we even be called a democracy when we let these power-mad, dictatorial, democracy-hating ministers get away with the murder of thousands and thousands of UK Citizens? How can the Police, Judiciary, and our own Military sit idly by while our nation is systematically being torn to pieces by these evil people.

      Our nation is NOT a democracy, it is an OLIGARCHY, but let’s be clear, even an oligarchy can be a good thing, but in our case it is as insidious as having a despotic leader, so bear this in mind…..

      ….Kim Jong Ill is supposed to be a despotic leader, yet he is far more honest about his country than the West generally is about theirs. North Koreans may or may not like the conditions they are in, but they know where they stand, and they know what will get them into trouble. In the West, in the UK and US particularly, we don’t. We are told we are democratic, and yet just look at the ‘storm’ that has happened over one non-enforcable vote (Brexit) that goes against the interest, not of each other, as the MSM would have us beleive, but of the corrupt oligarchs in our nations.

      Most democratic peoples of the West, are almost completely blind to the fact that voting in a leader, or having a nation-wrecking referendum, is not democracy. Most are completely unaware what Democracy actually is, this in spite of the fact that most know Democracy is rulership by The People, for The People.

      In a democracy, there are no leaders who can claim power for themselves over the mass of people, there are no elections to elect a leader or government to rule over themselves, though there should be multiple elections to decide what we are as a nation, and what our rules internally, and externally are. In ancient Athens, the birthplace of our modern Democracies, they didn’t have the means at their disposal to have the kind of full-on democracy we could have today. Today we are far better connected than they were, and yet they still managed to have a fairer system than we do today.

      But we need specialists to carry out specific tasks, represent us on the international and intra-national scene, and whilst this is congruent with Democracy, what we have, is not that. What we have are elected leaders who immediately ignore the will of the people as soon as they get into power, and are unable, it seems, to be arrested, punished or censured for it.

      Sadly this is so well known an issue, that it is a crime against Democracy and ourselves that we allow it to continue, and, that these very people have not been put in jail for their anti-democratic crimes, is a crime in itself.

      There are also a lot of unelected civil servants, good people generally speaking, but some of whom have far too much undemocratic power, who get to meddle behind the scenes, undermining the elected ones, or being used by the elected-corrupt to further their undemocratic desires (surely this too should be considered, as there are many who would point out that The EU has unelected leaders too, and are specifically unhappy about that, me included).

      All of it needs to be overhauled and soon. The thing is, it doesn’t matter what type of government we have (in truth there are literally, in the Entire Universe, only 3 types possible, all others are bastardizations of the first 3, and under scrutiny, boil down to one of the 3 (maybe even 2).

      They are Monarchy (rulership over everyone else, by one, and one alone), Oligarchy (rulership by many over many), Democracy (rulership by all, over all). However all of those types of rulership can be good, indifferent, or bad. Hence I put it out there that any type of rulership can be good for a nation, so long as the methodology of rulership is on the whole perceived as good by those being ruled, and provably good for the nation.

      In fact unless you believe in God (or Gods), the argument can be made that there are literally only 2 types of rulership in the entire Universe because the first (Monarchy) at least in Human terms, is a corruption, and cannot be achieved.

      Theocracy is the only true fulfilment of the first type of rulership, as only a God could rule without the need for support from anyone else. All human ‘Monarchies’ are and were in fact Oligarchies, and even dictators who fall under the Monarchy heading, are/were in fact Oligarchs, due to their need for their power to be backed by others in order for their power to exist in the first place.

      So whilst there has been much talk in terms of Communism, Democracy, Anarchy, Fascism, Socialism, Capitalism etc., over many years, the fact is that true Communism, Socialism, Anarchy, and Democracy, are to all intents and purposes, the same thing, they all focus on the need for humanity to share fairly in an environment (our Earth) that is clearly not a source of eternal abundance and wealth. Even capitalism is essentially the same thing, though capitalism can be both about collective well-being, as well as individual well-being.

      I may be wrong about some of what I have written, but I am pretty sure that regardless of what type of rulership or national scheme there is, they are all potentially good, and all potentially evil, or neither evil nor good (though doing nothing, being benign in some cases could be rightly perceived under both headings).

      The point, I hope that I have made is that as far as I see it (flawed as that may be), is that there are a lot of people in this nation and the World, who really do not question what it is they are being told they should believe in.

      There are far too many banner waivers, when really the metrics we should all be measuring all ruler-ships/systems by, are whether they are doing more good than harm. So to bring this back onto topic, does £51 million spent on silencing Citizens Advice, instead of just being funding to help expand their services to us, sound like corrupt democracy or good democracy, or bad dictatorial fascism?

    5. I had said 2011 that the Welsh arm in Cardiff received around 3 million so I reported with many others the cab are with the gov on their programs has around this time a load of good welfare officer’s were sacked from cab whot did this say about them notalot dance with the devil get tarred with him

    6. Well I don’t trust the citizens advice bureau anymore after they got rid of the evidence I had against them I started my case before they signed the deal with the DWP the citizens advice bureau filled my UC50 form out with proof of my medical history I signed all the forms so they can keep a copy Aswel when I had my assessment it came back full of non stop lies but I noticed that they used someone else’s medical records against my own in the report it says the DWP lost my original UC50 form. When I rang up the citizens advice bureau they could not find the copy what was saved on there computers they came up with different excuses the last excuse they said was we never saved it on the computer even when I signed the form to allow them to save it that was the only evidence I had to prove they used someone else’s medical records against my own because my medical history was on the UC50 form I went to court and argued with the judge because I said judge are you saying it’s ok for the DWP to use someone else’s medical records against my own he could not answer and adjourned the case that was 3 months ago and iam still waiting for a new court date In the meantime I’ve to put up with the threats of sanctions over the phone from the jobcentre work coach I’ve even been asked to drop my case and to look for work even my own doctor and the specialist from the RVI hospital even says iam unfit for work due to my spine injury whats looking like I will need a risky operation so do I trust the citizens advice bureau my answer is NO THEY DESTROYED MY EVIDENCE because of the £51 million pound bribe the conservative party known for the nasty party should be renamed the KILLER PARTY because they are killing people every single day and never face a charges from the so called police because they work with the DWP by giving them information.

    Leave a Reply

    Join the conversation

    Please read our comment moderation policy here.