A story with seriously incorrect info about the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) benefit rate rises went viral. It was thanks to the Mirror and its owner, Reach PLC. Now, people in desperate need of more money may think the DWP will increase their income just before Christmas. But this is simply false.
DWP: fake news?
On Sunday 24 July, the Mirror ran a story on the DWP upping social security rates. But just over a day later, it changed the article. The internet archive site Wayback Machine has not archived the original story. But The Canary saved a copy. The Mirror article originally stated:
Universal Credit: Benefits review could mean bumper Christmas payment.
Inflation is already at a 40-year high but the DWP have said they will not review benefit payments until November, when Universal Credit recipients could get a big Christmas bonus.
Just to cement the idea that claimants will get a rise at the end of the year, the article then stated:
If payments rise in line with inflation, top-rate benefit claimants could see an extra £50 in their bank each month, just in time for Christmas.
This is literally not true. As The Canary first reported on 20 July, and then the Mirror seemingly piggybacked off, the DWP is reviewing social security rates in November. But this will be for the increases due in April 2023.
After this journalist prodded the Mirror on Twitter about its mistake, it updated the article just before midnight on 25 July. It last changed the article early on 27 July. The piece now makes clear that the November review is for social security increases in April 2023.
A viral DWP story
But the problem is, Reach already circulated the thrust of the original article around its local titles. The piece is on sites like the Liverpool Echo and the network of so-called “Live” sites – for example Yorkshire, Lancs and Kent Live. Versions of the story stated the false “bumper Christmas payment” line, and:
Below are some projections of potential benefit increases, that Universal Credit claimants could see this November
As of 10am on Wednesday 27 July, the articles didn’t say that the DWP would not actually up social security rates until April 2023.
The Canary asked the Mirror for comment. But it had not responded at the time of publication.
DWP: manufacturing consent
Of course, mistakes happen. The trainee news reporter behind the story, William Morgan, made a huge mistake. Then, the Mirror editors didn’t bother to fact-check it. They corrected the mistake when they realised.
However, this is not the first time the Mirror has misrepresented a DWP story. It recently claimed the department was holding a “secret inquiry” into the deaths of claimants – when this was not factually correct. Also, the DWP feeds off corporate media either parroting its narrative or not digging into issues properly. It allows it to manufacture consent for policies which harm the poorest people.
But the Mirror‘s mistake is not the biggest problem. It’s the fact that Reach let the story go out on its local news sites and that at the time of writing, it still hasn’t been corrected.
Reach: ‘poor people? who gives a shit?’
It’s bad enough that countless claimants will have read the original, false, article. It’s worse that many of them will have believed they may be getting more money during these awful times. But it’s utterly negligent that Reach is still letting the article stay up on its other sites after the Mirror changed the story.
The problem is, it’s what can happen when corporate media journalists report on issues that probably don’t affect them. Any journalist with lived experience of the social security system would know the DWP’s November review is for rate rises the following April. Clearly, that’s unlikely to be any Reach/Mirror journalists. Meanwhile, its incompetence got the hopes up of countless people living precariously on the edge of disaster – all for nothing.
Not that Reach seems to give a shit.
We know everyone is suffering under the Tories - but the Canary is a vital weapon in our fight back, and we need your support
The Canary Workers’ Co-op knows life is hard. The Tories are waging a class war against us we’re all having to fight. But like trade unions and community organising, truly independent working-class media is a vital weapon in our armoury.
The Canary doesn’t have the budget of the corporate media. In fact, our income is over 1,000 times less than the Guardian’s. What we do have is a radical agenda that disrupts power and amplifies marginalised communities. But we can only do this with our readers’ support.
So please, help us continue to spread messages of resistance and hope. Even the smallest donation would mean the world to us.