THE UK Government has been branded “utterly despicable” after doing “what kidnappers do” to those trying to claim Universal Credit.

The news comes after it emerged that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is asking claimants to prove their identities by taking a series of photo portraits in different locations.

These include: “A photo of you holding your local newspaper for the area you live (not a national tabloid newspaper). This should be dated the same day you upload the photo.”

The Public Interest Law Centre (PILC), which shared the DWP message sent to a client’s online account, said that this is the same as “what kidnappers do, which seems appropriate”.

Other photos needing to be submitted include one “stood next to your street sign with you [sic] right hand holding it”.

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“Ask someone to take this photo from a few metres away so that the background can be clearly seen,” the DWP added.

A person also has to submit a “photo of you stood outside the front door (open behind you) of the property you live at. Ask someone to take this from the street so whole property can be seen”.

They must also include a photo of their ID, and another of them holding that ID next to their face.

The DWP told the PILC’s anonymous client that even after submitting all of the above photographs they may still be asked to visit their local job centre “before any consideration is given to awarding your Universal Credit”.

Benjamin Morgan, research and communications coordinator at the PILC, told The Big Issue that the DWP’s messaging shows it is “utterly disconnected … from the lived experience of people surviving on a low income”.

He went on: “There are a range of reasons – ranging from disability to not having a permanent address – why claimants might reasonably find it impossible to fulfil such conditions.

“Policing universal credit claimants in this way is both humiliating and dehumanising.”

The SNP’s Neil Gray said the UK Government was making people “jump through degrading hoops to claim the support they are entitled to”.

Gray (below), the MSP for Airdrie and Shotts, went on: “What they are asking is utterly despicable and logistically unworkable.

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“These ill-considered instructions underline how out of touch the UK Government is with some of the most vulnerable people in our communities who rely on this support to get by - and this blatant disinterest is seriously worrying .

“The UK Government needs listen to those who understand the circumstances for many of the people and families who will be unable to do what is being asked of them because they do not have the money, the address or physical capability to complete these demeaning tasks.

“Even before this latest revelation, the application process for Universal Credit was already dehumanising and shockingly difficult to navigate – some would say deliberately so. This latest uncovering is a new low, even for the Tories.

“Under Westminster control we are seeing the citizens of Scotland being put through increasingly cruel and humiliating tasks simply to claim welfare support. The people of Scotland deserve a welfare system rooted in fairness, dignity and respect which we can only create in an independent Scotland, with full powers over social security."

The instructions were posted in an online universal credit journal and have been confirmed by the DWP as “legitimate” and “part of a package of measures to clamp down on benefit fraud.”

A DWP spokesperson said: “At the start of the pandemic we suspended face-to-face verification of new claims as part of our Trust and Protect scheme to ensure all legitimate claimants got paid.

“We always said we would go back and verify claims, in order to protect the public purse, as some people sadly chose to abuse the temporary arrangements.

“We are now checking cases and have implemented this approach temporarily in a small number of cases where a claimant has been unable to interact with us remotely, ahead of the return of in-person verification at jobcentres.”