Love is in the air, but what you can smell right now is the Department for Work and Pensions stinking out the room.
At least that’s the collective view on social media after the Whitehall department in charge of benefits decided to mark Valentine’s Day with a welfare crackdown.
Here’s the gift the Esther McVey-run DWP offered less than loved-up couples: the prospect of jail-time.
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 https://t.co/tZuNYZ5ferpic.twitter.com/ahutOO6NUy— DWP Press Office (@dwppressoffice) February 13, 2018
Against the backdrop of a huge pink heart, a video reads: “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.”
The tweet links to a story run on the Daily Express’s website under the headline: “Valentine’s fraud WARNING: Crackdown issued on couples who pose as single to cheat taxman”.
Among a series of examples, the piece points to a married Leicester woman who “raked in” £83,370 in benefits by falsely claiming she was a single, unemployed mother-of-two while still living with her husband for one or two nights-a-week. She was handed a 15-month suspended sentence.
It quotes James Blake, of the DWP’s Counter Fraud and Compliance Directorate, saying: “Relationships have their ups and downs but not telling us when your circumstances change is a crime and the shameless few involved are deliberating diverting money away from those who really need it.
“True love may be hard to come-by but benefits cheats aren’t difficult to track down.
“Our fraud investigators are committed to bringing criminals to justice.”
But commentators suggested the Valentine-themed campaign was perhaps a little tone-deaf.
A strong entry here from the DWP for the most ill-judged Valentine-related social media campaign award. https://t.co/z611lCAPIz— Adam Bienkov (@AdamBienkov) February 13, 2018
Exceptionally cynical and unpleasant tweet. Truly a nadir in DWP comms. What on earth were they thinking? https://t.co/KO6LFFcCJx— Rachel Clarke (@doctor_oxford) February 13, 2018
“Happy Valentines Day you lonely, lawbreaking shits” https://t.co/6tt2hZjik7— James Felton (@JimMFelton) February 13, 2018
Others took to a familiar verse to sound their disquiet.
Roses are red— Ross Colquhoun (@rosscolquhoun) February 13, 2018
violets are blue
There's literally nothing
that the DWP won't do https://t.co/gn6M9pgRWU
Roses are red— Tom Freeman (@SnoozeInBrief) February 13, 2018
Violets are blue
Tell us the truth
Or we'll prosecute you ️ https://t.co/tSR6LJPLIK
Politicians from across the spectrum raised eyebrows.
Aaah. This is so sweet. They’ve really, you know..entered into the spirit of the thing https://t.co/gC9rvDl0ne— Karen Buck (@KarenPBuckMP) February 13, 2018
On behalf of everyone who ever rang me in tears because you were threatening them with prosecution for spending the night at their partner's house, please do one. https://t.co/Cx2UUtpWUl— Grace Fletcher-Hackwood (@msgracefh) February 13, 2018
Some offered sympathy to whoever had to write the words that are unlikely to be picked up by Hallmark any time soon.
No matter what is going wrong in your life, at least you're not the guy who wrote this tweet. https://t.co/PAtGymeivF— Ian Dunt (@IanDunt) February 13, 2018
please collect ur dwp social media creator, they're being a party pooper https://t.co/AEDi1XuOPN— Mollie Goodfellow (@hansmollman) February 13, 2018
And, well, ... quite
And they say romance is dead. https://t.co/yzZRc0bfq4— Tim Stanley (@timothy_stanley) February 13, 2018