Benefits leaflets are confusing, say MPs

Leaflets produced by the Department for Work and Pensions often use language that can only be understood by people with above average levels of literacy, says a report published today by the Commons public accounts committee.

Research by the National Audit Office, which tested 13 key leaflets, found all of them required a reading age higher than the national average. Eight required a reading age of 16.

The report highlights concerns that  not all information is accessible to people with disabilities and non-English speakers.

Nearly a quarter of places stocking leaflets were not physically accessible to people with disabilities.

Around 40 per cent of the 27 leaflets collected by the National Audit Office were out of date, sometimes by several years.

The committee concludes that despite some improvements the department “still has a long way to go before it manages its communication activity effectively and efficiently.”

Less than half have been awarded the Plain English Campaign crystal mark and the report recommends that all leaflets should be tested until they receive the standard.

It also recommends that the department should research the needs of these groups not catered for by standard leaflets.

Chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group Kate Green said: “Easy access to clear information is vital if people are to access the benefits they are entitled to. The high level of literacy needed to understand many leaflets is of great concern, both for those who do not have English as a first language, or for other groups such as the learning disabled.”

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