Tory DWP Secretary Amber Rudd denies hiring paid actor to pose as Universal Credit claimant in official video

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been forced to defend an official government video promoting the highly controversial new Tory benefit system, Universal Credit, after it emerged that the ‘claimant’ featured throughout is actually a professional actor.

The video, posted by the Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd on Twitter, documents the supposedly true story of “Charlie”, who – according to the video – had a hugely positive experience of claiming Universal Credit.

In the video, Charlie claims that he ended up on Universal Credit as he was “in a difficult period in his life” which led him to become unemployed, but that he was initially sceptical about signing on to the controversial new Tory benefit system as “it has a reputation“.

However, the video then shows Charlie allaying his own initial fears, explaining that, “because of Universal Credit, and my work coach who helped me from start to finish, I was able to pursue a career in personal training which I really really enjoy.“:

However, shortly after the video was published, Evolve Politics journalist, Alex Tiffin – who is himself a genuine recipient of Universal Credit – discovered some rather interesting facts about Charlie’s background.

Yes, Charlie Watson – to give him his full name – is actually a professional actor who has previously worked alongside the likes of Liverpool football star, Mohamed Salah, in a Vodafone advert.

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Other posts on Watson’s Instagram page show him “filming for Sky Atlantic“, performing in front of a ‘green screen‘ for the BBC, and acting for an advert created by the Manchester-based advertising firm, Magnafi:

Charlie Watson Magnafi Advert

Watson’s Instagram account also documents his extensive, and almost certainly highly expensive, travels – with numerous photos of the actor taking in the sights of Costa Rica, San Francisco, Cuba, and Greece between 2014 and 2018:

Charlie Watson Costa Rica Charlie Watson San Francisco

Charlie Watson Greece

Charlie Watson Cuba

Furthermore, Watson worked on an advert for Aldi in 2017, modelled for Oxfam in the same year, and has also appeared on the Channel Four show, First Dates.

Charlie Watson Aldi Advert

Following his initial post, Tiffin then went on to state that:

“The DWP are adamant he’s on/was on UC.

However, his extensive travel and work history (which btw are high end trips), lead me to believe either a) Charlie may be commiting benefit fraud or b) The DWP are lying.

I can only report what I find. Nothing adds up. Not even slightly.”

Adding:

“Oh and importantly. He said the Universal Credit helped [him] realise he could be a personal trainer.

LIE

He already had a master’s degree in it. Unless he has amnesia I think he’d be clued up on what to do.”

However, after Tiffin’s tweets went viral, the Tory DWP Secretary Amber Rudd responded, accusing him of spreading “conspiracy theories” and of “Cynically exploiting” Charlie’s work as an actor, tweeting:

“Hi Alex,

Glad you met Charlie.

Your scepticism and conspiracy theories are misplaced.

More than 1.6 million people claim UC, and they have a wide range of life experiences.

No matter what work you’ve done, you can apply for UC. Cynically exploiting people’s pasts doesn’t help”

Following Rudd’s response, the official DWP account also chipped in with their own defence of the video, stating that:

“Everything portrayed in the video is true, and the people speaking are not paid to do so.

Charlie is a real Universal Credit claimant who has now moved into work and his responses were not scripted.”

Universal Credit was only rolled out in Watson’s home town in 2014, and his jet-setting lifestyle during this same period shows that he wasn’t exactly short of financial support – unlike the vast majority of Universal Credit claimants.

Whatever the truth about his appearance in the DWP video, Charlie’s story is certainly extremely different to the horror stories of countless others – including Alex Tiffin – who have been forced on to the new and widely criticised Tory benefit scheme.

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