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DWP Admits Personal Trainer Claimant In UC Advert Is An Actor

January 30, 2019

Do you believe their explanation, readers? We’re not convinced.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has admitted a personal trainer who appeared in a video promoting Universal Credit is also an actor.

A clip tweeted by work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd features Charlie Watson, who gives a glowing endorsement of the much-criticised benefit that he says helped him launch a career as a personal trainer.

Mr Watson filmed a Vodafone advert alongside Liverpool footballer Mohamed Salah last May and is due appear in the Sky Atlantic drama Curfew later this year.

He also appeared on Channel 4 reality programme First Dates in 2017 and was involved in a CBeebies production the previous year, according to posts on his Instagram account.

Mr Watson’s acting work prompted claims on social media that had been paid to appear in the government’s Universal Credit video.

However, the DWP insisted he had been a genuine benefit claimant and vehemently denied the clip was scripted or that he had been paid for the appearance.

A spokesman said: “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 work coach, shown in the video, still works at the jobcentre.

“Charlie was asked to speak about his Universal Credit experience and his responses were not scripted.”

He declined to give further details about Mr Watson’s benefit claim without his permission.

Ms Rudd accused Alex Tiffin, a Universal Credit blogger who first drew attention to Mr Watson’s acting work, of promoting “conspiracy theories”.

“More than 1.6 million people claim UC, and they have a wide range of life experiences,” she tweeted. “No matter what work you’ve done, you can apply for UC. Cynically exploiting people’s pasts doesn’t help.”

In response, Mr Tiffin, a Universal Credit claimant, accused the work and pensions secretary of “trying to gaslight me”.

“He’s an actor and has been since 2013. He’s documented his lavish world travel and work online,” the 30-year-old added.

Mr Watson, who now works as a personal trainer in Salford, Greater Manchester, did not respond to The Independent’s request for comment. His Instragram profile shows he has travelled across the world over the past four years, while his Twitter profile describes him as an actor.

In the video, he says Universal Credit helped him out of unemployment. He admits being “sceptical” about the benefit because “it has a reputation” but says jobcentre support “led to me somehow getting a job”.

A DWP spokesman said the video was filmed “three to four months ago”.

Tweeting the clip, Ms Rudd wrote: “Because of the personal support #UniversalCredit provides, Charlie started a personal training career. Universal Credit is helping people into work and I am going to share these good stories with you.”

The tweet has received more than 1,000 replies, with many users saying the video did not portray a typical experience of Universal Credit.

Asked if the DWP had been aware Mr Watson worked as an actor, a spokesman told The Independent: “I think we may have been aware that at one point he was an aspiring actor.

“I don’t know if he was working as an actor at that time.”

He added: “His previous career has no impetus on whether or not he is eligible for universal credit and it has no effect on the support and guidance he would receive whilst on universal credit. Actors are allowed to apply for universal credit if they are on low wages or out of work.”

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