Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd has blasted critics of a video promoting Universal Credit after it was suggested the clip’s star is an actor.
Rudd described claims that Charlie Watson, who championed the government’s flagship benefits programme in a video shared on Twitter, was not a genuine claimant as “conspiracy theories”.
“Cynically exploiting people’s pasts doesn’t help,” she wrote in a tweet.
Watson is seen in the 90-second clip describing Universal Credit’s positive impact. “Because of Universal Credit… I was able to pursue a career in personal training,” he said in the clip.
But claims have emerged suggesting Watson’s apparent work as an actor threw the video’s legitimacy into doubt.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) vehemently denied the allegation, first highlighted by welfare blogger Alex Tiffin, that Watson read from a script. The department insisted he was not paid for his appearance in the video promotion.
A spokesperson said Watson was a legitimate former claimant who had a positive experience while enrolled on the welfare system.
The department told HuffPost UK that Watson was primarily a fitness trainer based in Salford, Greater Manchester, and had signed onto Universal Credit during a bad patch.
It came after campaigners unearthed an Instagram account apparently linked to Watson which carried boasts of his past work as an actor.
👋 Meet Charlie
🥊 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
🎬 So don’t just take my word for it, take Charlie’s 👇 pic.twitter.com/rijoZCpwMA
— Amber Rudd MP (@AmberRuddHR) January 28, 2019
The account included images which appeared to show Watson beside cameras, a green-screen backdrop, and outside the Los Angeles Film School.
One post from April 2018 that showed men dressed in military uniforms was captioned: “Amazing night filming for Sky…