How Universal Credit research inspired theatre production 'Credit'

New film looks behind the scenes of 'Credit', a play based on stories and experiences of people living on Universal Credit which builds on research commissioned by Gateshead Council in partnership with Fuse.

In the short film, made by Cap-a-Pie theatre company, we hear from some of the people behind the play, including Fuse researcher Mandy Cheetham from Northumbria University, Gary Fawcett from the charity Your Voice Counts, and Alice Wiseman, Director of Public Health at Gateshead Council.

They shed light on how people in North East England are dealing with the ongoing changes to the welfare system, as well as sharing their views on what a welfare system should look like.

Dr Cheetham led a research study which found that people moved onto Universal Credit are fighting to survive and are being forced into debt, rent arrears and extreme hardship, with serious consequences for their health and wellbeing.

The play, written by award-winning Laura Lindow, is based on the findings from the research study, which was among the first to focus on the experiences of vulnerable people and advice and support staff in an area where Universal Credit had been rolled out.

Dr Cheetham, Research Fellow with the NIHR ARC North East and North Cumbria, said: "The research grew out of embedded research in Gateshead with local communities facing significant challenges, who were concerned about Universal Credit and what it meant for them.

"We collaborated with people claiming Universal Credit and front line staff to obtain 'lived experience' testimonies about the impact, building on the research undertaken in 2018. It had been harrowing to hear participants' accounts of Universal Credit, which was described by one interviewee as 'insidious brutality'. The play is rooted in these and other claimants' experiences.

"We were keen to find creative ways to share the findings and prompt debates about what kind of world we want to live in. With many more people moving onto Universal Credit as a result of COVID-19, these issues are more important than ever to explore."

'Credit' had been due to open in Newcastle in April 2020, but was delayed due to the pandemic. A rehearsed recorded reading was streamed in September 2020, followed by two online Q&A events with a discussion panel including Guardian social policy editor Patrick Butler, Alice Wiseman and writer Laura Lindow.

Last year Mandy was invited to give evidence to the House of Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee on the impact of Universal Credit and the problems that claimants experience during the wait for a first payment.

Last modified: Tue, 16 Mar 2021 19:47:37 GMT