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Preview: Credit by Laura Lindow

Credit by Laura Lindow

  • New play based on ground-breaking research into Universal Credit aims to help people understand the impact of the latest and biggest change to the benefits system
  • Exclusive online preview and live Q&A events on 16 September 
A new play by award-winning writer Laura Lindow based on stories and experiences of people living on Universal Credit that was due to open in Newcastle in April will now be streamed online. A rehearsed reading from Credit will be recorded at Alphabetti Theatre and streamed on 16 September, followed by two online Q&A events. With many more people moving onto Universal Credit as a result of COVID-19, the issues highlighted in Credit are now more important than ever to discuss and the panel includes Guardian social policy editor Patrick Butler, Gateshead’s Director of Public Health, Alice Wiseman and writer Laura Lindow. 

Credit draws on an in-depth study published by leading experts into the rollout of Universal Credit in Gateshead and Newcastle, commissioned by Gateshead Council in partnership with Fuse, the Centre for Translational Research in Public Health. A Guardian exclusive when it was published in 2018 and now part of a growing body of research, the study 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. 

Co-authored by Dr Mandy Cheetham from Teesside University, Professor Suzanne Moffatt and Dr Michelle Addison from Newcastle University, the study concludes that Universal Credit does not achieve the aims of simplifying the benefit system and improving work incentives, that it is not working for vulnerable claimants and significantly adds to the pressures facing claimants and workload of staff supporting them. 

Professor Suzanne Moffatt is an academic at Newcastle University's Population & Health Sciences Institute with over 30 years’ experience researching health inequalities and the relationship between welfare and health. She says, "Our research clearly shows that many people fall into debt, housing arrears and experience food poverty and serious levels of stress as a result of claiming Universal Credit. 

“Implemented alongside prolonged austerity and other pernicious changes to welfare such as the bedroom tax, Universal Credit no longer provides social security for many of those claiming it, particularly people dealing with ill-health, disability and insecure low paid work. The government chooses to ignore the mounting evidence about the negative consequences of Universal Credit and instead are working hard to roll it out to millions more. 

“By creating a play out of the research, we hope to reach a wider audience. The Q&A sessions will create a space for discussion about whether this is an adequate and fair social security system and if not, how we might, as citizens, increase pressure to substantially improve Universal Credit or scrap it altogether. " 

Dr Mandy Cheetham explains, “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 UC 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 UC, 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. Working with Cap-a-Pie has enabled us to bring these issues to a wider audience. With many more people moving onto Universal Credit as a result of COVID-19, these issues are more important than ever to explore.”

Made alongside people who are claiming Universal Credit, support organisations and researchers Credit is an honest picture of how people in the North East are dealing with the ongoing changes to the welfare system.  Director Brad McCormick explains, “As part of the process for making this show we were able to speak to many people who either claim Universal Credit or who work with people who are claiming. Alongside the research this gave us such a clear picture of the situation that people in the North-East are facing under this welfare system and was invaluable in grounding the show in truth. You will see elements of these people’s stories in Credit and they are a mixture of fascinating, darkly funny and heartbreaking.”

Laura Lindow,
Photo: Chris Bishop
Cap-a-Pie has built a reputation for creative collaborations with universities and schools, working with academics and experts alongside their local communities. The company’s last touring production – the critically acclaimed Woven Bones - was developed in partnership with archaeologists from Durham University and offered audiences the chance to walk in the shoes of the long lost ‘Scottish Soldiers’, prisoners of war from the 1650 Battle of Dunbar whose remains were discovered in Durham in 2013. Credit is made in collaboration with Newcastle University, Teesside University, Gateshead Council, Newcastle City Council, Citizens Advice Gateshead, Your Voice Counts, Oasis Community Housing, Women’s Health in South Tyneside, Changing Lives, Larkspur House and Fuse.

Credit is written by Laura Lindow (Woven Bones/Cap-a-Pie). Designed by Anna Reid (Rattle Snake/Open Clasp & Live Theatre). Sound design is by Roma Yagnik (Leaving/Live Theatre). The cast are Christina Berriman Dawson (Key Change/Open Clasp) and Cooper McDonough, a member of Northern Stage’s Young Company and an associate artist with the internationally acclaimed Cardboard Citizens.

rehearsed reading from Credit will be streamed on 16 September at 2pm and 7pm. Each preview will be followed by a live Q&A discussion chaired by Professor Liz Todd, Director, Institute of Social Science Newcastle University with writer Laura Lindow and some of the country’s leading experts on the welfare state including The Guardian’s social policy editor Patrick Butler, and Gateshead’s Director of Public Health, Alice Wiseman. 

To watch the preview and take part in the Q&A events on 16 September visit: 

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