‘I’ve been on TV but I had to go on benefits when Covid shut my play’. Former Emmerdale star Gemma Oaten has revealed she was forced to turn to benefits to pay her rent and bills during the pandemic when work dried up and she was left struggling financially.
The soap star, who is best known for playing the role of Rachel Breckle in Emmerdale from 2011 to 2015, has spoken out about her time claiming universal credit after her play was cancelled due to coronavirus restrictions.
The 38-year-old actress was touring with a play called Ten Times Table when lockdown hit in March 2020, consequently losing her job.
Gemma has said she was left having “sleepless nights” over fears she wouldn’t be able to pay her bills as she reflected on the “worst time” in her life.
When theatres closed Gemma was left with “no money coming in” as she didn’t receive any compensation after losing her job.
In an interview with Me & My Money, Gemma said: “People think if you’ve been on television, you must have money. But I was renting and I started having sleepless nights about my bills. By May, I realised I couldn’t make it work.
“So I took a deep breath, and did what a lot of people did. I went on Universal Credit”, the actress revealed that she was on Universal Credit for about a year.
She added: “I also got the self-employment grant from the Government. That helped me pay my rent and then I started doing some public speaking work online.”
However, Gemma is no stranger to being money savvy and claims she learnt from a young age that money “doesn’t buy happiness”.
She had a humble childhood, her mum worked as a teaching assistant and her dad was an accountant. The family became more comfortable as her dad progressed up the company ladder and were able to enjoy nice holidays.
Sadly, when Gemma was 15, her dad, who was the “main breadwinner”, was made redundant which meant the family had to “cut out costs” but they “made the best of it”.
Gemma also said that she is an avid saver, she recalled a time when she was paid £7,000 for an hour and a half of her time to deliver a keynote talk at a gala dinner. She said: “I spent some of it on a holiday and saved the rest.”