Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Benefits Street

No, I didn't watch Channel 4's latest contribution to the government's campaign to abolish welfare.  But many of those who did have reacted strongly.  Shane Croucher in the International Business Times calls it "the latest dropping from this beastly documentary genre" and gives some real figures.  Bernadette Meaden on the Ekklesia website calls it "a misleading, harmful caricature" and describes the death threats now being received by some of those who took part.  For the mainstream press, the issue seems to be that the police are investigating possible criminal activity shown on the programme.  The Guardian quotes at length from police Superintendent Danny Long, and also from a Channel 4 spokesman who describes it as "a fair and balanced observational documentary series".  But the Guardian had to close its comments facility after 5 people had reacted with the same disgust (and 814 people up to now have approved a comment which is a re-post of Owen Jones' Facebook reaction).  The Independent hasn't allowed comments at all under its piece on the subject.
There is some feeling that, in the light of the threats to the participants, the rest of the series may be pulled.  That would be the best outcome, of course - apart from some sort of apology from the producers and Channel 4.  But I doubt it.  However, there is a glimmer of a backlash against this sort of trash.

We read that the five former A4e staff who are charged with fraud (the second group) have had their case moved to the Crown Court, where it will be heard on 3 February.


  1. I DID watch Benefits Street, albeit the latter half hour. It could really have been labelled "low level crime street" in all honesty.

    It did depict some people on benefits shoplifting, working on the sly, growing cannabis and the like. Just ripe for some to say "typical of all those scroungers out of work".

    However, have we not seen criminal activity and drug taking from various politicians, pop stars, sportsmen / women and dare I say celebrity chefs? Very successful men and women, earning a good deal and yet doing some of the same things depicted in yesterdays show.

    Just where are the real investigative documentaries? Has the British public's collective mind been turned to mash on a relentless diet of ideologically biased reporting, half truths, reality TV, tacky celebrity worship and banal royal non-stories? Would a serious investigation into the issues affecting the WP, Universal Credit, the bedroom tax, workfare, etc. tax people's brains too much?

    One almost despairs!

  2. I watched the Benefits Street programme earlier today on Channel 4 OD.

    My personal reaction is that the programme is one in the eye for IDS & Co. Some of us (including me) weren’t brainy enough to think of growing cannabis in my spare bedroom in order to raise the money to pay the bluddy Bedroom Tax but why are IDS’ stupid policies encouraging crime?

  3. I have a theory about the hatred that many have toward the long-term unemployed.

    I worked in an office for 7yrs and to a man all my colleagues resented their jobs and lives. They all felt that they had underachieved. They all wanted to leave and do something else.

    I think this hatred can be explained by a sense of disillusionment with their own lives which they then project on to the unemployed.

    On a lighter note Rab C Nesbitt on the BBC iPlayer and is a much more likable character!

    1. "I worked in an office for 7yrs and to a man all my colleagues resented their jobs and lives. They all felt that they had underachieved. They all wanted to leave and do something else."

      Well said! I think this shines through when you hear the usual "I have to get up early to support these scroungers..." and "I have to do x y z in my job and comply..." and so on, and so on.

    2. Yep and let me tell you this there is a LOT of prejudice amongst the British factory and office worker especially toward immigrants and 'lefties'. It was one of the reasons I DID leave (to study History at University).

    3. Ditto. Reminds me of Joe Bageant's own analysis of the U.S. (middle/lower) working classes who hate their own kind - despite themselves living a precarious life.

  4. I think it's unlikely Ch4 will pull the series (though I wish they would). The programme had 4.5 million viewers! That's higher than any show broadcast by Ch4 in 2013.
    What I think was encouraging, however, was the Twitter reaction against: 1 - The prog itself; and 2 - The hatred of the poor that the prog incited amongst other viewers.

  5. A petition on change.org to get Ch4 to pull the program:


    Probably won't change much if anything . However, debate on this topic is no bad thing and may make Ch4 think a little harder before commissioning such a show in future. We can but hope anyway....

  6. Many people on twitter said "stop scrounging and get a job" I had to reply telling them any one of them could lose their job at any time and find themselves in the same situation and ok they don't have to turn to crime, but will soon see how difficult it is to get a job and to survive on benefits.

  7. Reason why many on benefits may end up turning to crime is because of the system itself. Especially JSA.

    If you get sanctioned you end up on around £40 per week. That's far below what the government says is the minimum for any standard of living. Is it any wonder people turn to crime when they can't afford to jump through all the hoops the JC asks you to go through for their tickboxes? Especially in winter.

  8. I don't understand why tv broadcasters keep showing these ridiculous programmes. I mean, what is the point of it?! They should show more programmes highlighting how the government keeps WASTING tax payers money of pointless little schemes that have proven that they don't do much of anything to help unemployed people get into work. Spending money on unemployed people so they may life some sort of life ISN'T A WASTE!! We know that benefits account for around 3% of the DWP's expenditure. So how much money does the DWP get from tax payers for the other 97%? If only people knew that around 3% of their collective money was used to keep the umemployed living "normal" lives, there wouldn't be nearly as much of all this constant outrage and petty name calling.

    I'm sure it's been said before, but for the record, unemployed people don't pick and choose when they get offered a job, that is left upto the employer(s), NOT the jobseeker. Jobseeking is like fishing; sometimes you get a bite, sometimes you don't. Either way, it's boring as hell, which is why I don't like it.

  9. Historian, the DWP Q&A on Facebook yesterday was one of the most awkward and hilarious things I have ever seen. Please check it out:


    One of my favourite parts was when the DWP tried to make a point about workfare. The post, telling the story of a girl called Natasha who had found her salvation through a workfare placement, started like this...

    'There’s no doubt about it, work experience is incredibly important. It can literally be the door to your career. Young people are more likely to be successful in their job hunt if they have some good work experience to impress an employer....'

    It then went on to tell Natasha's story:

    'Natasha found work as an Admin Assistant through Youth Contract. Natasha told us: "I was finding it really hard to get a job - employers just kept saying they needed someone with experience. The Jobcentre told me about the Youth Contract and I did some work experience....'

    Now, I was watching the Q&A live and would estimate that approximately 90% of the comments and questions were deleted within 5 minutes of being posted but you can't keep secrets for long on the internet and it was quickly discovered that Natasha, you guessed it, is an actress.


    This hasn't been picked up on yet by any of the mainstream media but is significant for two reasons: Firstly, it speaks volumes that the DWP aren't able to find any actual workfare participants that achieved a positive outcome and secondly, it nicely sums up the duplicity and shamelessness that the DWP has been famous for of late.

    At the time of writing the DWP are still deleting mine and many others comments on this post so it would be great if you could publish my comment and get the news out there.

    1. Ironic too that most of the time actors and actresses are "resting"!


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