Benefit Street: Mocking or Community?

image linked to source

image linked to source

Benefit Street Channel 4 9pm Mondays (for 5 weeks):  So we are meant to believe that Channel 4 wanted to show that all those living in James Turner Street, who are poor and mostly on Benefits, have a community spirit. Let’s be honest the fact that it is set in Birmingham, with the occupants are seen to be in walking distance of the City Centre but are unable to get work, always going to focus more on the Benefits and less on the community. However, it is a documentary and it does show how Benefits have become something that some rely on. It is a way of life and showed how it is clear to see that actually committing crime does pay, because it meant that they did not have to worry about the bills and would be fed. The show briefly touched on how some of these people had ended up in this situation and I think it was far from mocking the poor but tried to educate those who do not know what it is like to live with so little money what it is like, and why people end up like this. No the show did not say everyone on benefits is like this, nor did they show this is the way to live.

They did show that the street came together as a community, from helping with finances to making calls to sort out benefit issues. I think it was really touching when the “50p man” gave the family who had their benefits cut off things for free – because he knew what it was like.  For the media to drag up these people’s crimes and splash them all over the media this is where the mocking is. I am looking forward to tonight’s episode where we will see an issue with immigration I believe, and a community coming together where money is tight.

On the flip side, I do not think the media have helped what can be an already negative image of those from Birmingham. Plus I feel it was really stupid to show “how to shoplift” even if the consequences were shown as prison (especially as prison was pretty much laughed off).  I think instead of criticism people should come up with what they think can be done – and just shouting “get a job” isn’t really helpful.

Did you watch it? What did you think? Will you be watching again? Did the show make you feel angry or did you have some compassion for the residents of James Turner Street?