Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Posts Tagged ‘Benefits Street

Skint Britain: Friends Without Benefits. Review.

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Abbey and Nathan are forced to rely on their dog to help them catch food (Mirror).

Skint Britain: Friends Without Benefits.

Not that long ago Channel Four put on one of the worst series about people on benefits, the wittily named Benefits Street. White Dee and the rest of the Brummie crew were a barrel of not-unlovable rouges playing the system. Some said it was a modern freak show. That may be insulting to the people shown, but not far off about way they were shown.

How we laughed!

Channel Five’s the Great British Benefits Handout and others followed – like rats excited at easy prey. It looked like the telly had become screen version of the Sun, the Express and the Mail. It was open-season on scrounging idlers.

How things have changed. Last night Channel Four put on Skint Britain: Friends Without Benefits. In the first of 3 episodes there not many chortles. We saw people struggling with the rollout of Universal Credit in Hartlepool. Emphasis on struggling.

We got the message about the new angle right from the start. A couple of gammon talked about people having to work to eat. Switch to the “35 hours a week job search” and the Universal Credit Journal. The youngster who couldn’t read or write, having to cope with that. The fact that, in Hartlepool there weren’t jobs there for the taking.

Then there was woman juggling with paying either gas or electricity. We saw what it means for the under-25s who get less than those who’ve reached the magic age. Somebody made homeless because he couldn’t get the rent together. More juggling, ducking and weaving. Tracey, who managed to survive cancer, is the carer for her husband, who has multiple sclerosis. Single mum Terri, out desperately trying to get proper work.

David “fucking” on-Hold Music.

“Some of the most affecting moments in the programme were about David who had severe problems with his eyesight – a major, and rare, illness, keratoconus. He had got his PIP removed and is found fit for work. Now he is left with a fiver for a whole month to feed himself. He had to phone up the Dole for an appointment. On a pay-phone, outside the Food Bank. As he said, the waiting music alone was designed to fucking drive you up the wall. He gets told he has to do 5 days Job search…..

The poor sod, driven from pillar to post, was left in a world like Jo the Crossing Sweeper living in Dickens’ Tom-all-Alone.

The programme did not fail to mention that crisis loans no longer existed, and the ‘local’ (‘devolved’) Council fund, Local Welfare Assistance, couldn’t help those who asked.

Or to put in clips of Iain Duncan Smith and Theresa May praising Universal Credit.

The “safety net” of the old welfare state is so full of holes it is starting to disappear.

Nathan and Abbey, waiting – how you wait! –  for the first payment on Universal Credit,  had one way of getting food when they were broke. Nathan got his dog Twister out tracking down rabbits on the local heath. There are few scenes on telly sadder than seeing the new hunter-gatherers preparing the cony and chucking the faithful hound a choice morsel. At least they had a bit of good cheer.

The world of Universal Credit is not just Dickens sprung to life. The homeless, who we only just glimpsed in this episode, have become like the street urchins of Les Misérables. Some would hope that like Gavroche they would rise on the barricades….

The series is a must-see.

Is Seetec the new A4e?

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Seetec (South East Essex TEchnology Centre) is a relatively local “training” organisation that has become a significant workfare player in recent years. Their wikipedia page states their success of seeking 4,417 benefit sanctions to “Work Programme conscripts” in just a single week. They use the Provider Direct sanction hotline more than any other provider. Read the rest of this entry »

Poverty Porn: Off Our Streets!

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The Birmingham Mail reports today  (I know people in Brum well who have signalled this to me).

It was supposed to a moment of pride for the residents of one of Birmingham’s most deprived neighbourhoods, now infamously known as Benefits Street .

James Turner Street was awarded eighth place in the West Midlands heat of Britain in Bloom.

But the results ceremony, staged at a local school, descended into a battle ground between parents – as ‘White Dee’ accused another mum’s child of biting her son Gerard.

“He’s been bitten,” Dee accuses the women while crossing her arms in anger.

“No-one bites anyone,” she demands, her voice rising as she becomes more irate as the other mum attempts to offer an explanation for the alleged incident and by-standers watch with concern.

The parents are caught on camera by crews filming for the controversial Channel 4 series Benefits Street.

These scenes of anger are due to be screened in the latest episode on Monday night.

It was supposed to a moment of pride for the residents of one of Birmingham’s most deprived neighbourhoods, now infamously known as Benefits Street .

James Turner Street was awarded eighth place in the West Midlands heat of Britain in Bloom.

But the results ceremony, staged at a local school, descended into a battle ground between parents – as ‘White Dee’ accused another mum’s child of biting her son Gerard.

“He’s been bitten,” Dee accuses the women while crossing her arms in anger.

Watched by 4.3million people – far more than any Channel 4 show during, and since, Christmas week – the opening episode was littered with swear words and criminality.

Death threats were made against some of the show’s contributors after shoplifting, theft, benefit fraud, drug taking and anti-social behaviour were featured on the programme.

West Midlands Police officers are viewing the broadcast to assess whether to mount criminal investigations.

The Department for Work and Pensions is also understood to be monitoring the series.

Ofcom received over 400 complaints about the episode, and a petition, calling for Channel 4 to bin the series, has attracted close to 20,000 signatures.

Owen Jones said of this pile of cack,

How edgy Channel 4 must think it is, courageously reinforcing widespread prejudices, heroically hammering away at a message that is heard relentlessly already, bravely echoing the Government mantra about skivers. I hesitate to write about Benefits Street, their miserable programme which aired this week, knowing as I do that I’m partly satisfying its producers’ lust for attention. After all, these are people who seemingly show little concern for people’s well-being in their stampede for ratings. Columns like this one could be passed off by disingenuous TV executives as a sign of the “debate” that their trash has helped to provoke. But the only debate to be opened is why we let our media get away with it.

Johnny  Void comments, with justified anger,

There are few things more unpleasant than a bunch of coked up media wankers deciding it would be a jolly jape to make a film exploiting the lives of people in poverty.

You can imagine the braying laughter as the makers of Channel 4’s Benefits Street egged on people with drink problems to perform in front of the camera, even allegedly supplying them with alcohol to make sure they were shown in the worst possible light.  With clever editing, and in one participant’s case at least, genuinely vulnerable people, it isn’t hard to create the desired freak show.  People perform for the camera.  Fill them full of booze first and film the resulting carnage and watch the ratings soar –  particularly if the group you are stigmatising are already a target of tabloid fuelled hate.

The resulting and all too predictable reaction on twitter, where some people called for benefit claimants to be killed – yes killed – must have been a huge source of amusement to the programme makers.  Boss of documentaries at Channel 4, Nick Mursky, even claims this justified the show, saying to The Guardian that: “the furore surrounding it reinforces my view that we should absolutely be making programmes in this territory.”

Channel Four have been contacting unemployed campaigners during the week asking for our co-operation in a new documentary, for the News programme, about Universal Job Match.

The words, fuck off ! come to mind. 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 12, 2014 at 10:30 am