January 15, 2014
Benefits Street, Channel 4’s hit, fly on the wall documentary about a Birmingham street full of welfare claimants, is a gross distortion of reality.
We know this because a group of charity heads has written to the Telegraph to say so. They claim to speak for more than 100 charities and community groups, all of which are “calling on Channel 4, as a public service broadcaster, to review how this damaging and grossly unbalanced programme came to be shown.”
Apparently the series focuses on “an unrepresentative minority”, “reinforcing harmful stereotypes where the most extreme examples are presented as the norm.”
Gosh. I wonder how they know. For example, when I checked the annual accounts of one of the concerned charities, I couldn’t help noticing that its top paid employee – presumably the chief executive who signed the letter –
gets between £100,000 and £110,000 (plus benefits). This is not remotely abnormal in the lavishly pampered charities sector; I expect the other signatories of the letter do similarly well. So at a guess, none of these people lives in roads anywhere like the one featured by Channel 4 – James Turner Street in Birmingham. They can just flit in and out of poor people’s lives, like Mrs Jellybys, feeling virtuous about the good they do (often courtesy of the taxpayer who gets stung, willy nilly, for so much charity funding these days) – and terribly echt too, what with some of the, ahem, earthy types they meet – while never actually having to engage with the real consequences of our bloated, demeaning and destructive welfare state.
I suppose their ideal programme might have shown someone like Radek Stakhanofski, the heroic Polish tractor driver who gets up before dawn, ploughs a thousand acres, and sends the money to his apple cheeked children in Wroclaw, none of them on UK benefits, of course. And the jolly Roma family in their delightful painted caravans who scour the fleamarket every Friday to look for suspected stolen goods which they spend the rest of the week trying to return to their rightful owners. And Doreen, Brummie born and bred, who has never worked a day in her life because of her terrible, crippling and genuine back pain but will never claim benefits – “more than moi loife is worth, arkid, I’m tellin yow” – because her pride just won’t permit it.
Problem is, these people don’t actually exist – and even if they did, they’d hardly be representative. Not in a street where, we learn,
90 per cent of residents living in the 137-house street claim one or more benefits ranging from £500-£900 a month in free hand-outs.
Of course, I can see why these charitable bods are concerned about Benefits Street. They admit it in their letter:
Such portrayals skew the public debate about benefits and cause distress for many of the millions of people who need this support.
That’s lefty speak for: “If working people ever get to discover where their tax money really ends up, at a time when they find it tough enough to feed their own families, let alone those of workshy scroungers, then that’ll be the end of the line for our welfare state gravy train.”
(Oh – and that phrase “millions of people”. Millions. Scary, no?)
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