Let's help, not demonise those living on Benefits Street


Benefits Street

I wonder what reaction Channel 4 expected when it commissioned Love Productions to make controversial documentary Benefits Street?

I'm sure you've heard about it by now but in you haven't, it's a documentary about a street in a deprived area of Birmingham where almost all the 99 households on the road claim benefits.

Was it hoping for the look-at-them pointing and sniggering My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding received, did it want to make us think about the plight of Britain's poorest, or did it want to demonise them?

Whatever it set out to do, the reaction has been furious and refreshingly the anger hasn't just come from the people who think those on benefits are scroungers, it has mostly been from level-headed individual's appalled at Channel 4's attempt to turn social underclasses into a freak show.

The individuals on the show were portrayed as workshy layabouts, looking to spend their dole cheque on booze. In its ploy to breed hate the programme omitted any analysis of why people are allowed to live like this and the fact that nobody is helping them to haul themselves out of this grinding poverty that spreads from generation to generation.

The idea that everyone on benefits chooses to be there is unfair and untrue. There are plenty of people genuinely unable to work through disability or caring responsibilities (although I am sure there are one or two who fiddle the system because they want the state to fund their lives, these are a minority).

The real scandal is that for many working doesn't pay so they have no incentive to do so. Why would a single mother substitute spending time with her children and looking after them full time for a job that only pays an extra few quid a week more than benefits, after all work equals a reduction in benefits.

The government keeps talking about making work pay and cutting benefits which seem like the beginning of a good end but it has to make sure that it helps to find jobs for those whose benefits it cuts. Imagine entering the jobs market for the first time in decades or the first time ever and how daunting it would be. People need to be given the right skills and opportunities to ensure that they can achieve and give back to society.

Let's ask what the government is doing to help our poorest other than pushing them further into poverty with benefit cuts.

Top 10 most desirable places to live in the UK

Top 10 most desirable places to live in the UK