Benefits Street: the stigmatisation begins

Channel 4 announced last week that the new series of Benefits Street, filmed in Stockton-on-Tees, will start being shown on Monday 11 May. 

Church Action on Poverty set up Real Benefits Street to counter the stigma and misconceptions which are promoted by the media sensationalism around TV programmes like Benefits Street, and to enable people receiving benefits – the real experts – to tell their own stories.

The new series of Benefits Street  has not even started yet, and already, it has prompted news stories and social media discussions that stigmatise and dehumanise the people taking part. Channel 4 have chosen to promote the programme by highlighting scenes of drug-taking and illegal behaviour. The participants have been described in national headlines as “a parade of addicts and scroungers”.

Church Action on Poverty’s Director Niall Cooper will appear on Radio 4’s Sunday programme on 1o May, talking to a representative from the company who produce Benefits Street about the impact their programme has on vulnerable people.

And from Monday 11 May, the real experts will be telling their own stories on Real Benefits Street. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube to see the reality that doesn’t make it onto TV.

Benefits Street – the reality of life on benefits?

Channel 4 and Love Productions, the makers of Benefits Street, regularly claim that their programme “reveals the reality of life on benefits”. But we work alongside people on benefits every day, and they don’t recognise their lives in the stories that are shown on screen.

This is not a criticism of the people who take part in Channel 4’s Benefits Street. Neil Maxwell, Julie Young, Lee Nutley, Dot Taylor and other residents of Kingston Road in Stockton-on-Tees have been brave and honest in telling their stories – just like ‘White Dee’ and other residents of James Turner Street in 2014.

But the way those stories are edited, produced and promoted in Benefits Street is sensational and insensitive, fuelling hatred and prejudice. People who took part in the first Benefits Street received death threats. The residents of Kingston Road are already being described on social media as “addicts and scroungers”.

Real Benefits Street aims to disprove the claims made by Channel 4 and Love Productions. This is the reality of life on benefits – told by people sharing their own experiences, without distortion or sensationalism.

Click here to meet the Real Experts and watch their stories.