Church Action on Poverty staff watched Benefits Street Episode 1 last night, commenting on the programme and sharing our own videos on Twitter.
As expected, the programme was edited in ways that promoted harmful stereotypes of people who receive benefits. Julie Young, a full-time carer for her disabled son, was described as “unemployed”. Every woman on the programme was described repeatedly in terms of how many children she had, feeding into stereotypes of unemployed people having large families. Large amounts of the programme were devoted to scenes of drug taking and other illegal behaviour.
This is not just an inaccurate and unfair portrayal, which does not reflect the reality of life for most people who are supported by benefits. It has a terrible impact on public attitudes to people on low incomes, and builds popular support for damaging cuts to our social safety net. This is shown very clearly by the comments below, which were all shared on Twitter while the programme was being broadcast.
(Warning: many of these tweets contain language which you may find offensive.)