Channel 4's Benefits Street = Life at the Bottom

Thoughts on the welfare state and the British underclass

Channel 4's Benefits Street = Life at the Bottom

Postby Paul the Basque » 20 Jan 2014, 23:02

If anyone has read 'Life at the Bottom', then they should really watch the current Channel 4 series Benefits Street. This fly on the wall series has caused a bit of a stir in Blighty by focusing on the lives of the lumpen proletariat of James Turner St in Winson Green, Birmingham. Winson Green is Dr Daniels old stomping ground, I'm sure he'd have an opinion.

My view? The unscrupulous programme makers have taking advantage of these residents and have no doubt edited the many hours of recordings to show the residents in the worst light possible. Poverty isn't entertainment and should not be peddled as such. I imagine that there are many middle class types who will watch this programme with a sense of schadenfreude. "There but for the grace of King Edward's Grammar School go l".
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Re: Channel 4's Benefits Street = Life at the Bottom

Postby Yessica » 24 Jan 2014, 06:29

Paul the Basque wrote:My view? The unscrupulous programme makers have taking advantage of these residents and have no doubt edited the many hours of recordings to show the residents in the worst light possible.


While this may be true that happens to a lot of classes. Do you really think that the glossy magazines underclass people love to read try to give an accurate picture of gentry life?

I feel quite sorry for the residents of this street who are not like this and now are painted with the same brush. The question however should be: Why do some of the residents of that street behave in a way which makes it possible to potray their street in such a light and why don't the ones that are not like this not stop them from behaving that way?

Are they afraid of them?

They say "Be kind. Every man is fighting a hard battle". That is true we should not judge people to harshly if we have not walked a mile in their shoes... but why do some people only have compassion for the ones who behave badly?

I have no watched befits streets and I will not watch it. If that was just an attempt to make us do so it failed. I watched some footage about it however. There was a man who bragged about being a shoplifter. Now what about his neighbours operating the shops he stole from? Aren't the ones who live on Turner street too, the little shop owners, the first ones to be victim of people like this?

I imagine that there are many middle class types who will watch this programme with a sense of schadenfreude.


It might be the case... but does this make the social issues less pressing? There are persons who watch footage of arranged marriage or child labour with Schadenfreude in their heart. So what? Do you think those issues should not be discussed because of that?

"There but for the grace of King Edward's Grammar School go l"


You understand that this is the opposite of Schadenfreude, do you?
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Re: Channel 4's Benefits Street = Life at the Bottom

Postby Mike » 24 Jan 2014, 08:43

Being on the other side of the sphere I haven't seen the show, but from what I've read it seems to be just another of those prurience-dressed-up-as-social-realism programs which have been one of the nastiest and most vulgar offshoots of reality TV. We have plenty of those shows in Australia, and the most polite thing you can say about them is that they're purely ratings-driven.
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Re: Channel 4's Benefits Street = Life at the Bottom

Postby Elliott » 01 Feb 2014, 18:12

I haven't watched any of this programme, and I won't watch it in future. I know it would just depress me. Reality TV is depressing at the best of times. Maybe there is some truth in the claim that programmes like this teach people - like me - about the underclass and help us to see things in a different way etc., but if so I have never seen this actually being pursued as an objective in one of these programmes. The most I have seen, in the early series of Big Brother was psychologists coming on and telling us what any reasonably perceptive person would already have worked out. This is compounded with a programme like Benefits Street, where any "exploration of the human condition" will, I know, be hugely obscured by all the repetitious footage of pointless arguments and banal remarks. To that, you can add a morally relativist voiceover and you've got a completely useless programme.

Having said all that, maybe I should watch it before judging it. I just... know it won't be good. We know that there are scum. We know that there are lost people. Dwelling on it, even without self-righteousness or schadenfreude, doesn't seem like it could be productive in any way. You'll either get to feel superior or get to feel depressed - I have better things to do with my time.
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Re: Channel 4's Benefits Street = Life at the Bottom

Postby Clinton » 12 Feb 2014, 21:31

To me, this program clearly validates the arguments Dalrymple long made in his City Journal and Spectator columns: the unwillingness of those on the dole to work, their moral confusion, the simple ignorance of how to live.

This may be a minority opinion here, but many of the residents seem quite likeable to me most (not all) of the time - particularly "white Dee". They can be engaging and friendly in a way that the underclass in America often is not, at least in the more dangerous ghettos we have here. Of course, they also become maddening once their sense of entitlement is on display, and it's hard to see how anyone can feel so aggrieved simply because they will no longer receive the product of someone else's work.

I'd be interested in hearing any thoughts from anyone who has personal acquaintance with this or similar areas. I also wonder if some of you will watch the debate on BBC4 this Monday, and if you can share your impressions afterward.

I have currently watched two of the episodes. It's interesting, having read so much of Dalrymple's work for so long, to finally see the reality of it, and in the exact neighborhood no less. You have to wonder whether he ever treated any of these exact individuals.

I have asked Dalrymple for his thoughts on the show, but have not yet received a response.
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Re: Channel 4's Benefits Street = Life at the Bottom

Postby Gavin » 22 Feb 2014, 17:38

Today I actually had reason to visit the Ladywood constituency of Birmingham, where this programme was filmed. I haven't seen the programme - I hardly need to when I have seen so much in so-called "deprived" areas with my own eyes.

Where I was, I saw a copy of the local newspaper, which was trying to make out that the government's benefits reforms were a terrible thing. It featured an "ex-soldier", below. It didn't mention why he would not be entitled to a standard pension. It also didn't mention his attire.

20140222_140459.jpg
Paul, unemployed, wears Lacoste jacket, c. £200

As I say, I haven't seen the programme, but I think it's doing the country a service if it shows liberals how many people on benefits actually behave.
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Re: Channel 4's Benefits Street = Life at the Bottom

Postby Yessica » 22 Feb 2014, 18:47

I just wondered why you put "ex soldier" in quotation marks? Do you think he is posing as an ex soldier or because you think he is not supposed to do things like which you consider "unsoldierly" like waste his money on this jacket?

I searched for Lacoste Jackets on E-Bay and learned that an Lacoste Jacket is circa 16,50 Euro if you buy it used (but 16 minutes still to go), may become more expensive... or someone might have given it to him as a present.
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Re: Channel 4's Benefits Street = Life at the Bottom

Postby Gavin » 22 Feb 2014, 19:57

I left that in quotation marks because I'm a bit dubious of newspaper reports, but possibly they could come off.

Lacoste is a designer brand and the clothing is usually not cheap. When you are really hitting hard times you'll be shopping at charity shops, if at all. You are right, though, he could have been given the jacket as a present or bought it some time ago (and it's even true he may have bought it at a charity shop, or it may be a fake). Perhaps I'm a little jaded because I have so many times seen people in supposedly desperate circumstances having plenty of money for things they really deem important - like designer brands, tattoos, cigarettes and alcohol.
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Re: Channel 4's Benefits Street = Life at the Bottom

Postby Yessica » 24 Feb 2014, 07:57

I see where you are coming from. You are right about many people being scroungers but I do not think that guy is one of them.

According to the Birmingham Mail he served 22 years including three tours to nother Ireland at the heights of civil unrest. He suffered thre hear-attacks and has trouble walking because of a rare skin condition he believes to have aquire during his time in the army.

He cannot work full time because he has to go to the hospital four or three times a week. The article says disability allowance has been stopped in GB.
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Re: Channel 4's Benefits Street = Life at the Bottom

Postby Bellacat » 25 Feb 2014, 12:11

'Where I was, I saw a copy of the local newspaper, which was trying to make out that the government's benefits reforms were a terrible thing. It featured an "ex-soldier", below. It didn't mention why he would not be entitled to a standard pension. It also didn't mention his attire.'

Gavin, where did you serve again?

Given that you are almost exactly the same age as I am, I would imagine that you served in one of the two Gulf Wars. I have a modest proposal: bearing in mind that I come from a military family, and despise the very idea of an individual impersonating an ex-serviceman, you could come and stay in my late father's house on the other side of Birmingham and we could drive out to Ladywood and confront this man. We could take film and sound equipment and expose this dissembler for exactly what he is.

You name the time and the place will be in my hands.
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Re: Channel 4's Benefits Street = Life at the Bottom

Postby Bellacat » 25 Feb 2014, 13:00

Clinton wrote:To me, this program clearly validates the arguments Dalrymple long made in his City Journal and Spectator columns: the unwillingness of those on the dole to work, their moral confusion, the simple ignorance of how to live.

This may be a minority opinion here, but many of the residents seem quite likeable to me most (not all) of the time - particularly "white Dee". They can be engaging and friendly in a way that the underclass in America often is not, at least in the more dangerous ghettos we have here. Of course, they also become maddening once their sense of entitlement is on display, and it's hard to see how anyone can feel so aggrieved simply because they will no longer receive the product of someone else's work.

I'd be interested in hearing any thoughts from anyone who has personal acquaintance with this or similar areas. I also wonder if some of you will watch the debate on BBC4 this Monday, and if you can share your impressions afterward.

I have currently watched two of the episodes. It's interesting, having read so much of Dalrymple's work for so long, to finally see the reality of it, and in the exact neighborhood no less. You have to wonder whether he ever treated any of these exact individuals.

I have asked Dalrymple for his thoughts on the show, but have not yet received a response.


Don't publish this one either as I have a bet riding on it.

You get into dangerous territory when you start arguing that the selective nonsense shown on reality TV exemplifies the area in which it is filmed. For one thing if you go to Youtube you'll find that most reality TV comes from a place called the USA and much of that comes from a state called Texas. Does that exemplify you? Are you prepared to take ownership of that? I didn't think so. No wonder you people never managed to secede from The Union. You've all gone soft.

Don't play near moral precipices, 'Clinton'. You might get hurt.
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Re: Channel 4's Benefits Street = Life at the Bottom

Postby Gavin » 25 Feb 2014, 20:18

Bellacat: if you would like to comment on this site please would you choose a normal name, as per the very first term and condition shown when you sign up. You also ignored the following conditions, but I'll let your posts through on this occasion:

"Keep a civil tone with other users. You can disagree, of course, but please do so courteously. Apart from it being by definition rude, discourteous behaviour contaminates and slows down actual discussion."

"..please be careful of using sarcasm, which is not always apparent on the Internet."


To the point at hand, I’m not saying the man is necessarily a fraud - he probably did serve in the army, and like you of course I have the utmost respect for our soldiers. That’s why I think it is outrageous that people like Anjem Choudary collect more in welfare than our front line troops are paid in salary.

I have already explained that I am just a bit suspcious since I have first hand experience of so many benefits claimants who clearly have no interest in working (yet have money for those things they deem important) and all of the MSM seems by default critical of the government’s efforts to rein in welfare dependence in the UK. In this case I was probably a bit fast to the keyboard, but I did wonder whether we were getting the whole story and found it striking that this guy was wearing designer clothing. People seem to have a new idea these days of what “poor” really means - consider rationing during the war and how many people in the world manage to live on very little money today.

You were obviously being sarcastic when you asked “where I served” - not sure why. Thank you for the invitation to go and interview this man, but you were probably being sarcastic again, I don’t know you and am not interested enough to do that. I’m not sure I have the time either, and even if I had, I could make my own way there (again). While I was there, I chatted with various people (hard working, but by no means rich) who agreed with me that the benefits culture is out of control.

You get into dangerous territory when you start arguing that the selective nonsense shown on reality TV exemplifies the area in which it is filmed.


I think it can sometimes typify an area - i.e. the majority of people in an area can be on benefits (obviously this does not mean that 100% are). I know that’s true of the area where I have lived for two years. Do you also have extensive experience of living among the underclass?

For one thing if you go to Youtube you'll find that most reality TV comes from a place called the USA and much of that comes from a state called Texas. Does that exemplify you?


I doubt Clinton would deny this. Why should it “exemplify” him?

Are you prepared to take ownership of that?


Why does he have to “take ownership” of it (whatever that means)?

I didn't think so.


You haven’t let him answer yet!

No wonder you people never managed to secede from The Union. You've all gone soft.


Now you’re just being abusive.

Don't play near moral precipices, 'Clinton'. You might get hurt.


What exactly are you talking about? And why did you put Clinton’s name in inverted commas?

I let your posts through and have tried to answer them fairly, because you probably thought I wouldn’t, we do appreciate different points of view and we may not always be right. But if you decide to be sarcastic and insulting in your next comments too (or selectively reply) then they will be deleted.
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Re: Channel 4's Benefits Street = Life at the Bottom

Postby Yessica » 26 Feb 2014, 08:54

I, too, feel that Paul has been treated a bit unfair by Gavin.

He seems to have served your country and in addition have some major health problems, which seem to be partly caused by his service. He deserves some money from the State.

In addition soldiers sometimes have a hard time re-adapting to civilian life because it is a completly different world.

But, otoh, Bellacat, I do not think that there is a reason to be that angry. Why not just tell Gavin your opinion and point out to Gavin why he has been wrong to your mind?

By the way, there lives a fake soldier in a town near by. He sits at the market place and begs for money. Because most men in my country were drafted everbody knows he is a fake and tells bull shit stories - must have evaded even the draft. Nobody has confronted him yet. It just wouldn't be fair to do that to a beggar to our minds.
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Re: Channel 4's Benefits Street = Life at the Bottom

Postby Paul » 26 Feb 2014, 10:55

It probably was harsh to pick at an ex-soldier. Whatever his story is, there are surely many more a hundred times worse. He doesn't exactly look like a scumbag does he? The media would do better by showing worse examples (as people) who were claiming than by trying to evoke across-the-board sympathy by showing a (possibly) more deserving case.

But then again, it's inevitable (and not necessarily a bad thing) that the media portray all types. Without having watched 'Benefit Street' I can accept (imagine) that the media have shown worse cases.

As I said in another thread, it's a constant irritation that the people who may be more deserving, and are often nicer people and so somewhat meek and glum are often the ones who get the toughest time with the authorities. The brazen and confrontational underclass seem to circumvent all the trouble.

Disability Allowance is still paid in the UK, though it may have undergone a name change (at no doubt great expense) and has definitely been tightened up from what one hears. When one also hears (and as TD once pointed out) that the number of 'disabled' in Britain now outnumber the same class of people as the aftermath of the Great War, then it's inevitable that questions would eventually be asked and action taken. A further problem is that it's only one political party that have the mind to do this, whilst the opposition party would do the exact opposite. The media play on this and thus the viewpoint of the citizenry is then split down the middle. We can then end up falling out with each other.

Just to infuriate you: I've heard of a local case where 'disability' is paid to a young man because he can't read and write properly. That's because he never went to school much and came from an underclass family who won't have cared much. There's nothing wrong with him on a physiological or mental basis. He's just not educated to basic levels. No doubt 'dyslexia' is involved in the claim so he's determined 'disabled' and gets £200 per month ON TOP of normal unemployment benefits. Read it and weep.

It's been in the news recently that ATOS, the (private) company that are contracted to the government to assess the sick, are now looking for ways to relinquish their (£500 million - sob) contract. Upon cursorily reading scant details about it, I discovered the company is French. What is the British Government doing contracting half a billion pound deals to the French to assess British citizens? It doesn't smell right to me, not that I have anything against the French in the normal scheme of things.

I don't buy newspapers anymore (internet obviously, though the MSM are discredited) but occasionally come by them. Sometimes a person will visit me at work and bring a newspaper and upon leaving will often leave the 'paper behind. Suits me because a few newspapers are useful to have around. I can start the fire with them! What other use are they?

Yesterday, I came across a copy of the Daily Mirror. Within was a full page article about something called a 'Poverty Petition', which I gather is being launched by .......... well-meaning people, naive fools, somewhere in-between?

Here are the demands:

1. Bring in a Living Wage. (Give us more money)

2. Repair the Welfare State - end the Bedroom Tax. (it's not a tax in any way, shape or form. It's a requirement to pay, at most, 25% of one's housing rent, or more commonly, 14%. This is not, morally, a terrible thing. The cost of rentals might be another matter, but that's not directly the government's - this government especially - fault. Anyway, repairing the WS seems to extend only to paying out more. There were no other faults mentioned)

3. Tackle rising food and energy costs. (Make things cheaper)

4. Acknowledge huge rise in food banks. (Ok then, and that achieves what?)

So in short the demands are: More money, more money, less paying out, cheaper prices and the food bank question.

They should set up their own businesses - and last three weeks!
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Re: Channel 4's Benefits Street = Life at the Bottom

Postby Paul » 26 Feb 2014, 11:34

Off topic for this thread but following my previous post about the Daily Mirror. On the readers' letters page was this piece submitted by a reader (allegedly):

'Not only have people all over the country been flooded, with some losing their homes entirely, but it now seems insurance companies will increase their premiums, or refuse to cover those in flood-risk areas at all.

Surely that's what insurance companies are there for? That's the risk they take when these tragic events occur. They must pay what's needed to allow people to repair their homes.'


How incredibly naive (stupid) is this letter? It's wrong on so many levels.

1. Insurance companies are under no legal obligation to sell insurance to anyone. It's up to them, as is the decision to trade regarding all types of businesses. It's like saying the customers are obliged to buy the insurance. What else are customers there for?

2. They are in business for a profit. What else? If they become so 'greedy' (questionable) that their prices rise too much, one company will suddenly undercut the rest in an attempt to get more custom. The free market. This needs no further explanation - not here.

3. 'That's the risk they take'. Only if they choose to take that risk. I'm sorry, they aren't a benevolent society, there to pay out tens of thousands for a few hundreds charge.

4. They MUST pay out what is needed. No they mustn't. They are only obliged to pay out what they are currently contracted to pay, no more no less. If they decline to continue the contract beyond its expiry, then that's up to them.

Obviously there are various sub-arguments to the above in addition to howls of anguish. But it's a highlight of how expectant and infantilised are the population. Many of them believe they should always have their noses wiped for them, no matter what, and are indignant in being asked to contribute towards it, or beyond what they decide is 'fair'.

Why doesn't the writer establish an insurance company and offer such fantastic deals that they get everyone's custom? Why doesn't he or she establish an old-fashioned benevolent society, on a local basis as they once were, and everyone chip into a pot as a bulwark for those who suffer losses?

Worryingly, these people are allowed to vote!
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