Tuesday 14 January 2014

Seedy Golf Club

There is some consternation about Channel 4's new documentary Benefits Street - see our story including onward links here.

Colleagues in the Who Benefits? campaign which Hafal supports are calling on Channel 4 to clean up its act and avoid misrepresenting people who receive benefits. Follow the link and you can express your view on-line.

I watched last night's programme with a heavy heart - expecting it to be unambiguously unhelpful - but actually I think the effect is mixed.

Our colleagues are right that the examples are unrepresentative. It is particularly unfortunate that the programme links the "benefits culture" which it purports to portray so directly with criminality. That's not fair because it's not typical for people receiving benefits to be involved in any crime, let alone some of the more unpleasant dishonesty and drug use which the programme seems to delight in reporting.

The reason I say the effect is mixed is because the programme does at least convey that there are real people behind the statistics and every person on benefits has a unique and different experience and a particular set of challenges. The trouble is they have chosen the people with more colourful stories which will provoke those who are inclined already to be unsympathetic.

Personally I thought the programme ran even greater risks in creating hostility towards people who have come from elsewhere. It was mysterious that in a programme supposedly about benefits they included stories about immigrant workers who were not actually claiming benefits, a conflation of alleged "social problems" that belongs in a prejudiced and mean-spirited discussion in some seedy golf club, not on mainstream television.