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Benefits Street doesn't portray a negative image of the poor - it just shows the feckless for who they really are.

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Years ago, on my way to school each morning, I passed a road similar to that of James Turner St, the subject of Channel 4’s controversial ‘Benefits Street’.

White Dee - Benefits StreetI saw pungent smelling rubbish piled high in the middle of the road, whilst dirt-strewn children ran around punching one another; I can recall, in horror, witnessing a mother, fag in hand, slapping her young son in the face for dropping his lunchbox on the floor.

I was left gobsmacked when a drug dealer offered my friend and I strange looking substances when we were waiting for a bus. Teenage gangs regularly plagued the streets swearing obscenities at whoever passed whilst swigging beer and boasting about their casual drug-taking.

Of course, there are many streets across Britain that is similar to the one I have mentioned above. James Turner St is another shocking example, showcasing the immoral antics of the feckless, work-shy scroungers that inhabit the inner city slums of Birmingham.

The “stars” of the show, including local alcoholic/drug dealer/addict Fungi and ‘White Dee’, the so-called mother of the street, both admit to not working. Well actually, they don’t want to find a job either. Why go out and graft for a living when they can sit on their doorsteps smoking a pack of Bensons?

Now, before everybody shouts at me for being a ‘cruel, nasty Tory’ with extremist views, let’s make something very, very clear. I grew up in South Staffordshire in a working class family; my father, although now a manager, started out as a cleaner earning a pittance, scrubbing floors and toilets for twenty years before eventually working his way to the top. My mother worked in many secretarial jobs before settling for a receptionist post three years ago for a small car firm. I grew up understanding that you must work if you want to eat, live or enjoy the good things in life. I now work for a marketing firm in a junior role and yes, pay my bills and rent on time before even daring to buy a big screen television or swanky new sofa.

Channel 4 has received a mere 800 complaints regarding what the lefty critics call an ‘exploitation’ of those living on James Turner St.

Owen Jones, a regular contributor to the Independent, practically foamed at the mouth at the thought of ‘White Dee’ and Fungi being portrayed for who they really were. He blamed what he called ‘rich producers’ making money from the show, sobbed at how society is gleeful at the phoney war between rich and poor- and finally, the nasty rich bankers who avoid tax. He whined on Twitter to his left-wing followers about how benefit fraud made up only a fraction of the welfare bill.

Hang on one moment. ‘White Dee’ is entitled to her child benefit, housing benefit and sickness payments (she’s ‘depressed', you see); Fungi is entitled to his incapacity benefit to pay for his drink, his drugs and shoplifting habits.

Jones and Guardian contributor Polly Toynbee screamed from the rooftops that this kind of show merely played into the hands of the Tories and other right-wingers.

Yet, the facts are right in front of them: nobody is a benefit fraudster on James Turner St. What’s more, people like Owen Jones have no leg room to lecture the political system about the programme, either. Middle class Owen doesn’t exactly represent the working class he so readily defends. Whilst the rest of us are out at work all day, Owen spends his day tweeting his GSCE interpretations of the social underclass of Britain.

Hard-working people across the country were outraged by the show, and truly despise the feckless portrayed. There are a great number of people starving in this world, many in the UK; working people who can’t afford the heating, and rely on tax credits.

They are decent folk with morals, aspirations and clean houses. The welfare state was created as a safety net for those who found themselves, through no fault of their own, out of work. Now it is an exploited system, trapping a number of desperate people in handouts to feed their feckless habits.

The concept of married life, working nine-to-five and raising polite, respectable children, is as ludicrous to them as flying to the moon. Many of them have little numeracy or literacy skills, relying solely on Blackberries, iPhones and Facebook for socialising.

I’m reminded, once again, of the Romanian immigration debate that engulfed the country a month ago. The Romanians on James Turner St are the few inhabitants that bother to work for a living, having been raised in a country where real hunger and want envelopes the inner cities. An employer today would realise that hiring an immigrant would boost productivity much better than a British worker; for one, an immigrant will actually turn up on time and work longer hours.

The Labour Party shuddered when the programme was broadcast - they finally saw the end product of their 13 disastrous years of their destruction of the family unit, welfare state and social values.

Man-hater in Chief, Ms Harriet Harman, encouraged the generation of single mothers - telling them the dangerous myth that the father didn’t matter in the child’s upbringing. Many of them are young teenagers, without jobs, a home, or the means to support themselves.

In turn this created an army of illiterate teenagers who feel entitled to go out and steal for a living; certainly, many lone parents do an excellent job and do NOT live like those on James Turner St.

Yet were talking here about widespread social collapse, and to pretend that these roads, ghettos and benefit recipients do not exist will only perpetuate the myth that everybody on welfare is poor and voiceless. Some are. But some clearly are not.

Which is why I commend the producers for having the courage to film what they saw in Birmingham: it didn’t exploit the ‘poor’, or miss the point- it simply showed the truly feckless for what they really are.

 

The views expressed in this comment are not those of The National Student or its editorial staff. All opinions expressed are the writer's own.                   




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