Stars of the reality show Benefits Street are given the chance to hit back at their critics tonight in a follow-up documentary to the controversial series.
The show, which followed a series of people living on benefits in Birmingham’s James Turner Street, has prompted debate in Parliament over welfare dependency and attracted widespread media attention after some residents were shown committing crimes, including a demonstration of how to shoplift.
The series has been a ratings hit for Channel 4, but has been criticised for allegedly demonising those living on the breadline, while some of the residents claim they were misled into appearing.
A one-off documentary, Benefits Street: The Last Word, will be screened tonight when the show’s stars discuss their experiences of living on benefits and the reaction to the series.
It will be followed by a live debate which aims to ‘shine a spotlight on the range of issues brought to the fore by Benefits Street’, a Channel 4 spokesman said.
On tonight’s show, Deirdre Kelly (pictured), known as White Dee, tells the documentary makers she receives ‘about £200’ a week in benefit payments.
“I know people that work their a***s off that haven’t even got half of that to live on,” she says. “It is what p****s people off. But that’s not my problem. That’s not my fault – unless I become an MP, then it will be my problem.”
The 42-year-old single mother – who admitted stealing £13,000 from her employer, Birmingham city council, in 2007 – claimed in an article in the Spectator last week that she plans to run for Parliament.
Another resident, former drug addict Fungi, whose real name is James Clarke, tells the programme makers that politicians are unaware of the reality of his lifestyle.
“They don’t know what’s going on,” the 44-year-old says. “They don’t understand our life. They wouldn’t understand what it’s like to go ‘There’s a tenner, make that last three days’. No chance.”
Channel 4 has announced plans for a new series of the hit show, but it will not be filmed in Birmingham.
Benefits Street: The Last Word will be screened on Channel 4 at 8.30pm followed by Benefits Britain: The Live Debate, presented by Richard Bacon, at 9pm.