The opening episode of Benefits Street attracted almost three million viewers – but was down on last year’s first instalment.

Last night’s episode of the new Channel 4 series featured residents such as mum-of-six Julie Young and mum-of-four Sue Griffiths getting to grips with the media interest in their street.

Meanwhile, Cleveland police are to assess the footage from the first episode after it appeared to show evidence of drugs misuse and other criminal activity.

 

The goings-on in Kingston Road in Stockton-on-Tees, near Middlesbrough, attracted 2.95 million viewers (13.5%) on Monday night.

The documentary beat a repeat of New Tricks on BBC One, which attracted 2.2 million, and came second to Safe House on ITV, which was watched by 4.8 million.

It was a good audience for the broadcaster – 75 per cent above the slot average – but down on the 4.3 million viewers who saw the opening episode of the controversial first series last year.

Channel 4 said that it was the most popular programme in the slot for 16 to 34-year-olds.

Benefits Street



Julie Young (right) with her friend Sue Griffiths (Channel 4)

 

The first series was made in Birmingham and attacked by some critics as ‘poverty porn’.

The broadcaster’s head of documentaries Nick Mirsky has said the ‘increasing divide between rich and poor’ is an important subject and has not ruled out making a third series.

Benefits Street



Lee Nutley and his mum Chrissy (Channel 4)

 

He said: “There isn’t a third series of Benefits Street in production but what I would say though is that the gap between rich and poor and the subject of welfare and benefits is an important subject.

“Channel 4 have to keep looking at that and finding ways of telling stories.”