TV review: Benefits Street

It’s not all about money – you can have all the money in the world and have nothing compared to what we have here,” says White Dee. No, not the queen from Narnia, the ‘mother’ of a run-down and jobless street in Birmingham.

White Dee, the ‘mother’ of the street who dishes out advice on dodging housing benefit cuts
White Dee, the ‘mother’ of 'Benefits Street'

Yes, this is the new television series called Benefits Street – the latest instalment from our favourite shock-umentary friends at Channel 4.

As if Big Fat Gypsy Weddings wasn’t jaw-dropping enough, or Man with the 10 Testicles wasn’t, well, strange enough - the producers have delivered another show to whip the country into another frenzy.

‘Dirty little scribes’, ‘disgusting’ and ‘deluded’ are just some of the words springing out from people during a quick glance on social media after the show.

And what perfect timing – right on the same day George Osborne announces a further £25 billion in cuts are needed, much of it to come from welfare benefits. At least one person will have been raising a glass come the night’s end.

Being the first episode of the series, we are introduced to our crew of no-hopers. You have White Dee, the mother hen of the street who everyone turns to for her wealth of experience in dodging housing benefit cuts.

Next is Fungi. Katie Hopkins may have riled everyone with her assumption a baby name told its class, but as if Fungi is going to be sipping champagne cocktails?

No, Fungi is the loveable rogue, a ‘recovering’ drug addict on incapacity benefit.

Only not loveable when he is seen racing to the cash point to collect his £146 in benefits, and then be seen with a can of drink moments later.

His best mate Danny acts as his partner in crime. While he sells off free magazines to the unsuspecting public in the city centre, Danny ‘shops’ for his orders in the High Street stores, all the time breaking the conditions of his ASBO.

Even this far in, you’re thinking the house prices in the road, James Turner Street in Winson Green, are shooting through the roof.

But hang on, young couple Mark and Becky – who pick up £750-a-month in child tax credits, child benefits and job seekers allowance – have said the show doesn’t give a true portrayal of the street, and that they were ‘manipulated’.

Erm, isn’t this the couple who were caught cheating the benefit system? Glass houses and all that.

But aside from the snorty ‘look at them’ and ‘how do they live like that’ comments which must have been ringing around television sets last night, what does this programme really tell us?

Is it that we aren’t looking after our poorest enough? Is it we need to lock up these people and throw the key away? Or is it absolutely nothing? I say the latter.

Who doesn’t really know there are streets like this where people live on the bread line, begging for every last penny they can get from the Government?

We all know about it, we just choose not to visit them, preferring to watch them from the comfort of our living rooms on love-to-shock-you shows like this.

Yes, this was the worst of the worst.

But even in this street, misrepresented or not, there is always a bright light.

Take Smoggy, who is attempting to turn his back on crime and make a business by selling 50 pence produce to the residents.

Then there is even White Dee who, despite her flaws, shows genuine kindness to others.

You know what – I think everyone on Twitter is wrong, and she is right.

Money can get you by, but it’s not everything. Although having a plasma wide screen television in your living room might be.

Alex Ross

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Comments for: "TV review: Benefits Street"

Eddie S

They always blame editing don't they?


It certainly made my blood boil. I heard one of the scroungers state 'I'm too ill to work' then goes off helping his mate on a shoplifting spree. So when I go to the shops I like millions of others have to pay to cover the cost of that behaviour Did anyone notice they all had money for fags money for drink satellite dishes etc. the only decent thing I saw was the man selling stuff for 50 pence. I have worked since age 14 have lived a life of not breaking the law paid my taxes and more than 48 years later I still work full time. At least when I retire in 2015 I will be able to hold my head up knowing I actually earned my pension unlike those scroungers.

Mensa Wolves

Shows you how incompetent our benefits system is.

Are you telling me Fungi isn't fit enough to pick litter? Or basic gardening?

Round them all up in a coach in the morning, take them to a farm to do some work, drop them off in the evening and give them part of their wages in cash and the rest in credits for paying rent and buying food, clothes, electricity et cetera


Erm, it seems to show you fell for the propaganda. This is NOT representative of the whole, it is sensationalist media cow-towing the needs of the government. Do some research. Spend some time out of work. Most people 'on benefits' are in work, and most of the money 'lost' is down to error - NOT fraud. You're effectively doing the government's bidding. I also suggest reading your history books, about the way the Jews were treated prior to World War II. This "round them all up" attitude is not helping; it's not addressing the source of the problem, including why this region is well-known for low wages, long hours and poor working conditions. Programs like this are nothing more than cheap entertainment - STOP falling for it!

Ronnie Allen

My bet at Ladbrokes is looking good for complete anarchy in the UK by 2020.


My son has to fight for his DLA and ESA and he is disabled mentally and physically, yet someone who goes round doing odd jobs for a can of beer gets right on my nerves, i wish my son could drink let alone do something like gardening...But i don't tar all with the same brush, I bet the daily mail are loving this program to add more support to all people on benefits are "scroungers". Fair play to the "50p man" who has turned his back on crime and trying to make a bit of extra cash whilst helping those i need in return. Winson Green is one of the highest unemployment rates in Britain, so of course its going to be a place where crimes are committed, it goes hand in hand.


Is anyone surprised, this is just one of many streets in west midlands where there are many out of work , AND BETTER OFF!


There's been something drastically wrong with the benefit system of this country for over 20 years - proggrames like this simply serve to bring it to a bigger audience - if White Dee's such a good, kindhearted person......make her work in the voluntary sector, all able bodied ppl should be made to do some kind of work within the community especially if they've not paid a penny into the bottomless money pit they keep taking out of - it'd do most of them good to do some work and shift a bit of lard off their bones!!

So your opinions are based on programs like this, or on authoritative research? I think you're deluded my friend. Programs like this are designed to drive a wedge.. the government's been actively demonising anyone out of a job, anyone who's sick, anyone who's disabled for years, right around the time this government's OWN records were brought to the public eye. For the VAST majority of people out of work, it's NOTHING LIKE THIS. Now we can continue to be divided.. we can continue to see people COMMITTING SUICIDE over the despicable way their own government treats them. We can continue to to see money raped and pillaged from the public purse. We can continue to see even more support groups closed down, even more people sent to ATOS interrogation camps and more money spent on the government's own interests, not ours. Try being unemployed before you judge.. there will always be fraudsters, but most people aren't and at the end of the day if you want to see where most of the fraud, waste and general corruption goes - set course for the government and the private enterprise interests keeping the people of this country in their place, irrespective of whether they're in work or out. Debt and poverty are control mechanisms to stop people climbing out the gutter and making things better.


Seemed to me like she already was doing some work in the community.


What wound me up was they were all pleading poverty but I saw iPhones, Plasma TVs, Sky, Fags, Booze. Ive worked all my life and now I need help coz im on the sick from work all I get is SSP, no hand outs for me. I know its tough for some but that does not excuse these lot to allow them to steal, con and break the law. I hope the cops and DWP throw the book at all those who deserve it


Punish them severely. Buy them season tickets for Molineux

Cricket Bat

"Steady on lad" this is only petty crime we're talking about here!


100's and sometimes, 1000's of people chasing a few jobs. Impossible ESA conditions and draconian sanctions being set by surly ESA staff. Schemes that expect you to do the work convicts would do, for nothing. Dwindling salaries. Underhand "minimum wage boost" motions that barely set wage levels to 2008 levels (which were also heavily criticized for keeping people in poverty). The way this government - and the media it controls - personifies the British is sickening.. anyone would think benefit fraud was the reason we're in this social, economic state. And THAT is exactly what this government is good at: pointing the finger at someone, anyone, other than itself. If you want to know what it's really like then become redundant and sign-on. You will see the reality. You will see people treated like dirt, not just by the state but by ignorant feeding off propaganda media, such as you see here. Now if the state is going to screw people over.. is it really..really..any surprise when those people turn around and say "you know what? Screw the state." The next riots in this country won't be just a bunch of bored half-wits looking for trouble.. millions are on the breadline whether in work or out and all the time, the government and it's banking interests get richer. The government wants nothing better than for people to fight amongst themselves.


Absolute lowlife that we'd be better off without:


Not sure what my spending time out of work would help me understand. I work 60 hours a week pay a huge amount of tax that goes toward people that won't work. I fully accept that there are genuine people who through no fault of their own are unable to work, those people should be looked after without doubt. As to the point most waste in the system is due to error that my friend is laughable as my late wife worked for the DHSS as it was called in those days and over payments were indeed very rare. As to reading history books I know my history quite well thank you very much. I have no time for politicians of any persuasion but do accept your point that there genuine unemployed and disabled people out there as my late wife worked full time right up until 3 months before her death. Sadly there is always another side to it though like the woman that lives not too far from me who claims disability which means she gets a brand new car every three years while I have to save up and replace mine out of my own money. She recently had 76.000 off the sale of a house plus 30. grand divorce settlement never declared a penny of it goes to the Caribbean on holiday and works as a mobile hair dresser but guess what she can't work due to her DISABILITY. Is that me falling for the propaganda ?.