"Benefits Street" Residents Were Poorly Represented, White Dee Claims

The benefits debate continues on Channel 4. Last night (February 16) things got quite heated when Benefits Street’s White Dee took the floor on Channel 4’s special Benefits Britain: The Live Debate. Dee, real name Deirdre Kelly, accused the makers of Benefits Street of sensationalizing poverty and giving what she thinks is an unfair representation of life on benefits. The controversial Channel 4 series centers on a poverty-ridden street in Birmingham, where it is estimated that up to 90% of residents live on benefits. It features scenes in which some residents were shown committing crimes, including a demonstration of how to shoplift.

Kelly argues, however, that the editing and scene selection of Benefits Streetwas skewed to give a negative image of those living on benefits. At one point during the debate, the 42-year-old thundered: 'You (referring to Channel 4) spent 18 months there, you filmed OAPs, people working and... boom, (you showed) five of us.'

Fungi, Benefits Street Still
Benefits Street personalities like Fungi stirred outrage, directed at benefits claimants.

She continued in the same vein, claiming that the hastily put together programme glamorizes life on benefits, when in fact, it is much more of a struggle. Dee also talked about the attention (not all of it positive), she has received since appearing on the program. 'It's just silly, people knocking on your door between fifty and a hundred times a day asking for autographs, pictures, a cup of tea - it's mad.'

Meanwhile, as stressful as the attention might be for the adult residents of the street, children who have appeared on the show have it much worse, according to The Mirror. Staff at Oasis Academy Foundry, the school featured on the controversial Channel 4 programme, report that children as young as four are being jeered at during playtime by Benefits Street "tourists". The situation has apparently gotten so bad, that pupils are forced to hide their uniforms on their way to and from the school in order to avoid a torrent of abuse.

School chairman Rev Steve Chalke has made a complaint about the Channel 4 show, hand-delivering a letter to TV watchdog Ofcom in London.

One angry academy representative said: “What form of media makes children scared to go to school? These children feel they are in a circus.” It seems like controversy is stacking up not just against the stars of Benefits Street, but against the creators as well.


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