Hub and I are both now glued to Channel 4’s ‘Benefits Street’ on Monday evenings, sometimes against our better judgement … as it was the street which ran behind our church in Birmingham, and we know many of the people in it.

I was pleased at the positive portrayal of the Romanian gypsies, showing that they had not applied for any benefits, and were there because they wanted to work, to send money back home for their families.  They had been deceived by a bent gangmaster who was only paying them £10 a day for 8 hours’ work.  When they complained to the police, their gangmaster and his cronies started driving round the street.  Frightened, most of them moved on.

At one stage a grey-haired lady (her name is Sue) was going up the street with another guy (who runs our Community Garden), giving out leaflets about Britain in Bloom, to try and encourage the inhabitants to smarten up their environment and to take a bit of pride in it.

What was never said at any point was that this initiative was entirely led by our church.

The hall shown towards the end was our hall, and the people going up the street had been heavily involved in our Community Garden initiative right from the start.  We’ve been working with our neighbours for some time, starting with a hanging basket workshop six years ago. 

When the Community Minister was staying with us in October, she talked quite a lot about the Channel 4 project.  She said she thought it was a pity, that out of all the good things that were happening, Channel 4 chose only the few moments when Big Dee had got into an argument with another woman over one child biting another.  There was no mention of the fact that our CM was the one trying to make peace, nor of the fact that the black guy who led the other woman away was the pastor of the very lively Cameroonian church which meets weekly in our hall.

There’s something intentionally misleading and biased about this omission, a vested interest in withholding information.  When the church is doing something good and positive and constructive, one has to ask what is behind this perverse attitude.



    1. Even with a vested interest, I got so annoyed last night we switched off. We’ve lived in Nigeria and seen ‘real’ poverty. Parents there still are able to keep their mud-brick houses clean and tidy, the yard swept, the children fed, and they go to school every day, often walking miles…. nuff sed.


  1. How frustrating…. but yes, as you say, TV have their own spin because they have their own agenda and want to make their own point etc and encourage and incite certain viewers… very frustrating and how ANNOYING and wearying that they don’t give the church etc credit…. :no:


  2. Only saw the first episode and that was enough to know what the rest was going to be like.

    Like so many “fly on the wall” documentaries, this program is selectively editted to show the viewers what they want to see. Does anyone want to watch a show that shows the majority of people on a street going to work and going about their lawful business? THose who are unemployed are genuinely looking for work, represent real hardship cases and are in their position because of the failure of C4’s paymasters in Government.

    No, instead, they find the one or two career criminals, and spend most of the hour following them around. :no:

    That said, I did think the bit of getting around the bedroom tax by growing weed was funny!


    1. :)) yes, me too … and so did they … but it shows how people in such circumstances are pushed further into crime by poverty.

      I’m going to watch the whole series 8| (if I can cope) before I pass final judgement on it.


    1. Massively edited, and although everyone who took part had been briefed, and had chosen to do so freely, obviously nobody was ready for the spin of the programme makers.


  3. I did some placement at a church in such an area, and yesterday took a museum workshop at a school on the same estate. All I have met there are lovely people (including three classes of polite, interested, enthusiastic children) who are doing good work.

    I have a feeling that somebody could – and would – make a documentary about this ‘sink’ estate showing only the ‘sink’ aspects, but that would probably be less than 10% of the reality


    1. Just heard today from a teacher at that school that the estate actually is scheduled for the next ‘Benefits Street’ by the same documentary makers, and that the school has sent out letters to parents advising them to refuse to take part.


  4. channel 4 is well known for how it spins things to make uproar I mean this so called documentary was filmed over 2 years and they have edited it to make it look bad for the people they have filmed it is so annoying and I can understand why these people are outraged at what they have done with the footage.


  5. Maybe they were here to work honestly but I wouldn’t want to live next door to 14 adults living in a small house designed for a family of 3 or 4.especially when they were out in the street at night and playing loud music showing no consideration for their neighbours! We’ve enough people liked that of our own without those from other countries as well!


    1. No I can quite understand that … the vicarage was surrounded by all these streets – they do say the clergy are the only profession to live where they work … and sometimes you can see why most people prefer to live in better places!! 😉


    2. We have laws in this country forbiding multiple occupancy of homes. Fire regulations, etc., means its illegal. Report it to the council, let them deal with it.

      The idea that we stop people at the border on the off chance that they might break our housing laws is silly. How would you react if the Germans forbate British from entering Germany on the off chance they might start a football riot?


      1. They’ve all moved on. This was the main characteristic of the streets around our church – the very high turnover of those in social housing.

        Still, it was good that one of them managed to find a proper job!


  6. I actually watched it last night Gilly….I think there are now streets like that right across the UK, I had a street like that when I was a social worker and as well as most being on benefits most had a social worker as well….some families were third/fourth generation social service clients. As you say, each area like this always has a good church and community project that are rarely focussed on, along with good residents, although they are usually driven out. I thought that was your church!!!
    I admired the Romanians very much and was horrified by the lack of police interest.
    And I pity the children growing up there, they will sadly become their parents down the line unless they can somehow get out. The thing is though….what on earth to do about it all….xxx


    1. Exactly – a good example was White Dee’s own son, who she was telling off for swearing, when every other word of her own is swearing 😉 Ineffective parenting … but when we put on parenting courses, nobody will come.


  7. Documentaries are notorious for portraying exactly what the programme makers want and what will make viewing figures high. The ‘good work’ being done in the area is excluded to sensationalise the programme.


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