A note on Benefits Street

In: Uncategorized

11 Jan 2014

Having finally watched the first episode of Benefits Street it was striking that, contrary to the impression given in many commentaries, the welfare state was not to the fore. It would be more accurate to say social exclusion, or what is sometimes called the underclass, was the focus of the controversial TV programme.

The fly-on-the wall Channel 4 documentary portrayed the inhabitants of a poor Birmingham street existing on the margins of society. Many of those featured in the film were shown smoking heavily, drinking alcohol out of cans during the day, dependent on tranquilisers and involved in petty crime.

No doubt the portrayal was one-sided but there is certainly a debate to be had about the welfare state’s role in creating such problems. However, the theme was implicit rather than explicit in the programme. From that perspective it is interesting to ponder why it was widely portrayed as  largely about the welfare state.

The next episode is broadcast this coming Monday.