Benefits Shows and Why We're All the Poorer for Them

This TV phenomenon plainly shows no sign of abating because last week alone we were treated to the less than tantalising trio of Britain's Benefit Tenants, Benefits by the Sea: Jaywick and Dogs on the Dole.

Cookery has the Good Food channel. Property and DIY has the Home channel. WW2 has the History channel. Porn has the Playboy channel, not to mention Television X, Redhot Amateur, Babenation, Studio 666, Climax, Lucky Star...well, you get the picture. Or at least you might do if only you could remember the pin protection code.

While poverty porn hasn't quite reached the saturation levels of its bigger and bouncier sister (apologies for neglecting to namecheck XXX big&bouncy), so many shows currently revolve around benefits and the people who claim them that you wonder why there's not an entire channel devoted to this political hot potato.

A cursory glance at Channel 5's present output might lead you to believe that such a station indeed exists. Surprisingly, it doesn't. Can't be long though before one does. What would it be called? Katie Hopkins and her caring compassionate kind may suggest LUV ( Lazy Unemployed Vultures). Hmmm, maybe not, luv. Since we've already got Dave, how about BOB (Britain on Benefits)? Sounds friendly enough, matey even and there would certainly be more than enough output to fill its schedule.

After all, so far this year, we've already had Benefits Street - season 2, Benefits Britain: Life on the Dole, Benefits: Too Fat to Work, Saints and Scroungers, Benefits: 37 Years on the Dole, How to get a Council House, Celebs on Benefits: Fame to Claim and Benefits: 19 Kids and Counting.

The thing most of these pieces of entertainment masquerading as documentaries have in common, apart from an over reliance on the use of the colon, is that they tend to be pretty biased; frequently demonising and holding up to ridicule those who rely on state handouts to survive.

This TV phenomenon plainly shows no sign of abating because last week alone we were treated to the less than tantalising trio of Britain's Benefit Tenants, Benefits by the Sea: Jaywick and Dogs on the Dole.

All made for similarly depressing viewing. The first in particular told us everything we didn't want to know about finding somewhere to live.

Thanks to councils having sold off so much of their housing stock, it's over to private landlords to be socially responsible - in the same way that Peter Rachman was in the 1950s and early 60s - and come to the rescue.

Apparently, rent generated from those on housing benefit is one and a half times greater than it would be with regular working tenants. Therefore, it came as no great surprise that the letting agents featured relied on the unemployed for over 90% of their business. I hope they have as tough a time sleeping as the people they put into these hell holes, but somehow it seems doubtful. Sharon Yardley from Leeds didn't appear as if she'd have much trouble nodding off, having convinced herself that if it wasn't for the "benevolence" she'd shown these souls, they'd be left with no other option but to find themselves under the nearest viaduct for the night.

In Wolverhampton, a bank of 23 electricity meters on a wall looked to all intents and purposes as if they were an art installation at a local gallery. Until you realised that they were instead for each of the rooms (cells more like) a single dwelling had been carved up into. HMOs (Houses of Mass Occupancy) they're called. You found yourself wishing for WMDs to suddenly fall on them.

Now, I for one have always longed to reside by the coast. However, I'll definitely not be commissioning my modernist architectural masterpiece in Jaywick. Two miles outside of Clacton, hardly Sandbanks itself, this is the most deprived town in the whole of the UK and a dumping ground for the needy.

Phil the local tattooist told the tale of a recent customer who was up in court in West London and upon being given a choice between moving elsewhere or going to prison, he reasonably enough asked where that elsewhere was? He was told Jaywick, Great Yarmouth or another seaside town, which as bad luck would have it wasn't St. Tropez. If it had have been, you still suspect he'd have chosen Jaywick because as all the residents concurred, it did have a wonderful community spirit. Whereas in the South of France darling everyone tends to keep themselves to themselves, hardly bothering to venture off their yachts to mingle.

Not sure teenager Naomi would have agreed. With boyfriend, Stuart in tow, she lived under the same roof as her cash-strapped uncle Nick, an ex-offender from Southampton.

Mind you, he'd only ever done minor stuff and wanted to make that absolutely clear. He reeled off his offences as if on a quiz show desperately trying to recall what was behind a selection of briefly seen windows. Shop lifting, petty theft, section 5 of the public order act, section 4 of the public order act, fraud, deception, inciting a riot and...oh yes, one burglary. There, as he said, minor stuff really.

Naomi mysteriously kept being sick. This meant that she was either pregnant or stressed. Phew! Turned out to be the latter. Thank the Lord for that especially since they had cats to take care of and as Stu pointed out, babies are expensive. And he should know. Despite his tender years, he already had two children with different mothers.

I'd like to report that the unfortunate mutts in the previously mentioned Dogs on the Dole had an easier time of things. Sadly they did not. Of course, they weren't actually on the dole. The title was somewhat misleading. It was their owners who were jobless and skint. Nonetheless you couldn't help feeling genuinely sorry for both man and beast.

Sniff, our cute terrier stared up with his doleful eyes as if pleading for us never to be that impoverished. We assured him we'd do our best. All the same, how many people ever know for sure what is going to happen to them from one day to the next and what misfortune may befall anyone at any time meaning they too will require benefits?

We just don't need yet another patronising programme telling us what it could be like.


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