Benefits residents 'naive' over show

Published Wednesday, 19 February 2014
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Channel 4's documentary series Benefits Street has caused a huge debate in recent weeks on the UK's welfare system - and its main participant Dee Kelly, known to many as 'White Dee', said she thinks the show's participants were naive about featuring on the programme.

Benefits residents 'naive' over show
Dee Kelly - known as White Dee - chats to This Morning. (© Ken McKay)

The five-part series followed the lives of the people of James Turner Street in Birmingham, many of whom are unemployed and relying on benefits.

The programme sparked huge outrage when it aired with a majority of viewers and taxpayers blasting the residents who featured.

But many also argued the documentary demonised benefits claimants and said the residents of James Turner Street were portrayed in an unfair light.

The show's participants agreed with this view, saying they were told by the production company they wanted to portray the community spirit they had in the face of adversity.

Dee became one of the main faces on the show and she told This Morning she was annoyed with many aspects of Benefits Street.

She said: "I think it has given quite a bad impression of our street because it has just focused on predominately four people who live on a street, out of one hundred houses, who happen to be on benefits.

"They haven't focused on the people they recorded who work, or the pensioners.

We have always been together as a community and we always will be, but fingers crossed things will get better.

Dee Kelly

"I think we went into it very naively to be honest, we went into it believing it was (focusing on) community spirit.

"We were told how we live is how children used to live years ago when they could all play out together, where we all helped each other."

But despite the negative attention the programme has received, Dee has been commended for her leadership and caring attitude towards her neighbours.

She would often be seen looking after the residents and was the person many would turn to in a crisis.

But Dee said she feels uncomfortable with this portrayal.

"Obviously I don't object to how I've been shown, but what I kind of objected to was I'm not the only person on the street who does that.

"I am kind of a humble person...I'm just Dee."

We have just got to fight on and just carry on.

Dee Kelly

Yet, just like the rest of the residents who took part in the series, the mum-of-two has been met with criticism - particularly over one moment of the programme where she is seen 'telling' her daughter Caitlin to just claim benefits when she is older.

Dee expressed her anger at this, saying she is clearly joking with her daughter in that particular scene and viewers mistook her meaning.

"Who as a parent would not want the best for their children?" she said. "I have got such a weird sense of humour, but of course I want my kids to do well.

"(Caitlin) knows exactly where she is going to go and she will get there. She is such a determined child."

Life for the residents of James Turner Street has changed since the programme aired and despite the negative backlash it has caused, some of the participants who were on benefits have received job offers as a result.

"I wouldn't say I regret taking part," said Dee. "I do regret what they called the programme.

"They named the programme Benefits Street; they knew exactly what they were doing.

"They told us two weeks before the programme aired that it was going to be called Benefits Street...it's not really about benefits, it's about people on benefits."

© UTV News
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