Families struggling on Universal Credit in Hartlepool need help not a 'poverty porn' TV ratings chase

The Channel 4 show Skint Britain: Friends Without Benefits features 'David' with pet dog Benson.
The Channel 4 show Skint Britain: Friends Without Benefits features 'David' with pet dog Benson.

That the roll-out of Universal Credit has been an issue of considerable concern for the community of Hartlepool is not in question.

Families have found themselves facing immense disruption and heartache.

It is a situation that warrants thorough investigation and any shortfalls highlighting to the powers-that-be.

Channel 4’s TV documentary Skint Britain: Friends Without Benefits we hope will do just that to benefit those affected by this controversial new system.

READ MORE: Universal Credit roll-out blamed as town tops jobless claimant league

It is certainly making the right noises.

The blurb for this three-part documentary says: “When the residents of Hartlepool became guinea pigs for the roll-out of Universal Credit a series of events were triggered that even the government didn’t predict. Far away from the Westminster bubble, the stark realities of the tougher new system on people’s lives come sharply into focus. Spiralling crime, homelessness, loan sharks, hunger and evictions hit the town as claimants struggle to survive.”

What Hartlepool needs are the problems highlighted; what they could do without is a trite TV hatchet job shedding the community in a poor light in the hunt for ratings.

Certainly, Channel 4 has fallen foul of accusations of so-called poverty porn in the past. The channel's Benefits Street series, following the lives of families on welfare, received hundreds of complaints and stood accused of demonising deprived communities.

We trust a sympathetic and constructive portrayal of people coping with this contentious new system is what Channel 4 airs tonight ...