A Hartlepool dad who appeared in a new Channel 4 documentary on Universal Credit has said he believes the show will help to highlight the difficulties faced by people on the Government’s new benefit system.
Trevor Pickard, 50, from Hartlepool, has starred in Skint Britain: Friends Without Benefits, which aired last night.
The three-part series takes a look at how people in the town have been affected by the Government’s new Universal Credit system, which is aimed at getting people on benefits back to work.
Universal Credit is replacing six other benefits with a single monthly payment for people out of work or on a low income.
Hartlepool was one of the pilot areas for the roll-out of the new system and the new show aims to portray the stark realities of the new system on peoples’ lives.
Producers say the show features its impact on crime, homelessness, loan sharks, hunger and evictions as claimants struggle to survive.
The first episode shows how Trevor and his family are struggling to survive on the system, which appears to make no allowances of the health struggles he and his carer Tracy Taylor face.
Trevor has multiple sclerosis and is cared for by former partner Tracy, who has already battled cancer and now faces devastating news about her health that could put further strain on her finances under the new system.
The pair are both unable to work because of their health and are on Universal Credit, which has to provide for them and their teenage daughter Tamsyn.
Trevor said: “The crew were filming for a year in the town for the show. “I think the show is really good, it shows some downsides and some good sides.
“I am pleased with how it has been portrayed and I think it does highlight the issues with benefits.”
The show also features Trevor’s teenage daughter Tamsyn, a drummer with a dream who has struggled in the world of education.
In the first episode Tamsyn talks about how she hopes her musical talent will help her escape the benefit trap.
She is shown to take part in a talent show at the Corporation Club in Hartlepool, organised by local organisation Kyle’s Dream.
The episode also highlights the desperation of a starving and penniless couple Nathan and Abbey, who are unemployed and struggling with long wait between benefit payments.
After running out of money for food they are forced to take their dog Twister into the fields around Hartlepool to hunt wild rabbit for their tea.
But not every hunting trip is successful and the pair talk about how they have gone for days without a proper meal.
Emotional scenes also highlight the plight of partially blind David who has his payment reduced leaving him just £5 to live off for the entire month after his disability is reassessed and he’s told he must now look for work.
But with no phone or internet connection the largely online Universal Credit system brings him to the brink.
Single-mum Terri who is looking for a job in the town also features in the first episode.
She manages to find an opportunity at a convenience store, but a family crisis means she is forced back to relying on the benefit system.