'Hunting wild rabbit for tea': New Channel 4 documentary to expose what life is like for those on Universal Credit in Hartlepool

A new TV documentary is set to reveal what life is really like for those in Hartlepool coping with the roll out of the Universal Credit system.

By Sophie Brownson
Wednesday, 13 February, 2019, 07:54
The Channel 4 show Skint Britain: Friends Without Benefits features 'David' with pet dog Benson.

The Channel 4 show called Skint Britain: Friends Without Benefits is set to air on Wednesday, February 13, at 9pm.

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.

The Channel 4 show calledSkint Britain: Friends Without Benefits features Trevor, Tracy and daughter Tamsyn.

Hartlepool was one of the pilot areas for the roll out of new system and the new show aims to portray the stark realities of the new system on people’s lives.

Producers say the show is set to feature the impacts it has had on crime, homelessness, loan sharks, hunger and evictions in he town as claimants struggle to survive.

Details for the show say: "When the residents of Hartlepool became guinea pigs for the roll out of Universal Credit - the new benefits system aimed at getting people on benefits back to work - 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.

The Channel 4 show calledSkint Britain: Friends Without Benefits is set to air on Wednesday, February 13, at 9pm.

"Spiralling crime, homelessness, loan sharks, hunger and evictions hit the town as claimants struggle to survive. In the words of one local resident, “it’s Beirut”, while another calls it “absolute chaos”.

The synopsis for the first episode says: "Starving and penniless, unemployed 20-somethings Nathan and Abbey take their dog Twister into the fields around Hartlepool to hunt wild rabbit for their tea.

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"Meanwhile in town, the queues at the food bank grow as people get their benefits docked - or sanctioned - for failing to comply with Universal Credit’s new strict work search rules.

"Partially blind David 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’s job hunt in the town with the UK’s highest number of jobless households isn’t looking promising, but there may be light at the end of the tunnel.

"Elsewhere, Nathan’s mother, cancer survivor Tracy receives devastating news about her health that could put further strain on her finances under the new system. But a ray of hope comes in the form of her 15-year-old daughter Tamsyn, a promising drummer angling for her big break in the hope of escaping the benefits trap."

David Hodgkinson, executive producer at Blast Films, the makers of Skint Britain: Friends without Benefits, said: "The people of Hartlepool are some of the first people in the UK to experience what life is like under Universal Credit.

"We spent a year in the town meeting the residents and listening to their stories.

"Many were keen to share first-hand the impact it is having on their lives, and reflect on how the policy, designed by politicians in Westminster, works for them in reality.

"We met many who were struggling, but also those rallying around to help others, like St Aidan's kitchen providing food to those in need.

"We hope the views of the people of Hartlepool featured in our programme will provide a vital insight for people across the country into how the welfare changes under Universal Credit are impacting on day to day living.”