‘They always make Hartlepool look like the back of beyond': How you reacted to Channel 4's Skint Britain documentary

Mail readers have been having their say about the first episode of new Channel 4 TV documentary Skint Britain: Friends Without Benefits.

By Gary Welford
Thursday, 14 February, 2019, 09:27
Skint Britain: Friends Without Benefits has been criticised for portraying an unbalanced image of Hartlepool. Pic: Channel 4.

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 documentary aims to portray the stark realities of the new system on people's lives.

Producers say the show features its impact on crime, homelessness, loan sharks, hunger and evictions as claimants struggle to survive.

But many viewers took to the Hartlepool Mail's Facebook page to express their dismay at the public image the programme's makers gave of the town.

Karen Coussons "Shame they didn't show how some of the people of Hartlepool pull together and donate weekly to help towards feeding the neediest people in the town. Let's hope they do in the next episodes. They always make Hartlepool look like the back of beyond."

Sharon Luther: "What about the hard-working people of Hartlepool? We graft week in and week out to pay for our way. I am proud of my house, I am proud of my life, all because of hard work! It’s not easy, we all fall on bad times, but it’s the life you want at the end you aim for! Makes you who you are!"

Nicola Boughey: "Those weren’t real, genuine people struggling. There are nice people in this town and nice areas, this was just a showing up! Who skins a rabbit on the table? Go to a food bank!"

Diane Kennedy: "No balance whatsoever. 99% of claimants in this town struggle on quietly with dignity. It's this majority that need representing!"

Janet Carter: "Nothing good there. Shocking. Picked on one of the worst areas and people. Certainly not a true balance of Hartlepool."

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Sarah Tudor: "It told the truth, but not the whole truth. It is true some people live their lives in this way and it is their situation that needs highlighting. The people and areas doing well don’t need help at the moment, but we are only a few bits of bad luck away from similar situations. Horrible to watch , and it’s not only in Hartlepool - it needs highlighting - whether this is the right way, who knows, but life is bad for the unfortunate people in these situations, we need change."

Paul Osborne: "This wasn't about the town it was about the struggle of living under the Universal Credit benefit, and for anyone who has tried to live on it knows these struggles. I only recently started claiming it, and it is hard. I now work but the past month has been hard enough so all these people thinking the programmes about the town it's not it could of been filmed in any town in this badly run country."

Jackie Hoggart Bates: “I was watching it in disbelief. It showed the very worst side of our town.”

Julie Butler: “All programmes like this misrepresent the town/city which gets shown. Hartlepool is fabulous, especially the marina. Did they show that last night? No!”

Kevin Readman: “I’m from Hartlepool and this is not the town I know. There is lots of good hardworking people in the town and lots of nice places. I’ll always be proud to say that Hartlepool is my hometown. “

Kirsty Stockdale: “They’ve clearly went out and looked for the worst of the worst - I wonder why that is. Everyone struggles, but no matter what you always make sure you have something to eat and prioritise the things you need most, not go and blow £30 on a bloody takeaway that could feed you for a full week.”

Olwyn James: "Can't afford to buy food but never got a tab out their mouths."

Nicola Prince: "It was a total disgrace. It didn't show Hartlepool in a good light. Hartlepool has lots of good people on Universal Credit who are struggling - where were they being interviewed? Well done to the single mam taking on the baby."

Sarah Church-Ward: “I’m ashamed I live in Hartlepool. This is not real people who are struggling. They are people who don’t want to work.and want to plead poverty. Yes, there are some genuine people who are struggling, but you have filmed the low-lives of the town. Disgraceful.”

Michelle Andrews: “I am embarrassed to say I live in Hartlepool. They have filmed the utter worst sights imaginable. However, they can afford to keep dogs, birds, fish etc, yet never worked a day in their life. This is a poor reflection of Hartlepool. We have some amazing achievers and people who do not want to be on benefits from leaving school.”