Benefits Street residents subjected to death threats after Channel 4 show airs

Viewers posted abusive messages online when the documentary was broadcast

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The Independent Culture

Police are investigating death threats made against five members of the public who starred in Channel 4’s latest documentary Benefits Street.

The first episode of the Birmingham-based show, which focuses on the poor residents of James Turner Street in Winson Green, aired on Monday night.

Shortly after the broadcast began, aggressive and abusive messages were posted on social media by viewers enraged at the 'benefits spongers' presented on the programme.

"I want to walk down #BenefitsStreet with a baseball bat and brain a few of these scumbags," read one tweet, while another wrote: "Set fire to #Benefits Street".

A spokesperson from the West Midlands Police has confirmed that the force are investigating threats made against the cast as well as criminality committed in front of the camera.


Others who tuned in defended the Benefits Street residents and criticised Channel 4 for stereotyping people dependent on benefits.

Earlier this week, it was reported that the show's stars believed they had been "tricked" into appearing on Benefits Street by Channel 4 producers.

Qualified support worker Dee Roberts, mother of three Charlene Wilson and local resident Nikitta Bell are among those angry about their portrayal on the programme - largely as unemployed scroungers, drug abusers, irresponsible parents and potty-mouths.

"They said they wanted to film for a TV show about how great community spirit is in the street and how we all help each other out on a daily basis," Roberts told the Birmingham Mail. "I participated in the show on that belief, but this programme has nothing to do with community, which you can tell from the title. It makes people out as complete scum.

Read more on the on-going investigations here

"They lied to us from the very beginning. We opened our doors and hearts to them and they violated us and abused our trust."

Fungi and his dog on sofa 355Z3436benefitST4_2.jpg
Two other 'stars' of Benefits Street, self-confessed alcoholic Fungi and his dog

Becky Howe, 23, is also "fuming" over her presentation on Benefits Street. "Half of my family and friends have already disowned me because of it," she said. "Some want me to change my name on Deed Poll. We might be on benefits but everyone has got to start somewhere."

Her partner Mark Thomas added: "I'm on benefits at the moment but that’s because I'm training to be a security guard. They want to make us look uneducated."

Channel 4 has hit back at complaints, describing their documentary as "fair and balanced" and ensuring viewers that all contributors were "briefed extensively before any filming took place".

A section on the Channel 4 dedicated to Benefits Street states: "As austerity continues to bite, jobs remain hard to come by and benefits are squeezed, this observational documentary series reveals the reality of life on benefits.

"The series follows residents of ‘Benefits Street’ as they navigate their way through life on the bottom rung of Britain’s economic ladder (…) this is a place where people look out for each other and where small acts of kindness can go a long way."