Myleene Klass: Single Mums On Benefits, review: Ignore the title, this was a positive view of lone parenting

The presenter went all out to challenge negative stereotypes in this personal project 

Sally Newall
Tuesday 31 May 2016 23:47 BST
Myleene Klass with the Rhiannon Hewitt and her three children
Myleene Klass with the Rhiannon Hewitt and her three children (ITV)

For ITV to call this programme Myleene Klass: Single Mums on Benefits was slightly misleading. For starters, not all this lot were mums – there was, rightly, a segment on single dads – and some of those Myleene met weren’t actually on benefits. Still, never let facts get in the way of a headline-grabbing title, eh, ITV?

The premise was much warmer and not the familiar kind of finger-pointing stuff the name suggested. Myleene (it feels too formal to call her Klass), a single mum of two herself, as well as a presenter, classical musician, occasional clothes designer and God knows what else, went and befriended single parents around the UK to get the intel on their daily lives. This was interspersed with footage of the former Hear’Say singer in her own life as a single parent.

Klass is single mum to daughters Ava and Hero (ITV)

Most affecting was Rhiannon’s story. She was a mum of three who had always worked, but after her marriage broke down, she ended up as a carer for her grandmother and unable to keep doing her job. She told Myleene she was “embarrassed” about being on benefits and felt isolated in her community. We heard that she stopped her young daughter from going to classmates’ birthday parties: “I didn’t want her to know she was doing without.”

Myleene cooked dinner with the Hewitts (ITV)

​Myleene was defensive on what she saw as the stigma still attached to lone parents – not least towards teenage mums she met such as Rebecca, who was intent on getting on with vocational training. “They're incredibly responsible, they're raising their babies and they're doing it under a storm of misjudgement and insults.” It was hard to diagree. When not in cheerleader mode, Myleene rushed around like a Mary Poppins for the X Factor generation, dishing out hugs, plaiting hair and mucking in with the cooking, and happily, helped hook Rhiannon up with a local group for single parents. Going on the footage of Myleene at home with her kids, mowing the lawn, strimming the hedge and the like, the Superwoman turn seemed to be genuine. It would have been enough to make us all feel inadequate, but I found myself rather admiring her. Plus it was reassuring to see that Myleene also gets her dad to do her DIY.

17-year-old Rebecca Clout with her son Oscar (3) in Margate (ITV)

I think we could have done without hearing from mum-of-eight Marie Buchan who has appeared all over the press (Jodie Marsh and Katie Hopkins have previously visited her house for celeb-fronted documentaries). Buchan’s always defended her £26,000-a-year package. But even she seemed to warm to Myleene and claimed she was “itching” to get a job and wanted her children to grow up to be “little tax-payers”. This could have been all rhetoric to get more column inches, but a mass market newspaper told us that she has found work as a carer.

This was never going to be a probing look at the benefits system. Instead it was positive – if not stretching – telly asking us to see single parents like Rhiannon, Rebecca and Myleene herself in a different light. And it did that.

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