Former MP Clare Short has criticised Benefits Street – the Channel 4 show filmed in her former constituency – calling it “crummy and misleading” and an excuse for “viewers to judge and sneer”.
Ms Short was MP for Ladywood, the Birmingham constituency where the TV series is set, for 27 years and grew up in the vicinity.
She told the Radio Times the programme focused on so few of the nearly 100 houses on John Turner Street that it was “totally unrepresentative.”
Benefits Street has been a ratings success for Channel 4, attracting between four and five million viewers.
But TV bosses have been accused of turning poverty into entertainment with the series, which has attracted more than 1,700 complaints. Former Labour MP Ms Short told the magazine that up until the 1980s, when the area was hit by unemployment and a “new culture of drugs, crime and mental health problems”, everyone was in work.
She said the show was not representative because “in a typical Ladywood street of 100 houses, 42 people would be living on the state pension, 15 would be sick and disabled (many of them also old) and those on Jobseeker’s Allowance would be fewer than three.”