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Bookless in Benefits Street

[7 Feb 2014] Channel 4’s Benefits Street series has divided opinion. Some think it shows people at their resilient best, trying to cope with society-imposed poverty. Others feel it proves that long-term, chronic welfare dependency sucks the spirit out of people, engenders the poverty it aims to eradicate, and pushes folk towards drugs and crime.

Whatever your view, two things have been missing from almost all the homes in James Turner Street, Birmingham (at least as shown in the programme): books or any other reading matter; and preparing and eating meals together.

Only in one home, belonging to ‘White Dee’, the supposed ‘mother of the street’, did viewers catch a glimpse of a newspaper, the Sun. True, modern life is full of good alternatives to books and cooking, but many of these homes looked like cultural deserts. 

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