Benefits Street star White Dee has slammed the Channel 4 show’s producers for ‘exploiting’ the cast.
The TV series, which ran for two seasons, followed the lives of Birmingham residents on ‘one of Britain’s most benefit-dependent streets’ including White Dee (real name Deidre Kelly), Samora Roberts who was known as Black Dee, and James Clarke.
It gained immense popularity when it premiered in 2014, which White Dee described as a ‘Benefits Street explosion’, saying that she and her fellow James Turner street residents were suddenly ‘on the front page of many national newspapers.’
The highly controversial show divided viewers, with many claiming it gave those who claim benefits an undeservedly bad reputation, demonising them in some ways.
Now, White Dee has revealed feeling ‘exploited’ by the show and thinks the show’s bosses should have offered her, and other cast members, more support.
The mum-of-two, 50, said she faced trolling and abuse for being on benefits once the show aired, but was not offered support or aftercare.
She told Birmingham Live: ‘When you talk about support and aftercare there simply wasn’t any.
‘There was no support while it was being made and there was certainly no aftercare.’
‘But no-one told us how to deal with it,’ she claimed. ‘We were just left to deal with the fallout from the show.’
This fallout included ‘getting slated for being on benefits’.
‘We were exploited and left on our own, hung out to dry,’ she said.
Channel 4 has disputed these claims, and said in a statement: ‘Psychological support was offered to all those featured in the series throughout the filming, during transmission and beyond. Advice was given on the likelihood of criticisms and unpleasant comments on social media.
‘All contributors were given guidance on engaging with online communities and social media. Following the unprecedented media attention, executives from production returned to Birmingham to provide ongoing support to contributors throughout transmission. Close contact and support continued beyond transmission.’
Love Productions, which produced Benefits Street, has previously defended allegations that the show was ‘poverty porn’, and a spokesman has said: ‘If you are telling me that shining a light on poverty in Britain is pornographic, so we shouldn’t pay attention to poor people, I think that’s outrageous. It’s just a term being trotted out by people who want to have a bash at television.
‘The notion that the show represents people on benefits around Britain is not accurate; we never say that. We were focusing on a particular group of characters living on a street in Birmingham.’
White Dee, who appeared on Celebrity Big Brother in 2014 alongside reality TV stars Lauren Goodger and Stephanie Pratt, also appeared on the Jeremy Kyle show, which has come under fire following Channel 4’s Death on Daytime documentary, aired last week.
Despite allegations against the ITV show’s production team for treatment of guests and staff, she recalled being offered aftercare, being ‘looked after’ and an overall ‘positive’ experience.