To put this in context, today's monstering of Benefits Street star Deidre Kelly AKA White Dee is publicity for tonight's "The Big Benefits Row: Live" on, you guessed it, the Desmond-owned Channel 5. Media synergies, eh? This, the blurb says, is a "discussion programme in which experts debate the controversial subject of benefits." Who pray tell are the "experts"? They are Edwina Currie, Kelvin MacKenzie and Katie Hopkins. In other words, the diseased effluvia of political comment. And their purpose is to poke their flabby fingers at the low paid, the unemployed, and the disabled. To pick among the poor to see who is deserving and who isn't. It's a bit like the lords and ladies of Victorian times who did the same, except unlike this putrid bunch at least some of them were motivated by a patrician concern for the needy.
But I absolutely object to the terms in which this is put. "White Dee: I Deserve to Live Off Benefits" says the headline. Okay, that the subsequent drivel can't muster up a direct quotation, except from the latrinial Hopkins, shows it for the crap it is. But yes, I'm going to "be brave" and stick up for White Dee. She fully deserves the support she receives from the state.
Now there's a line you won't hear on tonight's debate. As viewers know, Dee is in receipt of "disability benefits" because she's on medication for "depression". First things first, Dee doesn't present as someone who appears to be depressed. She's always having a laugh, enjoying good natured banter with her kids and neighbours. In many ways she is positioned as a positive figure, as a street-wise but jolly-hearted matriarch helping keep her multi-cultural community together. There doesn't appear to be anything wrong with her at all. Because the edit she has received does not explore her depression. It's like filming someone who cannot walk but never filming their wheelchair as they star in Are Disabled People Shammers?.
The second thing to bear in mind is the support mix Dee is likely to receive. As she does not have any care or mobility issues, it's extremely unlikely she qualifies for and receives any form of Disability Living Allowance. Alongside child benefit and housing benefit, I imagine her sole source of income is Employment Support Allowance. This comes in two categories, and a recipient is placed in one of them after spending a year on the contributions-based payment. You are either placed in the work-related activity group, which theoretically is dole for disabled people. It recognises that people on this strand are capable of some form of work and, again, on paper, receive specialist support in helping them into an appropriate job. The second strand is the support group - the payments for those considered too ill to work full stop. As Dee hasn't (or rather, her edit hasn't) mentioned mandated job interviews or work programme meetings as part of her life, it's safe to assume she falls into the latter group.
Still convinced she's swinging the lead? Look at it like this. When you apply for ESA you have to go for one of those lovely Work Capability Assessments. Have a look at the descriptors. They comprise a completely arbitrary set of classifications that are not at all medically informed, but are implemented by Atos-employed "medical professionals". It's a massive con, and you don't need me to tell you about the perverse results. Though, in the old job, I worked on cases that involved incontinent people, people in permanent pain, people with serious mental illnesses, and, sadly, one woman dying, all after being found fit by this test. Hence for Dee to get through that test demonstrates how serious her illness is.
So yes, next time you get worked up in the 60 minute hate against White Dee, remember what you're really doing is venting against a vulnerable single mum with mental health problems. Feel better?