White Dee, the prominent figure from a Hit Tv reality show "Benifit street", opens up about her regrets of participating in the groundbreaking documentary.
While Dee had gained accolades for her portrayal as the unofficial caretaker, lovingly referred to as the "mother hen" of the street, the documentary sparked heated debates in Parliament. To some, it served as a wake-up call, shedding light on the challenges faced by underprivileged communities across the nation. However, others criticized the show, citing concerns of exploitation and perpetuation of stereotypes about benefit recipients.
A number of participants featured in the program claimed that they were misled into appearing by Love Production, the show's producers. Alleging that they were promised a focus on community cohesion, they lament the devastating impact the show had on their lives.
"The show ripped apart my life at the time. It changed my life forever and it destroyed the James Turner Street I knew before the show," one participant shares.
Dee, whose real name is Deirdre Kelly, recounts a harrowing incident where she and her family experienced a relentless reign of terror at the hands of her daughter Caitlin's former partner. This individual not only assaulted Caitlin in October of 2017 but also brazenly invaded Dee's home armed with a knife. He was later apprehended and found to be in possession of a twelve-inch blade.
Dee said: “We were a pretty close-knit unit before the cameras arrived. It was like a big family. When the cameras came it was the beginning of the end. No one who was on the show now lives there. People wanted to get away. I certainly did. I am very angry about how we were misled by the production company who made the show. We trusted them. We were led to believe it was all about community spirit, nothing about ‘Benefits Britain’. We let the crew into our homes over 18 months and they became our friends. They came to parties, saw us dealing with the highs and lows of life and got to know us. We got an email out of the blue saying the show would be airing on Channel 4 that it would be called Benefits Street. My heart sank."
Although the program garnered hundreds of complaints, the media regulator Ofcom concluded that Channel 4 had not violated any broadcasting regulations. Channel 4 claimed: "Psychological support was offered to all those featured in the series throughout the filming, during transmission and beyond."
Despite the turmoil, Dee later made a controversial decision to participate in Celebrity Big Brother, reportedly receiving a substantial sum of £50,000 for her appearance. Since then, she has emerged as an unofficial advocate, passionately representing the concerns and struggles of individuals living in poverty.
Drawing from personal encounters and those shared by her community, the 52-year-old has founded Birmingham Says No—a youth violence prevention group. Its primary objective is to dissuade young individuals, particularly from engaging in criminal activities involving knives.