The stand-out moments from Channel 4 documentary Skint Britain: Friends

Partially blind David who has his payment reduced leaving him just 5 to live off for the entire month. 'Image by Channel 4.

Partially blind David who has his payment reduced leaving him just 5 to live off for the entire month. ‘Image by Channel 4.

New Channel 4 documentary Skint Britain: Friends Without Benefits aims to highlight the stark reality of people living on the Universal Credit system.

The three-part show started tonight at 9pm capturing the daily struggles faced by residents in the town who are reliant on the Government’s new benefit system.
Universal Credit, which is aimed at getting people on benefits back to work, replaces six other benefits with a single monthly payment for people out of work or on a low income.

Hartlepool was one of the pilot areas for the roll-out of the new system and the new show aims to portray how the system has impacted on people’s lives.

Here’s the highlights of the first episode.

5 minutes in: Young, unemployed couple Nathan and Abbey, say the long wait between Universal Credit payments have meant that they have been left with no cash to buy food and have to do anything to survive.

In distressing scenes the couple take their dog Twister into the fields around Hartlepool to catch wild rabbits for their tea and on another occasion Nathan goes out ‘lamping’ at night in the hope of catching rabbits.

8 minutes in: Single mum Terri is seen going from business to business asking for work, but as she is repeatedly turned away it becomes clear how few opportunities there are in the town.

When phoning the Universal Credit call centre she is left frustrated when she is unable to go and speak to someone in person to have them help her work it out.

16 minutes in: The show also highlights the desperate hope of young people trying to escape the benefit trap and pave the way for a brighter future against the odds.

Tracy and Trevor’s daughter Tamsyn is a promising young drummer with aspirations to make it big on the music scene.
But in a sharp reality check her parents highlight how easy it is for young people in the town to slip through the net by making decisions that will impact on the rest of their lives.

20 minutes in: The scale of those struggling on Universal Credit is also demonstrated in the amount of people seen queuing for food at one of the town’s food banks.

31 minutes in minutes in: Mum Tracy, who is a carer for her daughter’s father Trevor who has MS, faces devastating news about her health that could put further strain on her finances under the new system.

In an upsetting phone call to the Universal Credit call centre, Tracy asks for assistance so that she has more to eat after receiving instructions from a doctor to build up her strength as she gears up for potential cancer treatment.

But Tracy is left with no where to turn when the system is unable to provide even an advance payment.

35 minutes in : Emotional scenes also highlight the plight of partially blind David who has his payment reduced leaving him just £5 to live off for the entire month after his disability is reassessed and he’s told he must now look for work.

But with no phone or internet connection the largely online Universal Credit system brings him to the brink.