'Mad' reaction to Benefits stars

The Oxford Times: Deirdre Kelly known as White Dee, has told told of the "mad" reaction to the controversial documentary series after it "opened a big can of worms"  during a live TV debate Deirdre Kelly known as White Dee, has told told of the "mad" reaction to the controversial documentary series after it "opened a big can of worms" during a live TV debate

Benefits Street stars have told of the "mad" reaction to the controversial documentary series after it "opened a big can of worms".

The show, which followed people living on benefits in Birmingham's James Turner Street, prompted debate in Parliament and attracted widespread media attention after some residents were shown committing crimes, including a demonstration of how to shoplift.

The series has been a ratings hit for Channel 4 but has been criticised for allegedly demonising those living on the breadline, while some of the residents claim they were misled into appearing.

Street mainstay Deirdre Kelly, known as White Dee, told a live debate aired on Channel 4 how the programme had changed her life.

She said: "I couldn't actually believe how big it had become and how much it had opened up a big can of worms, basically."

Asked by moderator Richard Bacon what reaction people had to her, the show's most recognisable face said it was "90% positive".

"It's just silly, people knocking on your door between fifty and a hundred times a day asking for autographs, pictures, a cup of tea - it's mad."

In a new documentary shown before the debate, the 42-year-old single mother told filmmakers that she receives "about £200" a week in benefit payments.

She has admitted stealing £13,000 from her employer, Birmingham city council, in 2007 - and claimed in an article in the Spectator last week that she plans to run for Parliament.

Asked how people perceived those living on the street, she accepted that their life might look like "a bundle of laughs".

But she added: "It's just a programme that's been put together in 40 minutes that they had spent 18 months filming."

Another resident, former drug addict Fungi, whose real name is James Clarke, told film makers that politicians are unaware of the reality of his lifestyle.

"They don't know what's going on," the 44-year-old said.

"They don't understand our life. They wouldn't understand what it's like to go 'There's a tenner, make that last three days'. No chance."

Channel 4 has announced plans for a new series of the hit show but it will not be filmed in Birmingham.

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