Skint was a documentary Channel 4 made about Westcliffe Estate in Scunthorpe. For most, this would have been just another look into yet another hard hit council estate full of drug addicts and poor families on benefits; but for me it was more than that – Scunthorpe is less than 20 miles from me and I go there regularly in the evenings for a drive, just for something to do. So, seeing it on TV was weird, but realising that these people that need help are so close to home was really sad. No not all of them ‘deserve’ help, but they are human beings and I can’t help but feel bad for them. It’s beyond me why anyone would ever try drugs, but I do understand why those that are addicted are stuck living in the state they do. It’s become out of their control and they need help to get out of the awful routine of stealing to get money to buy more drugs to ‘survive’. I found it hard to see them in such a mess, unable to get a job because of their addiction, unable to afford a house because of their addiction, losing their children because of their addiction. I don’t know what they are supposed to do – but getting arrested and spared jail in favour of a rehabilitation programme seems like a good thing, which is what happened to one of them, and I hope it’s a fresh start for them.
I’ve never been into the actual estate where it was filmed, and in all honesty, now I know what it’s like, I probably wouldn’t want to. I didn’t realise how bad things were in Scunthorpe in terms of lack of employment opportunities. But then I also didn’t realise just how hard it could be for someone to get a job when they look ‘rough’, either because they do drink or take drugs, or because they can’t afford nice clothes or enough food to keep them looking healthy – or just because their accent is ‘common’ – and that’s sad, because how are they supposed to make a new life for themselves.
I know what it’s like to live on a council estate, granted mine wasn’t as bad as the one on the documentary, but I’ve been friends with people and looking back on when I went round to their houses, it probably was pretty ‘rough’. I know what it’s like to be skint and stuck on benefits – from the perspective of a child. It’s not until you get older that you see things through the light of harsh reality. When I was a kid I didn’t understand any of it, but I do now. And I do sympathize with people who end up stuck. IF the government didn’t provide so much money on benefits, they would be able to get jobs, because they wouldn’t need such huge salaries to cover what they get on benefits. It feels like a broken system when the people who need help don’t get it and the people who are getting help but want to make it for themselves, can’t.