Documentary series about Jobcentre Plus in Leeds to show 'human stories' of claimants and staff

Credit: JPIMedia. MA.
Credit: JPIMedia. MA.

A documentary series to be filmed at a Jobcentre Plus in Leeds will be aimed at "challenging preconceptions about staff and claimants", said the commissioning editor.

Channel 4 has signed up producers Minnow Films to create the six-part series, which has the working title of Yorkshire: On the Job.

Southern House in Leeds. Pic: Google.

Southern House in Leeds. Pic: Google.

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The hour-long episodes will reveal, with "unprecedented access" to Southern House off York Road in Leeds, the stories of both staff and benefits claimants to find out "what life is really like on the benefits frontline" in 2019, as 35 dedicated job coaches see up to 600 customers every 24 hours.

The filmmakers say they have spent five years in talks with the Department of Work and Pensions to gain such access to a Jobcentre Plus site.

Rita Daniels, commissioning editor for Channel 4, said: “Lots of series have been made about benefits, mostly focusing on the extreme end of the spectrum and the long-term unemployed.

"This will be the first series placing equal emphasis on the human stories on both sides of the desk – challenging preconceptions about staff and claimants.

"And, as the last government agency on the high street, there couldn’t be a more pertinent precinct to speak to life in the UK today.”

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The series will be executive produced by Sophie Leonard (who worked on SAS: Who Dares Wins and Valley Cops) and Grace Reynolds (Educating Yorkshire and Confessions of a Junior Doctor), and series produced by Martin Fuller (999: What's Your Emergency and The Secret Life of the Zoo).

Information about the show from the broadcaster reads: "The team at Southern House believe that most of life’s problems can be solved with a job and everyone deserves a shot at earning a living. They face more challenges than most public servants do - with dislike and distrust of the benefits system at an all-time high, their work is often inglorious.

"This programme will shed light on what it takes to get people into employment."

In a joint statement, Leonard and Reynolds added: "“We’re delighted to be turning this hard-won, deep access into such an ambitious series for Channel 4.

"We’ve spent over five years talking to the DWP about bringing the inner workings of a Jobcentre Plus to screen, which shows just how passionate we are about documenting life there with real heart, humour and humanity.”

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