Duncan Morrison reviews “Skint”, BBC1, Mondays, 10.35pm
The documentary series Skint has reminded me how valuable good documentaries can be. Using a not quite fly on the wall style, the makers ask questions to their subjects as they go through their lives. They follow a number of people and families in the Birmingham area as they struggle to make ends meet. These are Britain’s poor.
One of the central settings throughout the series is the “Cash Converter” store. The sympathetic manager of the store is regularly seen taking the few items of any value that these people possess. Then the struggle commences to ensure that the items are bought back or at least not put on the shop floor to sell.
The value of this series is that in a world of “shock-horror” documentaries, it doesn’t patronise, it doesn’t sentimentalise, it just reports. Much that happens is dramatic, though. In the last episode a father of five suffers a stroke and the family ponders how it will survive. Another episode ended with one of the central characters being sectioned and his young son going to stay with relatives. None of this is dealt with by hyperbole, just a grim matter-of-factness. It is far more effective for this.
This series, whilst not socialist, has an egalitarian heart. Its message, read out over the end titles: one in five people in Britain has to borrow every week simply to live. Most of these people cannot get credit from banks or building societies. Being skint is expensive. Beyond this message, it is good raw material for those of us arguing for a more just society.
Skint reminds me of the documentaries I grew up with in the 1970s and 80s. That it goes out relatively late on a Monday evening is a shame. That it was made and is shown at all is a reason for hope.