Radio Sandwell Local News

Benefits Street star 'Smoggy' wins daughter's respect

2014-01-08 20:13:58

Stephen Smoggy Smith
Stephen Smith - aka 'Smoggy' - star of Channel 4 series Benefits Street

Benefits Street star 'Smoggy' has been offered three jobs after impressing bosses with his TV turn as the 50p man.

But the former prisoner said his eventual dream was to turn his fledgling business, selling household essentials door-to-door at 50p-a-time, into a UK-wide franchise.

The dad-of-two, who said his real name was Stephen Smith, won the nation's hearts as viewers watched him struggle for cash in the controversial, Birmingham-based show.

The 38-year-old told the Mail the idea was born as he served four months in Birmingham Prison for a "petty" crime in 2011.

"I worked as a cleaner when I was inside," he said.

"People asked for things like soap that I would sell for a smoke.

"My time in prison was a reality check but it gave me to time to reflect.

"I was locked up for something really petty which I regret.

"But they say things happen for a reason, If I had not gone to jail I would not have come up with the 50p idea.

"Everyone needs toilet roll, washing powder, tea and coffee. The hardest thing was coming up with a price to charge.

"I want to do the 50p thing full-time. I want to turn it into a franchise across the UK. I want people working with me, not for me.

"I want to set up booths in every poor neighbourhood where people can pick up essential items for 50p."

Channel 4, which aired the show's first episode on Monday night, claimed its examination of Winson Green's James Turner Street revealed the "reality of life on benefits".

But residents featured in the series accused the production team of unfairly painting them as scroungers and drug users.

Politicians have also waded into the row and West Midlands Police confirmed officers had viewed the episode with a view to investigating possible crimes.

But Stephen, who lives in a one-bedroom flat in Winson Green, said the show had led to three job offers and a thaw in relations with his 15-year-old daughter, who lives outside Birmingham.

"I don't really see much of her," he said.

"But she got in touch after the show.

"She said she was really proud of me and could not believe one of her favourite bands, Rough Copy, had 'liked' a Facebook page set up about me."

Stephen added: "Three companies have contacted me through Channel 4.

"I think the first one, delivering food for a distribution company, is the one I want to go for.

"I worked for an agency, as an overnight warehouse packer for John Lewis, over Christmas.

"They phoned me after the show asking whether I wanted a daytime job.

"The response to the show has been overwhelming.

"People stop me in the street to congratulate me, saying I was the one person to come out well.

"One woman stopped her car and wound down the window to say how I was inspiring her children to do something positive."

Stephen was receiving £90-a-fortnight in Jobseeker's Allowance when the show was filmed.

But his payments were later scrapped when benefits chiefs decided he was not looking for "proper work".

"I told them I was trying to start up my own business and they responded by saying I wasn't doing enough to find a job," he said.

"It's ridiculous. They are stopping people trying to better themselves. I was trying to make something of myself and they said I was self-employed.

"I was forced to go to my family for handouts."

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