This video from Britain says about itself:
Hayley Squires knows all too well the poverty she portrayed in the Ken Loach film I, Daniel Blake, and reveals that she even starved herself for four days so she would understand exactly how her character felt.
On 5 December 2016, I went to see the film I, Daniel Blake, by British director Ken Loach.
The film is about the welfare benefits system in Britain, as ‘reformed’ by the Conservative government. The beginning of the film introduces Daniel Blake, the title character. An elderly carpenter, whose wife, whom he loved much, has just died. That means there is now a ‘spare’ room in his flat; making him liable for the Conservative government’s hated bedroom tax. He had a heart attack. His doctor has decided that he should not work because of his heart condition.
As the film begins, Blake is interrogated by an employee of a US American corporation, which aims at making maximum profits from robbing disabled people from their rights to benefits. The British government has outsourced disabled people’s benefits issues to such corporations. The employee, who has no medical qualifications, asks Daniel Blake stupid questions, like whether he is healthy enough to put a hat on his head. Yes, says Daniel. But why don’t you ask about my heart? The employee decides that Blake is supposedly ‘fit for work‘ and that his sick pay is stopped.
Blake then goes to the office of the DWP, the government’s Department of Work and Pensions. There, he hears that he can appeal the stopping of his sick pay, but that it is very complex and may take very long. In order to not die of hunger, he also has to register as a ‘fit for work‘ ‘jobseeker’. That registration is also very complex. He later learns that the aim of making the DWP rules so Kafka-like is to exclude as many people as possible from hope of ever receiving their rights to benefits; potentially driving them to homelessness, crime, suicide, prostitution (considered by the Dutch government as a job for which jobless women should apply if they don’t want to lose unemployment benefits), etc.
Daniel Blake knows everything about carpentry, but nothing about computers. And the Internet is the only way that appealing the disabled benefit decision and registering as ‘jobseeker’ are possible. For him, that is impossible on a computer.
One worker at the DWP office, Ann (a role by Kate Rutter) has still humanity left in her and helps Daniel with filling in forms on the computer. Ann’s boss sees that and immediately threatens her for acting against the Kafkaesque DWP rules.
The film character Ann is inspired by real life critical DWP workers who provided Loach with information. Loach thanks these workers in the credits at the end of the film, respecting their anonymity to prevent them from being punished by bosses.
At the DWP office, Daniel meets single mother Katie (a role by Hayley Squires) and her two children. The bureaucracy has just punished Katie for arriving too late at the office because her bus did not arrive on schedule.
For days on end, Katie spends the very little money she has on food for her children. She pretends to have eaten already, but in reality goes hungry.
Daniel helps Katie. Together, they go to the food bank. The food bank people are friendly, but there is an endless queue of hungry ones. When it is Katie’s turn at last, she collapses from hunger. Classmates of Katie’s daughter hear what happened at the food bank, and bully the little girl about her mother.
Desperate about her children, Katie first steals a small item at a shop. Then, she accepts an offer by a pimp to work in prostitution.
Meanwhile, the DWP bureaucracy has ordered Daniel that he should spend at least 35 hours a week asking employers if they have a job for him. The bureaucracy also sends him to a mandatory CV course. The course teacher, full of New Age-ish pseudo-scientific rhetoric, points out, correctly, that most bosses hardly look at CVs of people applying for jobs. And that for most vacancies, the overwhelming majority of people applying won’t get the job. So, he advises the unemployed people at the course to make their CVs ‘stand out’ (if all unemployed people would follow that advice, then not one person more would succeed in getting a job).
Daniel goes to business after business, asking whether there are vacancies. No, there are not, the overwhelming majority of employers say. Finally, one boss offers Daniel a job. I can’t accept it, Daniel replies. My doctor says I should not work because of my heart attack. But I have to apply for jobs because else my ‘jobseeker’s allowance’ would stop and I would not have any money. The boss reacts angrily. Believing in prejudices against people on benefits, he says that Daniel is lazy, preferring benefits to work. Daniel, he says, has wasted the boss’ time. Indeed, British government policies, sending sick people on wild goose chases’ for non-existent jobs, waste employers’ time; and the time of unemployed people and of DWP staff as well.
Then, Daniel is summoned to the DWP office. A jobsworth senior bureaucrat arrogantly tells him he has not done enough at applying for jobs. Daniel should have brought documents and photos from all businesses where he had applied. The bureaucrat sanctions Daniel.
Then, Daniel spray paints on the wall of the DWP office that ‘I, Daniel Blake’ protest against the inhuman treatment by the bureaucracy. A crowd gathers around him, applauding that courageous move. Police come and arrest him.
Not long after that, Daniel dies. Killed by the British government, as Katie says in her speech at his funeral.
See also here.
A conversation with I, Daniel Blake screenwriter Paul Laverty about the indignities of the welfare system in an age of austerity: here.
PRIVATE companies are acting as a barrier between GPs and the NHS, putting patients’ lives at risk. Millions of pounds are being spent on privately-run schemes to ‘screen’ and prevent patients from being referred by GPs to specialist services, it emerged yesterday. Doctors warn that the danger is that diagnoses will be delayed or missed or dismissed with devastating consequences for the patient: here.