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Ken Loach Hopes ‘I, Daniel Blake’ Will Change 'Cruel Sanctions And Benefits System'

'The fact we now accept foodbanks as part of our national scene

23/05/2016 09:24 | Updated 23 May 2016

Ken Loach has continued his attack on the government's austerity measures after winning the Palme D’Or at Cannes Film Festival for 'I, Daniel Blake' which depicts the failings of the UK’s welfare system, 

The veteran director received the award on Sunday night and used his acceptance speech to attack "dangerous" UK government policies.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Monday morning, Loach continued in this vein.

Yves Herman / Reuters
Director Ken Loach reacts next to producer Rebecca O'Brien (R) during the closing ceremony of the Cannes Film Festival.

When asked why he thought the film had won the Palme D’Or, he said: "I think dealing with a cruel bureaucracy is something that crosses borders and people understand the frustration of being constantly trapped by call centres, by people who won't give you the help you need.

"And facing a bureaucracy that is out to deny you what you feel is your right is something people understand."

Loach has a legendary track record in socially conscious documentary-making. Fifty years ago he directed ‘Cathy Come Home' which examined homelessness.

BBC
Daniel Blake, left, played by Dave Johns and the single mother, played by Hayley Squires.

 A 2000 industry poll rated it as the second best British TV programme ever made and sparked the creation of the charity Crisis.

When asked what effect he hoped 'I, Daniel Blake' would have, he said: "I think we have to look again at this whole cruel sanctions and benefits system which is out to tell the poor that their poverty is their own fault and if they don't have a job it's because they're incompetent or useless.

"I think there's a despair and an anger in people who are facing this and those who are trying to support them. 

"The fact that we now accept food banks as part of our national scene and it's there and it accepted, this is really unacceptable, isn't it?"

Host Sarah Montague suggested to Loach there is actually significant public support for the benefits cap.

Loach retorted: "Maybe because people listen to the Today programme too much.

"If you get out amongst the people who are using the food banks, people who would not eat unless there were people providing charity, who have to choose between their heating and food, I think you'll find a great disgust and despair that we live like that in this country now."

Set in Newcastle (and shown at the event with subtitles in case people couldn’t understand the Geordie accent), ‘I, Daniel Blake’ tells the fictional story of carpenter Daniel Blake who suffers a heart attack and is told by doctors he can no longer work. 

An assessment commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) goes against medical advice and rules him too healthy to receive benefits.

Blake - who befriends the single mum shown in the clip below - is forced to hunt for jobs which he has to turn down as he is too sick.

The film has particular resonance after the story of a partially paralysed man with part of his skull missing declared “fit for work” recently emerged.

 

 

 

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