Director Ken Loach has condemned the Government for overseeing a culture of “conscious cruelty” in the way it docks people’s benefits.
The Kes flim-maker hit out at the Government’s benefits regime and fit-to-work tests, which leaves people “living in fear”, when appearing on the BBC’s Question as he releases a film about about a man’s struggle with the welfare system.
‘I, Daniel Blake’, which was this year’s Cannes Palme d’Or winner, tells the fictional story of a carpenter who suffers a heart attack and is told by doctors he can no longer work. But he is ruled too healthy to receive benefits by Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)-commissioned assessment.
Blake is forced to hunt for jobs which he has to turn down as he is too sick.
On the BBC show, Loach made clear he believes sanctions placed on benefits claimants - where the part or all of the payment is docked - are deliberately cruel.
With Government minister Greg Clark on the panel, he said:
“People are living in fear, and it’s an absolutely intolerable way to live. There’s a conscious cruelty to the way the benefits system is being imposed. The Tory Government knows exactly what it is doing.”
“We know that the Government knows it’s wrong because if you appeal against the assessment you will almost certainly win. They know they are teasing people in a very cruel way.
“When you’re sanctioned your life is forced into chaos and people are going to food banks - there was 1.1 million people getting food parcels. People who would starve otherwise.”
“How can we live in a society where hunger is used as a weapon?”
Asked by host David Dimbleby why the Labour Party was in Opposition and trailing in the polls if the Tories were so bad, he blamed the rebellion by MPs who tried to force out Jeremy Corbyn. He said:
“It’s because the Parliamentary Labour Party has done it’s best to undermine its leader, that’s why. People won’t vote for a divided party.”
In response, the Tory Cabinet minister dismissed the account in ‘I, Daniel Blake’ as just a “fictional film”. He said:
“Your film, Ken - it is a fictional film. And people seeing it should not think these are the ways people are behaving.”
Loach has said his team “talked to hundreds of people” at the DWP to create the story.
David Dimbleby presented BBC Question Time from Gloucester. On the panel were Conservative business secretary Greg Clark MP, Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer MP, president of the Liberal Democrats Baroness Brinton, film maker Ken Loach and Dia Chakravarty of the TaxPayers’ Alliance.