The sickening facts behind the Tory lie that they are helping people with long-term illnesses

zken-loach-common-good-private-greedIt took a while, but Greg Clark, Tory minister for de-industrialisation, eventually had to resort to his party’s agreed line on the film I, Daniel Blake, in the face of a barrage of fact-based analysis from the film’s director, Ken Loach.

“It is a fictional film,” he told a BBC Question Time audience in Gloucester. “People… should not think these are the ways people are behaving.”

I beg to differ – and so do members of the great British public who have actually experienced the benefit system.

People are terrified of taking the work capability assessment (WCA), for reasons mentioned on This Blog only a few days ago.

In that article, I asked readers to send in their own stories, and it seems – despite Tory protestations that they have improved the system – that people really are being treated cruelly. “Teasing” – the word Mr Loach used – is the wrong description for it.

One person who was tested in July this year was stripped of ESA for reasons including appearing to “hear his name called in the waiting room”.

So suddenly every WCA is a Catch-22. If you don’t attend, your claim will be cancelled – but if you do attend, you are fit for work and your claim will be cancelled?

Another respondent explained that her husband took the assessment in February this year. He is unable to comment himself as he died on July 31 after his benefit was cut. The assessor told him he looked well, despite the fact that his skin was so thin it was possible to see the definition of his skull beneath his face.

One more? “Classic from my WCA (shortly after my father died of a massive brain haemhorrage and whilst my brother was in hospital on a life support machine after a brain haemhorrage): ‘She enjoys an active social life visiting her brother in hospital on a regular basis.’ Between those two events I had been diagnosed with a rare and incurable and untreatable disease I knew little about and hadn’t even been assessed by NHS at that point. ‘She has no mental health problems’ – I was clinging on by my fingertips.”

Are you angry yet?

What do you think of Tory Greg’s claim that work capability assessors don’t behave as Mr Loach asserts in his film (Daniel Blake is told he is fit for work and forced to apply for a succession of jobs he must then turn down – because he is not fit enough)?

What do you think of the fact that Tory Greg was quoting the Conservative Government’s agreed line about the film – that it is just a work of fiction?

And if you voted Conservative last year or in 2010, what do you think of the fact that your vote supported the torture (and in many cases, death) of your fellow UK citizens – who have committed no crime, and whose misfortune could happen to you at any time?

In the film, Daniel Blake’s suffering at the hands of the DWP is the result of a heart attack. In real life, 53-year-old Stephen Hill was found fit for work, while he was waiting for major heart surgery. He died of a heart attack one month later.

Or how about Brian McArdle, 57 years old, who suffered a fatal heart attack the day after his disability benefits were stopped?

Or David Groves, 56 years old. He died of a heart attack the night before he would have taken his work capability assessment. His widow claimed the stress killed him.

These are just three similar cases. The WCA dead number in their thousands – and that’s just those that are known.

Stephen Hill’s death would not have been recorded by the DWP because it happened too long after his benefits were stopped.

And the Tories tell you, this is just a work of fiction. Don’t worry your pretty little head about it.

Are you angry now?

If not now, when?

It will be too late to be angry when you’re dead too.

Director Ken Loach has condemned the Government for overseeing a culture of “conscious cruelty” in the way it docks people’s benefits.

[The] film-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 Time [after the release of his film I, Daniel Blake, about about a man’s struggle with the welfare system].

[Mr] Loach made clear he believes sanctions placed on benefits claimants – where the part or all of the payment is docked – are deliberately cruel.

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.”

He added: “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.”

He concluded: “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.

Source: Ken Loach On BBC Question Time Accuses Tory Government Of ‘Conscious Cruelty’ Over Benefits Sanctions | Huffington Post

If you have a story about the conscious cruelty of the Conservative-run Department for Work and Pensions, please tell us about it, using the contact form below.

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

If you have appreciated this article, don’t forget to share it using the buttons at the bottom of this page. Politics is about everybody – so let’s try to get everybody involved!

Vox Political needs your help!
If you want to support this site
but don’t want to give your money to advertisers)
you can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Buy Vox Political books so we can continue
fighting for the facts.

The Livingstone Presumption is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
is still available in either print or eBook format here:


20 thoughts on “The sickening facts behind the Tory lie that they are helping people with long-term illnesses

  1. David Woods

    I think the Conservative government should go to a WCA as I don’t think they are fit or capable of doing the job they’ve been employed to do!
    In fact they have been failing in their duty of care for years and people have died due to their neglect!

  2. ingrid

    Thank you Ken and thank you Mike. I have lived in an increasing state of intolerable fear since my rounds of ESA/WCA started 4 years’ ago. I have been in psych hospital twice as a result of the cruel process (despite decades of MH problems I’d always managed to avoid going inpatient up until then), and live on a suicidal knife edge every day dreading the next brown envelope. 2 suicide attempts in the last year due combination of virtually non-existent MH services in my area and the terror of the postal delivery each day. My physical (45 years Type 1 diabetic) and mental health have worsened considerably during these last 4 years and are at an all time low. I see no future for myself. xx

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      My advice to anybody feeling suicidal as a result of government interference is: Don’t give them the satisfaction.
      There is a growing network of support – look up DPAC and Black Triangle on the web, 4UP and Fightback on Facebook.

      1. joanna

        I’m glad you didn’t say ring the Samaritan’s, because when I did, the advice I got was, “don’t be stupid, you are a long time dead”!!

        They don’t have to trained, they only need to have time to give.

    2. Paul


      Have you asked DWP for a ‘reconsideration’ of their decision not make you attend a WCA as they already have evidence that you’re not fit for work? The law is ESA Regulations 2008 (law) and Medical Regulations (law). Medical Regulations is relevant for existing evidence suggests you’re unfit for work so no need to attend a WCA for DWP to require an assessment. ESA Regulations: ‘exceptional circumstance, ie ‘mental health problems is a disease.

  3. Beth Urmston

    I do not need to go to the cinema and watch ‘I Daniel Blake’. I live among the reality, that is ‘the reality of those who are unfortunate enough to become ill/disabled’. Whilst members of the tory party brush this off as not representative or a piece of fiction (let’s face it, they can only see it that way because they do not experience it in their lives) it is the reality of life in 21st century civilised Britain!

    Statistics – facts not fiction bear out the truth. I Daniel Blake is an interpretation of the impact of that truth.

  4. Dave Rowlands

    Getting Angry just eats away at you, you try to resolve the problem and nothing changes, the government don’t care, anger will kill you eventually because of the frustration of not being able to change the way the government treats it’s people.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      No, you’ve got it the wrong way around: They try to hide the problem and we take it out of the shadows, dust it down and present it to them again.
      Frustration will kill their government in the end, from not being able to stop people from holding up a non-distorting mirror to their misdeeds.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      That’s never going to happen. She may be in her 90s but she’s not about to trigger a constitutional crisis that’s likely to end the Monarchy.

  5. Paul

    I agree the best thing for people is try not to worry as this just makes matters worse. Failing the WCA is not ‘the end of the world.’ Out of touch rich ‘film makers (ie they’re not affected), or the out of touch Tory/ Labour machine who force sick people into work do not help the individual – they’re just Oxford/ Cambridge educated people who do not live in the real world. Instead, try to think – there’s a solution to my problem. Appeal – do not get stressed; ESA Regulations 2008 – look for ‘exceptional circumstances. Worry and fear together can kill but thinking outside the box helps.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Just two comments:
      Ken Loach quite clearly isn’t out of touch. His film is causing such a stir because it is accurate.
      There is no Tory/Labour machine. Labour does not (now) support the scheme to force sick people off benefits.
      Those are huge, fundamental errors that you need to correct in your own mind.
      Please do not make such suggestions to anybody else. Either you’ll make a fool of yourself or – worse – you’ll influence other people to believe you.

      1. Paul

        Mike, i’ll thank you to take the positive aims of my statements, not the negative inferences, which are not helpful.

        Ken Loach views in the long term are good to influence Parliament to make changes to the WCA process, but in the shorter term they’re just liberal ideas which do not affect the individual positively immediately in that his or her WCA still is a very real event for them and it remains un-altered. It’s in my view, therefore a matter of a point of law and or a point of fact to persuade DWP; the Parliament Ombudsman; and or the UK Social Security tribunal judge, insofar as what the person can do to constructively aid their situation, and not politics which are just rhetoric unless those opinions are influential that Parliament amends existing laws (ie ESA Regs 2008 as amended by modern additions).

        In my view, it’s basically a hierarchy of society the ones who are directly affected (WCA respondents) compared with the ones who have a liberal set of politics (Loach), in that they learn from third parties (ie the affected persons subject to the state’s interference), who endeavour to make positive change. Law in the real world doesn’t work like that so it means for the WCA respondent that they have to individually negotiate their personal circumstance to the government official for DWP (either directly or indirectly) until the tide changes, politically speaking.

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        How do you think art has ever affected real-life conditions?
        The problem has to exist in the real world in order for the artist – of whatever kind – to comment on it. Ken Loach – and all the many people who worked with him to make his film – was commenting on a very real, very pressing issue and I do not understand why you have taken it on yourself to suggest he is out of touch. He isn’t. Your comments suggest you are.
        Failing the WCA really has been the end of the world for many thousands of people who are dead as a result. Accept the truth of that, or accept that you are out of touch.
        Yes, the DWP – and the government that controls it – needs to be persuaded of the need for change. That is why the film was made! We’ve had years of successive Tories saying they’ve tinkered with the system a bit and it works much better now, when in fact it is still killing people, just as effectively as before.
        Your comments demonstrate that you are coming to this as a person who doesn’t have any relevant experience. That is the epitome of being out of touch.
        Look, I’ve been writing about this for many years; some of the people reading and commenting on these matters have been working to change the system for even longer. Try reading some of the other articles, going back over the years, and try to understand why I have responded in the way I have.
        I have nothing personal against you but you have a lot to learn. Don’t try to comment again until you can see where you have made your mistakes.

  6. Paul

    This is simply shocking, even if a few deaths were correlated to WCA. The figure is actually 10,600, according to your FOI; so there is apparently a correlation with WCA assessments and the persons subsequent deaths but it’s not known how old these persons were, what type of disabilities they had. This does not by itself mean it is cause and effect in that WCA is the cause or effect of those persons who die in connection with the WCA.

    However, stats and analysis aside, I never heard of this 10,600 figure through the media (and or other reports), and is, in my view, just simply disgraceful. It may have been reported through the media but I don’t think it could have (could it really in the moral world) as the Tories would never (or would they) have been able to amend the 2008 ESA Regs, which requires Labour support (why would they), which has worsened them (the Regs) in fact to the detriment of those unfortunate to have to take the WCA. I do apologise therefore. I still don’t understand why you’re saying 10 times the amount virtually.

  7. Hairyloon

    There are two parts to this problem. One is the system, which I am sure we all agree is truly dreadful, and the other is the foot soldiers at the front line of this war on the sick: the decision makers who are imposing these sanctions.

    We need to be fighting this issue on both of those fronts: those in a position to should bring down the government and change the system, but the rest of us should be helping the individuals suffering at the front to hit back at the individuals that cause the suffering.
    Most, if not all of these outrageous reasons for sanctions are invalid and would succeed on appeal, so on that level it is not the system at fault: these decisions exceed the authority of the decision makers.
    It the decision is so far off the mark as to be abuse, then that is likely to be misfeasance: a civil tort which would mean that the victims could take civil action in court against the perpetrators.

  8. mrmarcpc

    I watched QT last week and I agreed with both Ken Loach and the woman who asked the question are we the British public less compassionate and I agree with her answer, yes we are, we are a very heartless, cruel, greedy, selfish, nasty little people, Me, me, me, me, I’m All Right Jack, look after No. 1, screw everyone else, exactly what that bitch Thatcher wanted us to turn into and become, and she succeeded!

  9. Paul

    I just came across a October 2016 green paper (government) consultation paper (95p.): Cm 9342, for what seems to be plans to help ‘all’ disabled people back into work, which includes those in the ESA Work Group, and in some cases, the Support Group. There are apparently 2.4 million claiming some form of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), according to this source 50% with some form of mental health problem. The Work Programme is going to change to the ‘Work and Health Programme.’ DWP are looking for partners in voluntary sectors to health deliver this new reform. The worry obviously is that it will exploit disabled person in that the organisations will be paid commission to meet government targets.

Comments are closed.