This Writer has no personal experience to indicate whether the award is well-deserved or not as I, Daniel Blake has yet to be screened in the wilds of Mid Wales.
That being said, the reaction to the movie, its themes and message all suggest very strongly that Mr Johns is indeed a worthy recipient and to be congratulated for his work in bringing the plight of sick and disabled benefit claimants to the attention of the world.
Note also the ‘most promising newcomer’ award for co-star Hayley Squires.
Comedian Dave Johns has won his first major acting award.
The veteran stand-up scooped best actor at the British Independent Film Awards for his role in the Ken Loach film I, Daniel Blake.
The movie, in which Johns plays a widowed carpenter who can’t get his benefits following a heart attack, previously won the prestigious Palme D’Or at Cannes.
But this is his first acting accolade. He has also been nominated in the European Film Awards, which will be handed out next weekend.
Speaking after collecting the BIFA award tonight, he said: ”I’ve been a stand-up for 27 years and no one knows who I was. Now I’ve done my first film and it’s been incredible.’ He added that the comedy circuit had been ‘amazingly supportive’ of his career change.
Johns’s co-star Hayley Squires won most promising newcomer.
Paul Laverty at the Cameo Cinema in Edinburgh in front of the wall of messages [Image: Daily Record].
This is the film that Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green describes as “monstrously unfair”. Clearly, the people of Edinburgh disagree – strongly.
Told by a panel of MSPs at Holyrood that the Work Capability Assessment “is sending people to go and commit suicide”, Mr Green said: “There is no evidence, and I think bringing people who committed suicide into political debate is always unfortunate.”
Here’s some evidence – read the story on the right:
Confront Damian Green with that and he’d probably try to tell you that person was making it up.
That’s the problem with his kind.
Like Nazis, they think if they repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it.
The depth of feeling evoked by I, Daniel Blake, is perhaps best summed up by an amazing collection of notes pinned to the wall of an Edinburgh cinema.
The display at the Cameo, penned by people who have suffered similar experiences to the movie’s main character, left screenwriter Paul Laverty stunned.
He said: “I had no idea of the impact. Staff at the Cameo had been stunned by the reaction – it was an example of beautiful empathy.” One message in the foyer reads: “I am less afraid of dying than of a WCA.”
Paul added: “To be more scared of an assessment than dying? I suppose dying you just have to accept. But the humiliation of going through this test – there is something so cruel about it.
“The Government have changed their rhetoric but have not budged one inch and last week they announced the new benefit cap.”
An important commitment to benefit claimants from Shadow Work and Pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams.
Her use of the word “transform” may ring alarm bells, as it is the catchword used by private consultants when they change government systems without making them better.
I’ve known Ms Abrahams long enough to believe she means Labour will change the system for the better.
This is a promise to achieve that – and for government to stop letting UK citizens down. You can hold her to it.
To describe our current social security system, following six years of Conservative ‘reform’, as Kafkaesque sounds prosaic. Yet I, Daniel Blake by Ken Loach shows us how in this case the description rings perfectly true. Despite having been employed as a carpenter his whole working life, Daniel faces a seemingly endless maze of barriers in making his claim for support after suffering a heart attack, with ‘advice’ delivered to him in rushed jobcentre interviews. He is told that he must sign a claimant commitment for jobseekers allowance and spend hours seeking work, despite his doctor stating he is unfit for work and still in recovery.
This is not news to those of us trying to support people through the system. In 2014, a constituent of mine suffered a heart attack midway through a DWP work capability assessment. He was rushed to hospital, only to find a letter telling him he had been sanctioned and his payments stopped for failing to complete the assessment when he arrived back home.
Sadly, his case is one of many thousands that I have received since being elected to Parliament. Loach’s depiction of the frustration caused by a social security system administered through faceless ‘decision-makers’ will be recognised by the many who have, through sickness or ill health, been forced to rely on it. The despair felt by many as their determination to fight the bureaucratic system ebbs away as ever greater hurdles are placed in their way is something I sadly see every day.
I believe there is a better way and a fairer way. I don’t want people who have paid into the system all their life, but then need support having become sick or disabled to be made to feel worthless and dehumanised by a state that should be there to support them.
Labour will transform the whole social security system. But fundamentally, I want to change how our social security system is perceived. The government has used the poisonous “shirker” and “scrounger” language to vilify people on social security as the new undeserving poor.
That’s why I used the trailer for I, Daniel Blake at the start of my Conference speech last month. The film brings the consequences of the Government’s current policies to full public attention. No longer should people who are ill and disabled be left to fight the system alone. We must all stand together to ensure that there are no more Daniel Blakes.
Paul Laverty’s message to Damian Green, writing inside a copy of the screenplay for I, Daniel Blake that was handed to him in Holyrood. Chances of Mr Green reading further are zero, I would expect.
I note that Damian Green has very quickly got into the habit necessary to be the Work and Pensions Secretary, in that he is a liar and may not be trusted with anything at all.
He was in Holyrood today (November 3), defending his department’s homicidal track record against a panel of MSPs who didn’t believe a word of it – and quite rightly.
Mr Adam, who presented Mr Green with the book (screenplay author Paul Laverty was also present) stated that I, Daniel Blake, the story of a 59-year-old joiner who is plunged into extreme poverty and confronted by a faceless bureaucracy when his benefits are stopped was drawn from real-life research.
He also said campaigners from the Black Triangle Campaign group had told the Scottish Parliament’s social security committee that “basically the regime of Personal Independence Payment assessments (which assess people with a disability for benefits) is sending people to go and commit suicide”.
He added: “They almost accused you of murdering people.”
Mr Green said: “There is no evidence, and I think bringing people who committed suicide into political debate is always unfortunate.”
Liar. There is evidence, and plenty of it. The DWP fairly recently had to change its story from complete denial of complicity in benefit-related suicides to saying there were many reasons. Mr Green is only denying the existence of any evidence because he knows the DWP deliberately fails to collect it.
“Clearly every suicide is a tragedy, there are complex reasons behind everyone, and as I say to try and politicise individual tragedies like this always seems to me to be very unfortunate.”
Liar. With any suicide, one may whittle away those complex reasons to discover the trigger. Many DWP-related suicides are characterised by a note – blaming the removal of benefits.
He added: “It is absolutely not the intention of anyone connected with the welfare system, whether it’s ministers or staff of the DWP, to cause distress.”
Liar. Here’s a video of DWP staff setting out to cause distress, published… Oh! Goodness me, it was published today* – the very same day Mr Green was denying any such behaviour taking place.
And what does he have to say about a government building discriminating against the disabled?
Mr Laverty’s message reads:
“To Mr Damian Green,
“We noticed you condemned our film in Parliament as “having no relationship to the modern benefit system” and as being “monstrously unfair” to the Job Centre staff.
“It is a pity you didn’t see the film first.
“Do you always reach conclusions before examining the evidence? Especially, which speaking at the dispatch box?
“I thought the script might be [useful?] for you in your busy schedule.
“FOR THE RECORD WE STAND BY EVERY SINGLE INCIDENT AS A FAIR REFLECTION of what is going on today UNDER YOUR WATCH.
“IF YOU HAVEN’T TIME FOR THIS SCRIPT, VISIT A FOOD-BANK. They will tell you, as they told us.
“DO THE DECENT THING – put a stop now to this barbaric and systematic attack against YOUR FELLOW CITIZENS.”
If Mr Laverty is willing to stand behind those words, This Writer is happy to do the same. How about you?
MSPs have given the UK government’s work and pensions secretary a signed copy of the I, Daniel Blake book.
It was presented to Mr Green by SNP MSP George Adam, who suggested he use it as “light reading” for his journey back to London.
It came as a Holyrood committee repeatedly challenged Damian Green over the benefit system’s sanctions regime.
Mr Green strongly rejected claims that the welfare system had driven people to commit suicide.
He also accused MSPs of attempting to “politicise individual tragedies” and said the system was there to help people.
Here comes the reaper: Iain Duncan Smith, former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.
Iain Duncan Smith’s claim that I, Daniel Blake is not factually accurate really is beyond the pale.
The former Work and Pensions Secretary, who lied, bluffed and fabricated his way through nearly six years of accusations that his department’s decisions were causing the deaths of benefit claimants, appears to be continuing in the same vein now.
So when he said, on the BBC’s Today programme, “The film has taken the very worst of anything that can ever happen to anybody, lump it all together, and say this is life absolutely as it lived by people and I don’t believe that,” I knew to take that with a hundredweight of salt.
His claim that “This idea that everybody is out to crunch you has really hurt a lot of Job Centre staff” is a classic Tory tactic – “Look, you’re hurting people just like you! Stop it!” Except, of course, Job Centre staff aren’t all just like us – especially those who give the orders and set the target numbers to be cleared off the benefit books.
(I certainly hope nobody is stupid enough to try to deny that this happens, as we have photographic evidence of it.)
“When we [the Conservative Party] came back in 2010 you had one of the worst situations, some of the highest number of long term unemployed we had ever had and a lot of people who simply weren’t able to get the right support and assistance. The system has turned this around dramatically,” he said. Quite right. Now a lot of people simply aren’t able to get the right support and assistance, and the country has some of the highest number of long term unemployed it has ever had.
(If you’re confused by the significance of me merely reversing what he said, bear in mind that he said the system had “turned this around”. He said nothing about either of those issues being reduced.)
His comments were really just more nonsense dissembling. There’s no substance to them at all – so, when I, Daniel Blake producer Rebecca O’Brien told the i that IDS was living in cloud cuckoo land, I could do nothing but agree.
“Some people have had far worse lives than Daniel Blake,” Rebecca O’Brien tells the i. “We could have been far more scathing, but we were worried that we wouldn’t have been believed.
“If [Duncan Smith] doesn’t think the film is realistic, then the man is living in cloud cuckoo land,” counters O’Brien.
She points to the thorough research conducted by Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty, the director’s longtime collaborator. “Every plot element is backed up by 20, 50, 100 real-life cases. Just look at social media, or the comment sections under articles about the film, since its release. People are sharing similar stories all the time.”
Since the film’s release, several critics have condemned it for unsubtle characterisation: the hero is virtuous, the Jobcentre staff heartless.
In her Sunday Times review, Camilla Long wrote that she would have “preferred to watch a ragged, possibly drunk housewife trying to print out her boarding pass. It would be more unpredictable, more gritty, more real.” The Daily Mail‘s Toby Young calls Blake “a welfare claimant as imagined by a member of the upper-middle class metropolitan elite”.
O’Brien has no truck with this line of criticism. “Toby Young complains that Daniel never drinks or smokes,” she says. “He’s just had a heart attack, for god’s sake!
“Ultimately, these characters are like you or me. Daniel can’t get through the 52-page document you need to fill out in order to claim benefits. But then nor could Dave [Johns, who plays Daniel Blake], during rehearsals. It’s just too gruelling.”
In his six years at the helm of the Department of Work and Pensions, Duncan Smith presided over £15 billion of cuts to the benefits system. His highly controversial overhaul of the welfare state is the subtext to the film’s plot: one furious character even rages about “that baldy twat Iain Duncan Whatshisface”.
The MP resigned from the post in March 2016 over the extent of the cuts imposed on the department by David Cameron and George Osborne, then prime minister and chancellor. In his Today interview, Duncan Smith called on Theresa May to reverse a further £3.4 billion of planned cuts to the benefits system.
Ms O’Brien is right to point to the huge amount of material published on the social media, showing the extent of the damage caused by Duncan Smith’s £15 billion of cuts. The DWP is a big department – the government’s biggest – and this means it is capable of extreme harm.
Duncan Smith spent years trying to talk down the evidence of it – unfortunately with a large amount of success, thanks to the collusion of the right-wing media who were cheerleading for him and a supine post-New Labour opposition.
But the evidence is there. All you have to do is ask a search engine and you can find hundreds of stories showing how the benefit system has hurt people – people with worse conditions than Daniel Blake. Try it.
The comment about the ESA50 form that must be filled out by claimants is spot-on. For several years now, the advice from people in the know is that claimants should always seek help from people with experience, from one of the help organisations that have sprung up since the Tories took over the DWP in 2010, and should on no account attempt to fill out the form alone. That simply leads to refusal.
Let’s be honest, though.
We all know why Iain Duncan Smith doesn’t like the film.
It’s the reference to him as “that baldy twat Iain Duncan Whatshisface”.
It 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.
A DPAC protest against benefit cuts [Image: Artists Against Blacklisting].
Vast numbers of people are being energised against the Conservative Government’s victimisation of the sick and disabled, thanks to Ken Loach’s film I, Daniel Blake.
They want to express their anger and outrage about what is happening – but most of them don’t even know why.
Let me illuminate you: The sick and disabled have been the first targets in a huge con trick to take money away from the poor and give it to the rich.
The idea was simple: Create huge national debts and then make the ordinary – poor – citizens pay for them.
In this way, the rich would be able to justify the privatisation of national assets as necessary measures to combat the debt, to be followed by taxation increases that would, eventually, force the workers into effective slavery, servicing an ever-increasing debt as part of a “zombie economy”.
Who would receive the money? Huge, multinational corporations. Who else?
The sick and disabled are first in the firing-line for cuts because their income is controlled by the state – the greater the disability, the more a person relies on publicly-funded support.
Of course, it just happens to be true, also, that these people are the most likely to die as a result of the removal of that support – especially when it is justified with nonsense (which is what the current work capability assessment undoubtedly is – look up This Blog’s vast library of articles on the subject for further enlightenment).
The refusal of benefit in an unreasonable way sends many of these already-frail people into a spiral of depression that either worsens their physical condition beyond repair, or drives them to suicide.
And that leaves one less sick person to feed, who cannot work to pay the corporate slave-owners part of the interest on the debt created by the corporates.
Look at the banking crisis of 2008. The people of the UK didn’t cause it. The government of the UK didn’t cause it (and the failure of government regulation isn’t to be blamed – individuals have responsibility for their own actions, you know).
Bankers and financiers caused the crisis – and have never paid a penny of the debts they incurred.
Why aren’t people telling the government they elected to stop bullying and killing the defenceless and start addressing the real cause of the problem?
Are we all afraid?
There are more than 60 million of us in the UK alone. If we all acted at once, we would soon see a few changes!
But we all know that won’t happen, don’t we? Because that’s what we’re all told.
So, I’ll tell you what.
Why don’t you have a look around your own area, and see what’s going on near you. Is anyone from DPAC living nearby? How about Black Triangle? Or any of the other organisations dedicated to helping the sick and disabled?
If you really are angry – and not just enjoying a bit of cathartic emotion after watching a good film – then get involved.
And tell others to do the same.
If you can be bothered to do something, eventually anything will be possible.
That’s simple mathematics.
The resistance begins at the raw front lines of those impacted first and impacted the hardest. The UK grassroots direct action group Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), run by disabled people, has grown out of that immediate need to hit back against crushing austerity. Their story is a microcosm of the neoliberal story, including its construction, its destructive effects and how to fight back.
In 2010, UK chancellor George Osborne announced cuts of 20 per cent to disabled people, despite the fact that the government’s own figures stated only 0.5 per cent of claimants to be potentially fraudulent.
Disabled people have been forced to pay nine times more than the average citizen to reduce the budget deficit and people with high or complex support needs have been forced to pay 19 times more. From the failed Bedroom Tax, cuts to Employment and Support Allowance and the closing of the Independent Living Fund, it has been relentless. The UK has become the first country in the world to use the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities to be investigated for ‘grave and systemic violations’ of disabled peoples’ rights and it is telling that the Tory government has since refused to make public the findings.
Andy Greene, member of the national steering committee for DPAC, tells me, ‘What you have is the people who are engaged most with the state, disabled people because of the nature of impairment, being the first in the firing line when these public services and the welfare state start to be dismantled in the name of austerity… and the fall out is that peoples’ lives shrink or people die.’
A commenter on the blog sent me a link to Jack Monroe’s Facebook page today. I’m probably as familiar with Jack as you are, but no more so – perhaps mainstream success gives that person more validity in some way than mine in the social media. But Phil’s “Have you seen this?” intrigued me.
The link was to a post following up on an Observer article published over the weekend, and read as follows:
“I would like to publicly apologise to the Department of Work And Pensions for an inaccurate statistic in my Observer article yesterday on the grim reality of the welfare system in what was once ‘Great’ Britain.
“In my article I stated that 2,400 people had died shortly after their Employment Support Allowance had been severed, having been (clearly wrongly) judged as Fit To Work.
“The DWP informs me that the correct figure is in fact 2,380.
“As they are so keen on accuracy, and transparency, I thought I should provide the rest of the stats.
“Between December 2011 and February 2014, 50,850 people who were claiming ESA, died.
“Of these, 7,200 had been judged as ‘able to return to work in the future’ and placed in the ‘work group’ category of ESA to undergo regular gruelling testing in order to continue to claim the pithy pittances they needed in order to stay alive. (For avoidance of doubt, humans do generally need food and shelter to survive.) Spoiler alert- THEY DIED.
“On top of these, 2,380 people who had been stripped of financial support and judged fit to work, subsequently DIED.
“Seeing the DWP are so very keen on accuracy that they send bollocking letters to my editor, I expect they will be now opening the case files of the 9,580 people in a 2 year period who DIED having been judged as ‘fit to work’ or ‘fit to work in the future’. God forbid I make 20 mistakes in the face of your 9,580.”
You can read the Observer article here. The relevant passage states: “Comply or starve. Comply and die, such were the cases, over a two-year period, of 2,400 people who died after their claim for employment and support allowance ended because they were declared ‘fit to work’ by DWP. I wrote in 2013 that my three-year-old could pass an Atos assessment. It doesn’t mean I should have sent him to stack shelves in a supermarket.”
The mention of “2,400 people” is quite clearly a rounding-up because, if you click on the link that has been inserted on that very number, you can visit the original Guardian article quoting the DWP’s response to a Freedom of Information request for the exact number of deaths.
My Freedom of Information request. And one of the reason I am angry as I type these words.
You see, there are two reasons the DWP has no cause to – as Mx Monroe describes it – “send bollocking letters to my editor”. I have already described the first.
The second is the simple fact that the information the DWP sent out on August 27, 2015 was incomplete – and therefore inaccurate. The Department has no business accusing anybody else of inaccuracy when it can’t get its own figures right.
The story of how this information became public knowledge is long and complicated but it is relevant that I had to get a ruling from the Information Commissioner in May last year, ordering the DWP to release the figures. As my request had been made on May 28, 2014, those figures should have run up to that date – but didn’t, as Jack’s post indicates.
When I wrote to the DWP, pointing out that they were now under a legal obligation to provide all the information I had requested, I received an email saying I should submit another FoI request. Ha ha. It took 15 months and the threat of litigation to get a reply to the last one – and that had been a second attempt!
I reminded them that I could take them to court and they gave me what I wanted in the first week of November last year. With that information, I was able to demonstrate that few claimants died after the DWP suspended repeat work capability assessments on ESA claimants on January 20, 2014. Alas, it seems likely that the delay had allowed the public to grow bored with the issue of sickness and disability deaths, so this went largely unreported.
So, after the DWP told the world it had provided me with all the information I had requested, it took another two months and more before my demand was actually answered.
And ministers had the cheek to criticise Mx Monroe for a slight inaccuracy.
It may interest you to know that in the period that the DWP had originally left unreported, a further 120 people died shortly after their claim was terminated, on a claim that they were ‘fit for work’.
What really gets my goat is the petulance of it.
The words that triggered the DWP’s complaint were part of a very moving article about the effect of Tory austerity cuts on benefit claimants, using information that could have been lifted from This Blog – connected to the release of Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake. In the paragraphs immediately following, Mx Monroe wrote very powerfully about the film’s effect:
“I went to see the press screening of I, Daniel Blake in early September. I sat in a roomful of journalists as the two central characters lit tealights in a tray, under flowerpots, to take the chill off a room left freezing by shoddy windows and cut-off utilities, as I did and wrote about back in 2013.
“I sat and watched with a heavy heart as she stole sanitary products from the supermarket, remembering going without, or folding up a clean sock, or balling up toilet tissue on the heaviest days. I barely left the house anyway, so there was nobody to really notice.
“I sat and watched as she stole food. As she queued for the first time around the block at a food bank. As she gorged cold baked beans from a can with her fingers, having not eaten a thing for days. The young boy turning to his mother, asking her where her dinner was. She replies that she isn’t hungry, but she wasn’t hungry the night before, or the night before that, and soon he’ll realise that Mummy just isn’t hungry any more.
“The woman beside me, a stranger, squeezed my forearm as I choked on guttural, involuntary sobs. I’m sorry, I whispered, sloping out to punch a wall in the corridor and cry into the blinding, unaware streets of west London. I looked mad. I am mad.
“How can anyone sleep at night, knowing what we know? How does the world turn, and children going hungry to bed is a guilt alleviated by a sympathetic nod towards the cardboard food collection box in the supermarket? If you’re not angry, as Loach said, what kind of person are you?”
Apparently the only part of it making the officials at the DWP angry was a slight statistical inaccuracy. What kind of people are they?
I gave up chasing the DWP for a while after I finally won my FoI battle. I was fatigued; I needed a break. The figures were making increasingly less sense.
And now, nearly a year later, nothing has changed. The DWP is still treating people like stock to be culled, and protesting that it is being treated unfairly whenever anybody points that out. In its doublespeak world, I, Daniel Blake is nothing but a work of fiction, whereas those of us with any experience of the DWP at all know that its facts are accurate. I have been away too long.
I am not Daniel Blake. But it’s time I stood up for everybody like him – again.
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