This week I was given the opportunity to see an early preview of Ken Loach’s new film, I, Daniel Blake. The film follows the struggle of character Daniel Blake, played by Dave Johns in his recovery of a serious heart attack.
During his recovery Blake is forced to come to terms with the fact that doctors have told him that after working all his life, he can no longer work. Along with this, Blake is also faced with the cruel reality of the welfare system. The system challenges doctor’s orders deeming him “fit for work”.
Throughout this struggle, Blake befriends Hayley Squire’s character, single mum of two, Katie. Katie is also faced with a similar hardship to Blake under the benefit system. However, Katie also finds herself with the added pressures of trying to build a home, go back to university and find work, all whilst providing for her children.
Throughout this tragic story, Loach manages to have the audience in both tears and laughter in equal measure. He somehow manages to convey humour in times of despair. I’m glad Loach does this. The laughter and smiles are not only what the audience needed, but are also what the people of Britain need.
Modern day Britain is in dark times. Our country is under threat by Theresa May and her crook Tory peers, who are passing brutal austerity measures with no tomorrow in sight.
However, there is a tomorrow. There was a tomorrow for the characters in the film, and there is a tomorrow for the many people struggling under the welfare system. Their futures matter.
Real life stories
I, Daniel Blake is a hard hitting film, yet the hardest hitting part is the fact that this is happening now. The character’s lives and struggles are a reality for many. Loach portrays this reality throughout the film by using aspects of real life stories.
He uses people’s desperation that they have felt under the system which has led them to carry out drastic measures — for example, the true story of a woman from Maryhill, Glasgow, who was so desperately hungry, when she went to her local food bank she ate a raw can of beans right there and then.
At the time, co-founder of the foodbank, Julie Webster said, “I watched the mum pick up and put down can after can, wondering what she was doing, before I realised she was looking for one with a ring pull.”
“She ripped the top off and starting eating the beans with her hands, she was so hungry. At that point I had to go to the toilets and have a cry.”
Loach also illustrates other real life stories, from people selling their possessions to children being bullied at school as they live in poverty conditions. This is modern day Britain for many, whilst the few, better known as the 1 per cent, get richer.
Since the Tories came into power in 2010 they have continued to hit hard with their austerity measures. Our country has been attacked with £12bn in welfare cuts a year, resulting in a record high of around 1m people using foodbanks.
The cuts have no doubt affected the 2.4m people claiming Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and incapacity welfare, who are seeing their benefits being cut by £30 a week. For these people this £30 will be the difference between going hungry or staying warm.
The Tories are slashing up what was once our beloved welfare state. It was once a safety net for the most vulnerable in our society. Now it is nothing more than a punishment system to make the poorest in our country’s lives increasingly difficult and as miserable as possible.
The system has failed the people of Britain and the Tories should be ashamed of themselves. We should no longer stand for this, because in some way or other we are all Daniel Blake.