I wasn’t sure about writing this – it’s not like there’s been a shortage of words written about I, Daniel Blake.
I went to see it this afternoon and still feel like I’ve been hit by an emotional steamroller.
It was the normalcy of it all. These characters could be people you know and you are watching them being chewed up in an uncaring system.
I’m not going to do a “I am Daniel Blake” piece, I’ve been lucky enough never to have had it that bad. I believe it is still possible to empathise without having gone through the system – unless of course you are a self-obsessed right-wing hack who only got where you are because of your parents. I’m also aware that except for a very small percentage this could happen to almost anyone, just how many months rent or mortgage payments do most people have in savings?
You would have had to live under a rock for the past few years to be unaware of how what was admittedly an imperfect Social Security system dramatically change into a faceless bureaucracy designed with pitfalls for those who need it most. The scene where the JobCentre adviser informs Daniel that his case will be referred to a “decision maker” shows how those making the choices are kept away from those they affect. Easier to decide to sanction people when you don’t see their faces.
I think I’ve got numb reading every day about how this system has failed people. The number of those dying, never mind the sheer scale of those sanctioned, referred to food banks or dropping off the system entirely have got too big to appreciate properly. The sheer size has made the individuals blur. There are always some that stick but how many times do we hear of people collapsing on the way to or even during assessments then being told they are fit to work.
This film has put faces to those people; there wasn’t a single thing I haven’t read in a news report. I had braced myself for the food bank scene but seeing the bean juice drip though Katie’s fingers as she ate made more of an impact than I expected.
Just watching the film and getting angry is not enough, even supporting your local food bank is not enough (but do it anyway.)
This article in The Pool gives a list of other things we can all do to help.
- Give to a clothes bank – clothes, school uniform, bedding.
- Become an activist, join Disabled People Against Cuts or @Dis_PPL_Protest. Look out for local campaigns.
- Lobby politicians – this does work if enough stand up and shout. Write, email, petitions, social media.
- Become an Appeal Advocate or donate to advocacy services e.g. Fight Back 4 Justice
- Help someone who is homeless; StreetLink in England & Wales can help connect the person to local services and support. I couldn’t find an equivalent for Scotland but Shelter Scotland runs campaigns.
- Challenge anti-benefit stigma – call out the scrounger comments.
This will continue – and get worse – until there is enough pressure on government to make the changes required.
It is easy to blame the Tories (and their helpers the Lib-Dems) but Labour were the ones who originally brought in Work Capacity Assessments and ATOS.
ALL parties must be made aware that there is no excuse to treat people as numbers/things.