Monday, 23 May 2016

Fiction Mimics Reality

Ken Loach

Cannes 2016: Ken Loach's I, Daniel Blake wins Palme d'Or

This from the News Republic website:- 

Loach film on shame of poverty in Britain moves Cannes to tears

Director Ken Loach denounced the British government's "conscious cruelty" towards the poor Friday after his film about the poverty and humiliation inflicted upon them by welfare cuts had critics at the Cannes film festival in tears. The left-wing director, who turns 80 this year and is known for shining a light on the downtrodden, also got lengthy applause and shouts of "Bravo!" at a press conference after "I, Daniel Blake" was screened.

It tells of carpenter Daniel Blake's Kafkaesque journey to get benefits in Britain after suffering a heart attack and being told by doctors he can no longer work. But an invisible and oft-cited "decision-maker" rules he is too healthy for benefits. Blake befriends a young single mother of two who is sanctioned for being late to the benefits centre, leaving her with no money for food.

"The most vulnerable people are told their poverty is their own fault," Loach told reporters. "If you have no work it is your fault that you haven't got a job. It is shocking. It is not an issue just for people in our country, it is throughout Europe and there is a conscious cruelty in the way we are organising our lives now," he said.

Because Blake is denied illness benefits he is forced to apply for assistance for unemployment. That in turn forces him to spend hours hunting for jobs which he has to turn down because he is too sick to work.

Loach said that in researching the film, those who carry out assessments of people like Daniel admitted they were "given instructions on how to deal with potential suicides." The movie's writer Paul Laverty said the research team was stunned at how people with mental health issues and disabilities were targeted by the welfare cuts. He said people interviewed within the Department for Work and Pensions told them "they were humiliated at how they were forced to treat the public. There is nothing accidental about it."

The story taps into the despair over rising unemployment and austerity in Europe after the financial crisis. "When I read the script I thought we have really got to make this straight away, it's such an important story to tell," producer Rebecca O'Brien said. The movie was warmly received by critics and Variety magazine called it "a work of scalding and moving relevance."

Stand-up comedian and lead actor Dave Johns, who comes from Newcastle in the north east of England where the film is set, tweeted his delight at the notices: "Blown away by the reviews for our film I Daniel Blake. Let's hope it shames those that should be shamed into change."

Some of the most excruciating scenes in the film show Blake's frustrations in trying to understand how to use a computer to appeal the decision cutting his benefit. Another has the young mother he befriends, Katie, tearing open a tin of baked beans and shovelling the contents into her mouth with her hand.

At a photocall for his film's premiere Loach, in a typically down to earth touch, went to shake hands with photographers. The director and both his main actors have a working-class background and the actress who plays the young single mother, Katie -- Hayley Squires -- said her mother still lives in social housing.

Squires slammed anti-welfare "propaganda" that she said has turned working class people against each other. "Normal people are led to believe that this amount of people are on benefits and are therefore scroungers, and this amount of people are going to work to pay so that they can scrounge. They've left us to argue among ourselves so they can keep doing what they are doing."

Loach agreed: "It's how the far right rises, isn't it? It's how the far right rises."


From the Guardian:- 

Suicides of benefit claimants reveal DWP flaws, says inquiry

A series of secret internal inquiries into the deaths of people claiming social security reveal that ministers were repeatedly warned of shortcomings in the treatment of vulnerable claimants facing potentially traumatic cuts to their benefits entitlements. The conclusions are contained in 49 Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) inquiry reports finally released to campaigners on Friday after a two-year Freedom of Information (FOI) battle. Some 40 of the reports followed a suicide. In 10 cases, the claimant had had their benefits sanctioned.

Although the heavily redacted reports do not draw a direct link between the death of a claimant and problems caused by their dealings with the benefits system, they highlight widespread flaws in the handling by DWP officials of claims by people with mental illness or learning difficulty. The reports, called “peer reviews,” appear to challenge blanket claims by ministers that there is no connection between government welfare reform policies and the deaths of vulnerable claimants.

Several suggest that claimants who died may not have received adequate support from DWP staff handling their benefit claims. At least five of the reports call for major reviews or substantial changes to procedures on identifying and supporting vulnerable claimants. Many of them centre on the much-criticised Work Capability Assessment (WCA), the test used to assess whether claimants are fit for work. Campaigners argue the tests are flawed and linked to health relapses, depression, self-harm, and suicides.

Activists have linked the WCA to a string of tragic deaths – including poet Paul Reekie, former sheep farmer Nick Barker and ex-security guard Brian McArdle – all of whom died after being found “fit for work” and told by the DWP that they would lose their out-of-work disability benefits.


This from the Independent:-

Calls for Government investigation after benefit assessors caught ‘mocking the disabled’ by undercover reporter

MPs and campaigners are calling for an urgent investigation into the Government’s benefit tests after an assessor was filmed dismissing a claimant’s “disability known as fat”. The man, who conducts Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessments for Capita, was filmed by an undercover reporter claiming employees could earn £20,000 a month “most months” by rushing through claims.

Channel 4’s Dispatches programme sent a psychiatric nurse through Capita’s 20-year disability assessment training, where a senior staff member urged him to do “as many assessments a day as you can possibly manage”.After being sent to Northampton to learn the ropes, a disability assessor called Alan was filmed claiming he could get paid £20,000 a month by “flying through” interviews, sometimes even completing forms before meeting claimants.

The same staff member was seen dismissing a claimant’s “disability known as being fat”, adding: “She asks for help to wipe her arse because she’s too f***ing fat to do it herself.”

The footage has generated outrage as controversy continues over the Government’s changes to disability benefits and how they are awarded. Mencap condemned the “derogatory and offensive attitudes” on show, saying it showed policy was failing to support claimants. Dan Scorer, the charity’s head of policy, called for an urgent independent review into how PIP assessments are carried out.

“We already know that disability benefit assessments are flawed, with wrong decisions made every day causing thousands of people to suffer emotionally and financially,” he said.

Owen Smith, the shadow Work and Pensions Secretary also called for a probe into the “extremely troubling” report. In a letter to Stephen Crabb, Iain Duncan Smith’s successor, he wrote: “There has long been widespread concern about Government contractors and their ability to accurately conduct these tests. “But this Dispatches report shows a flagrant disregard for the claimants and is extremely troubling.”


  1. Excuse me if I sound gormless - but - DWP - public sector, Capita -private sector. So far so good??

    Staff then do PIP assessments for Capita and earn silly money for 'flying through' assessments, and 'sometimes completing forms before meeting claimants'.

    So, the govt hands over to the private sector the delicate responsibility to do their assessments, where callous foul-mouthed idiots then get rich quick. Where have we heard this before?

    How much is the govt flogging off to unskilled uncaring, unethical greedy companies? And even greedier staff? And how long will it be before the Tories get off their backsides to organise 'a probe'? And how honest will the results be?

    And that is just one area amidst a glut of greed and corruption, which all urgently need honest investigation.

  2. The researchers for Ken Loach's film found when they interviewed staff working within the DWP, the ones who administer the system, that 'they were humiliated at how they were forced to treat the public'. Some of these will be members of the PCS union – the anonymous 'decision makers'. There are parallels in all the public services – the apparent embrace of public protection sentences by probation staff comes to mind, though some had misgivings about the justice and human rights implications from the outset.

    But despite feeling humiliated the DWP staff carry out their orders. And the one's who don't feel humiliated, as the undercover filming showed, can thrive in an ugly workplace culture that links payments to results and bonuses. Once you dehumanise the claimants/clients – and the politicians help to tweak attitudes by shirker/striver divisions – it becomes a public duty to screw people into the ground and not give a damn about human hardship and suffering – it's their own fault anyway! As Loach observed, 'It's how the far-right rises'.

    1. I guess that it is not so different with probation staff. Most of us do not like the way that we now have to work, but we carry out orders. We are all complicit to a certain extent, however it is very difficult as an individual to speak out. There is no support.

    2. That's down to you. I for one do not carry out any instructions I feel are unfair or biased against the service users. It's called Professional Judgement.

    3. Professional judgement can only go so far. We are complicit in continuing to work within crc/nps and the systems and procedures that are stacked against service users.

    4. "Professional judgement" is common sense renamed and branded. I find anyone that has to use the term generally hasn't got any. The fact is the NPS or CRC our job is now to carry out instructions and hit targets.

    5. 'Our job is to carry out instructions and hit targets'. Yes, but not at the expense of personal integrity hey.........

  3. What will it take for this Govt to acknowledge that privatision of public services does not work! G4S in the news again for cooking the books to hit targets . What a reputation they have!

  4. Naughty naughty G4s, answering 999 calls within their target time by errrr making the calls themselves and then answering them within 10 rings. Hope prosecutions follows ( especially corporate) because there were over 700 fraudulent calls made.
    Utterly Shameful

    1. Some companies never learn

  5. Seems like they can do whatever they like and still get awarded govt contract. Must have some very good friends in the HOC and HOL. It's outrageous that they are still being paid tax payers money. Thieves!,,,

  6. That's the problem there doesn't appear to be any consequences!

  7. Modern Gov't policies have been a relentless godsend for greedy bullies. From Thatcher to Blair, Cameron and beyond, there's been unbridled licence to be disgustingly wealthy & behave appallingly without consequence... whilst PR spinmongers utilise the media to deliver cover stories & outright lies to a listless electorate.

    Who were those fantastically corrupt countries, Dave?

  8. I notice that the cheery folks in Sodexo's Cumbria & Lancs CRC are advertising for zero hours UPW contracts.

  9. "Local commissioning, local solutions: devolving offender management"

    FROM "The Reformer Blog"


    "As such, PCCs should take responsibility from NOMS for commissioning all prison and probation services. They should also take responsibility for commissioning drug and mental health services for offenders to enable genuinely joined-up solutions to be configured at a local level.

    To facilitate this, the current National Probation Service (NPS) should be disbanded. Responsibility for the management of all sentenced offenders, irrespective of risk, should transfer to CRCs."

    1. PCC's are idiots nobody votes for. I wouldn't put them in charge of anything. Very worrying publication but then we know the long term plan is to get rid of what's left of probation. The link url seems to be from Reform which is a Tory think tank. No surprise the conclusion supports its Tory friends that run CRC's to take what's left.

    2. What's the agenda? Don't forget Sally Lewis, whose tweet highlighted the Reform proposal, was well remunerated when most probation staff were simply shafted. Colleagues with 20+ years' service were shoved aside with less than 10% of Ms Lewis's package:

      "In total, 10 senior executives secured six-figure deals including lump-sum payouts as well as pension top-ups. They include Sally Lewis, the outgoing chief executive of Avon and Somerset Probation Trust, whose exit package totalled £293,000"

  10. they haven't a clue!!!!! Gut-wrenching ignorance.