This from the News Republic website:-
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:-
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:-
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.”