The screening of an award-winning film in Clitheroe that highlights the “brutal inhumanity” of the benefits system has been welcomed by a local advice charity.
Katy Marshall, the manager at Ribble Valley Citizens Advice Bureau, has praised Clitheroe’s The Grand for showing Ken Loach’s drama I, Daniel Blake.
“We very much appreciate the work being carried out by The Grand to bring this to a local audience,” said Katy. “Several of us have had to travel to Preston or Manchester cinemas and we have all wished more people from round here could see it, so we are grateful for this opportunity.”
The film, which won Cannes Palme d’Or in 2016, tells the story of 50-something carpenter Daniel Blake (Dave Johns) living in Newcastle who, after suffering a heart attack, seeks to claim state benefits. Told by his NHS consultant that he’s unfit for work, he applies for disability benefit. However, after a “healthcare professional” appointed by the Department for Work and Pensions interviews him over the phone for just 10 minutes, it’s decided that he’s ineligible. Humiliatingly labelled a scrounger when he is anything but, Daniel is forced to apply instead for Jobseeker’s Allowance and comes up against further absurdities of the welfare state. Meanwhile, he befriends Katie (Hayley Squires), a single mother-to-two children, who’s also suffering on the breadline.
“The issues in the stories told by Ken Loach affect Ribble Valley people too,” Katy explained. “It is not just about life far away, but on the streets of Clitheroe and in the households of our villages.
“The film shows that the benefits system can be frustrating and humiliating and we strongly recognise that picture as we see it all the time. It is a truthful portrayal of the current situation faced by our service users and we grateful to Ken Loach for making more people aware of the problems.”
She added: “Attitudes to people on benefit can be harsh and this is felt very strongly by those who have to claim support. Here in this office, we have heard people say ‘I am not one of those scroungers’ in the same breath as they ask if they are entitled to any support as they face extreme difficulties. There is a very real stigma attached to getting involved with disability or unemployment benefits. People are genuinely put off from claiming rights they have gained through working and paying National Insurance, which is unfair. It should not feel like failure to come forward for entitlements so that you are better able to stay in control of money.”
Katy continued: “Our only worry about the film is that it doesn’t say that people can get help from advice agencies like Citizens Advice. In some parts of the country, of course, there is limited advice available. Here in Ribble Valley we are set up to support anyone facing problems with the Department of Work and Pensions and we are here to be used every week day except Wednesday, either by phone to 01200 428966 or face-to-face at our Clitheroe office.”
I, Daniel Blake, tomorrow, doors 7-30pm, screening 8pm. Tickets cost £6 adv or £7.50 on the door. The Ladies Film Night offers another chance to see the film on Tuesday, February 7th, including a two-course dinner for £16.50. Doors open at 7pm.