Ken Loach’s latest film, I, Daniel Blake, is a damning indictment of Tory Britain. Set in Newcastle, it follows the title character’s struggle to negotiate the bureaucracy of the benefits system after suffering a major heart attack. Daniel, played by Dave Johns, is declared fit to work by a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) “healthcare professional” and ineligible for Employment and Support Allowance, despite the advice of his doctors. Loach skilfully contrasts the obstinate, uncaring culture of the Job Centre with the compassion of ordinary people to produce a heart-wrenching, anger-inducing call to arms.
Early in the film, Daniel befriends Katie, a single mother of two, after she is ‘sanctioned’ for arriving minutes late for her appointment at the Job Centre, despite having only just arrived in Newcastle. Both characters are determined to find work, with Katie considering taking an Open University course, but they are repeatedly treated by the system as scroungers and cheats. Though Daniel has years of experience as a carpenter, he is forced to jump through hoops such as a CV workshop and online job-searches in order to claim Job Seeker’s Allowance. His lack of computer literacy is overlooked entirely by the Job