KATE OSBORNE: Job support needed not harsh sanctions

One film that brought tears to my eyes was from one of the most powerful and devastating films I’ve ever watched – I, Daniel Blake.

Thursday, 9th July 2020, 12:00 am
I see too many examples of Daniel Blake in my advice surgeries and I can tell you they are proud, working class people who have fallen on difficult times through no fault of their own.

Famous award-winning movie director Ken Loach’s hit film portrays perfectly the brutal ruthlessness of the draconian benefits system.

Every day men and women – young and old, healthy, sick and disabled – are struggling to make ends meet through unemployment and crippling poverty.

Daniel Blake, played by Geordie actor Dave Johns, is an older man living in the North East who, because of a heart attack, can no longer do a job he’s done for his entire life.

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However, a work capability assessment by the Department of Work and Pensions somehow finds him fit for work and while he waits for his appeal, Daniel can only claim Jobseekers Allowance. Confused and frustrated by the system, Daniel is stuck between having to search for work to get his benefits whilst being told by his doctor he shouldn’t be working for the sake of his health.

His inability to take any work offered means his money is sanctioned, and he begins to go hungry.

I see too many examples of Daniel Blake in my advice surgeries and I can tell you they are proud, working class people who have fallen on difficult times through no fault of their own.

The stark truth is that this Tory government does not care who they hurt in a wicked, heartless attack on the welfare state.

Benefit sanctions, which dock people’s benefits if they don’t follow government rules, resumed from July 1 following them being stopped amid the Covid-19 pandemic, after the Tories heartlessly refused to extend the ban on them.

At a time when unemployment has soared, when people are shielding or caring for children at home, threatening people with reducing their financial support if they don’t look for jobs is completely unacceptable.

Thousands of job losses have been announced in recent weeks and the unemployment claimant count has more than doubled to 2.8m since the Covid-19 outbreak began.

We should be promoting positive employment support to those who need it, not punitive sanctions.