Last week a group of campaigners came to the Scottish Parliament to raise awareness of the impact of sanctions on people who rely on social security because they have very low incomes. I agreed to meet with the campaigners and hear the issues they were raising. One of the campaigners used a tin of spray paint to write across a large sheet the words ‘I Daniel Blake’ and asked MSPs to sign the sheet.
At the weekend, I went to the cinema in Dunfermline to see the Ken Loach film ‘I Daniel Blake’ and I would very much urge people to take the opportunity to watch this film. Some had told me they left the cinema in tears after watching the film, others with a real sense of anger, personally I think I felt both.
The film focusses on the lives of people who have found themselves in the position of needing to apply for social security. One man could not work till he was medically able to do so after having a heart attack, and a family who were homeless and were forced to move several hundred miles to get a roof over their head. The Tory welfare reforms are very much in evidence in this film and the use of sanctions are a key feature of the new approach to Tory welfare in our country.
The media has over several years demonised people who access benefits and is perhaps one of the reasons why the Tories thought it was OK to introduce such draconian and inhume practices as those on show in the film. Very few of us can ever say with absolute certainty that we will never be in a position where we need some help or one of our family members or friends will be; and yet we have allowed the Tories supported by the Liberals to drive people into despair and for the first time in almost a century bring about absolute poverty for men, women and children in communities up and down the country.
I commend everyone who gives to foodbanks but surely it is not right that in 2016 Scotland people are reliant on charity to meet the basic need of feeding themselves. The Scottish Parliament is in the process to take control of certain areas of social security and I will work with anyone who aims to build a new social security system built on fairness and respect that treats people with decency and dignity. I believe that everyone who can work should be given the help and support to work in decent paid jobs and this must be a key goal. But for those who are unable to work like Daniel Blake in this film, they must be supported and treated like human beings with respect and with dignity.
I would urge you go and see the film, it is powerful, it highlights why we need change and why we must reject Tory welfare reforms and sanctions. ‘I Daniel Blake’ we are all Daniel Blake.