I, Daniel Blake director, Ken Loach, has backed the Evening Times Save Our Jobcentres campaign.
The multiple-award winning filmmaker said the plan to shut half the city’s jobcentres was further proof of a conscious campaign to “humiliate and degrade” those suffering poverty.
The film, which charts the experience a middle aged man and a young single mother navigating the benefits system, struck a chord with people who have experience of benefits cuts and those who have suffered sanctions.
Speaking exclusively to the Evening Times, Mr Loach said the DWP and how Jobcentres work must change but they should absolutely be in the communities where they are needed most.
He said: “It is clearly a continuation of the policy of humiliating, degrading and making life more difficult for the most vulnerable. They are pursuing it with conscious cruelty. You see it in the treatment of people who for almost always reasons beyond their control out of work or unable to work.
“The policy is designed to show the poor poverty is their fault.
The purpose is to get people off the system. The jargon they use is ‘reduce the footfall’.”
Speaking about the Evening Times campaign to save our Jobcentres, Mr Loach added: “I would certainly support it. It has to come with a change of culture too.”
It is feared that the closure plan will increase the number of people who are sanctioned as they have to travel further to meet appointments.
The director, who has directed films that have pricked the social conscience of the nation since his TV film Cathy Come Home in 1966, witnessed the impact sanctions have on people during research for his latest film.
He said: “We know people are desperate. We’ve seen people with no food in their fridge, parents going hungry for days and mothers feeding their children biscuits.
“The rise in food bank use is directly linked to sanctions. The figures from one food bank group is 1,100,000 last year and half of them are people with children.”
Speaking about Iain Duncan Smith, the former Work and Pensions Secretary and architect of the welfare reform agenda ,but not speaking his name, Mr Loach added:”
“It is the result of the b****rd idea of that one man. If there is one man who should be excoriated it is him.”
He blasted the Prime Minister, Theresa May for continuing the austerity and welfare reform policy and poured scorn on her recent attempts at connecting with people who are struggling.
Mr Loach added: “I heard Theresa May speak while I was driving this morning. It was nauseating her pretence of caring about inequality and people who are suffering unfairly. It is a cruel ploy to get votes.”
Mr Loach is very familiar with Glasgow having set many of his films and documentaries here and his long term collaborator screen writer, Paul Laverty is from the city.
The DWP proposal is to close jobcentres in Anniesland, Bridgeton Castlemilk, Easterhouse Langside, Maryhill and Parkhead.
Some of them are home to communities which rank among the highest in the UK for unemployment, and for deprivation and where food bank use is already high.
In the credits for I, Daniel Blake, Maryhill Food Bank is mentioned.
It is believed a scene where a mum is so hungry she opens a can of baked beans and begins eating them with her hands, is based on a true account of an incident at the food bank.
Having seen how many people are treated, Mr Loach says the way Jobcentres operate needs to change from a place where people are punished to where they get help.
He added: “We need a different culture at Jobcentres. At the moment the Jobcentre can’t tell you where the jobs are free. That has to change it has to be a place where people get support.”
But he was certain they should not be closed and people forced to travel miles incurring additional costs.
He added: “Currently it is a continuation of the policy of punishment. They see it as their job to punish and make it harder for people. The real policy is not to help.
“If the Jobcentre is there to help people then of course they should be in these communities.
“It is plain common sense the Jobcentres need to be in the place where they are needed most.
“If there are going to really support people and smooth the path to employment of course they should be nearby.”
Much of I Daniel Blake focuses on work capability assessments, where officials often declare people fit for work even when their GP or a specialist has said they are not.
Mr Loach said that the final decision should be taken by medically qualified professionals.
He added: “They are so plainly unfair and wrong. We should trust the judgement of the doctors who we trust with our lives.”
The DWP is consulting on three of the closures, Bridgeton Castlemilk and Maryhill because of the longer distances.
The public can respond via firstname.lastname@example.org or by post to Etta Wright, District Manager’s Office, Public consultation, 1st Floor, Laurieston Jobcentre 159-181 Pollockshaws Road, Glasgow, G41 1PW