An important commitment to benefit claimants from Shadow Work and Pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams.
Her use of the word “transform” may ring alarm bells, as it is the catchword used by private consultants when they change government systems without making them better.
I’ve known Ms Abrahams long enough to believe she means Labour will change the system for the better.
This is a promise to achieve that – and for government to stop letting UK citizens down. You can hold her to it.
To describe our current social security system, following six years of Conservative ‘reform’, as Kafkaesque sounds prosaic. Yet I, Daniel Blake by Ken Loach shows us how in this case the description rings perfectly true. Despite having been employed as a carpenter his whole working life, Daniel faces a seemingly endless maze of barriers in making his claim for support after suffering a heart attack, with ‘advice’ delivered to him in rushed jobcentre interviews. He is told that he must sign a claimant commitment for jobseekers allowance and spend hours seeking work, despite his doctor stating he is unfit for work and still in recovery.
This is not news to those of us trying to support people through the system. In 2014, a constituent of mine suffered a heart attack midway through a DWP work capability assessment. He was rushed to hospital, only to find a letter telling him he had been sanctioned and his payments stopped for failing to complete the assessment when he arrived back home.
Sadly, his case is one of many thousands that I have received since being elected to Parliament. Loach’s depiction of the frustration caused by a social security system administered through faceless ‘decision-makers’ will be recognised by the many who have, through sickness or ill health, been forced to rely on it. The despair felt by many as their determination to fight the bureaucratic system ebbs away as ever greater hurdles are placed in their way is something I sadly see every day.
I believe there is a better way and a fairer way. I don’t want people who have paid into the system all their life, but then need support having become sick or disabled to be made to feel worthless and dehumanised by a state that should be there to support them.
Labour will transform the whole social security system. But fundamentally, I want to change how our social security system is perceived. The government has used the poisonous “shirker” and “scrounger” language to vilify people on social security as the new undeserving poor.
That’s why I used the trailer for I, Daniel Blake at the start of my Conference speech last month. The film brings the consequences of the Government’s current policies to full public attention. No longer should people who are ill and disabled be left to fight the system alone. We must all stand together to ensure that there are no more Daniel Blakes.
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This rather direct rant is on Facebook today – all of us know of similar cases.
WELFARE ADVISOR’S response to I, Daniel Blake
“I, Joanne Ritson am a welfare rights advisor. I help all the Daniel (& Daniella) Blakes caught up in what Ken Loach has called this Government’s conscious cruelty.
Conscious cruelty that finds women fit for work for the “crime” of missing Jobcentre appointments whilst in hospital. One woman in a diabetic coma, another with a near fatal dose of pneumonia.
Conscious cruelty that tells frightened pensioners to cancel their home insurance to pay back pension credit overpayments (due to DWP error) or they will be sent to prison.
Conscious cruelty that finds a young man fit for work after “recovering from hospital treatment”. (He’d had his leg amputated six weeks earlier).
Conscious cruelty which (on the 1st anniversary of her husband’s death) takes away a 60 year old woman’s bereavement allowance, makes her go & sign on to look for work and charges her bedroom tax.
Conscious cruelty which leaves vulnerable people with nothing with which to pay their bills or feed themselves or their families for weeks or months on end.
Conscious cruelty that wrongly denies old men with terminal lung cancer industrial injuries disablement benefit because removing old, decaying asbestos insulation isn’t classed as “asbestos insulation work” so they “don’t qualify”.
Conscious cruelty that “loses” paperwork, or delays decision making for so long that people die before they get the money that should rightly have been theirs.
Conscious cruelty that forces these & many many more of my clients through degrading assessments, pointless mandatory reconsiderations and appeal hearings in the hope that they will give up – which they often do.
What Ken Loach calls conscious cruelty, the Tories call “making work pay”
I, Joanne Ritson am a welfare rights advisor.”
Please feel free to copy & share.