This week I finally got to watch the award winning film 'I Daniel Blake'. Having already won the prestigious Palm d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival it was up for five awards at the BAFTA's and won Best British Film. I don't mind saying, nor am I ashamed to say, I needed to get the tissues out several times.
It's gritty, hard hitting and simply put. The acting really felt like these stars were people you knew or could know and the emotion, the drained look of the single Mum Kate and the frustration of the lead figure Daniel Blake are so on point.
Go to any Job Centre in any part of the country and you will see these emotions, the tiredness and the feeling of indignation at being treated like numbers instead of people. You will see jobcentre staff with coldness in their eyes and faces and a few who show the strain of having to be so cold.
That is not to say that all Job Centre staff are heartless or even a majority of them but they are under strict instructions to deal with 'clients, end users, claimants and jobless' in a certain way and they themselves may well find themselves jobless if they step outside of their strict remit. They have a script and are expected to stick to it and no tugging of heart strings on the behalf of claimants can be allowed to move them, though I have no doubt that some, most and maybe all are affected when they go home at the end of the day.
Maybe it's because I like to believe that the most cold hearted people can feel hurt when hurting others that I will not accept that staff in Job Centres enjoy putting someone on sanctions or like to see people leave worried about how long they can continue being hungry.
There is no doubt in my mind Ken Loach has captured perfectly in this film what any of us who have used the Job Centre in the past have seen and experienced. In 2010 I was made redundant and spent a year in the system, although it wasn't as draconian as it is now.
Because of the public transport in my rural county and the unreliability of the buses, I often had to phone in to say I was running late, and there was a willingness to show some leeway on timing that there simply isn't now. I certainly would have found myself sanctioned now if still being an 'end user'!
Take Kate arriving late at the Job Centre with her two children having just moved from London in the film, not knowing the area and having missed her stop, being put immediately on sanction with just £12 in her purse and facing the uncertainty of feeding her children for the next four weeks.
Her advisor did not want to know why she was late, or take into consideration the circumstances, she was late and that was the end of it! Objecting was making a scene and ejection from the premises! Problem solved, resolution reached and another box ticked. Job done!!
Daniel Blake's frustration of having to use a computer to initiate his JSA claim, having never used a computer in his life, nor having a smart phone - given no assistance in how to jump that hurdle! The Job Centre deliberately not assisting him in this essential part of setting his claim in motion.
A deliberate policy is in place that is designed to make a claimant give up and so be left off the claim register and considered employed!! How many people are considered employed when infact they are not? Having given up attempting to jump through such daunting hoops, how many are now homeless or living on the generosity of friends and relatives?
So when we hear on the mainstream media how high employment figures are since employment figures began can we really trust them? A trip to the library saw Daniel get a little help from library staff on how to use the library computers - as we all know when we first used a computer, errors are the norm, and Daniel found this out eventually being timed out.
He goes to the Job Centre to use a computer there and one Job Centre staff member risks and earns a reprimand for helping him........not her job, apparently!! Even with this help Daniel hits the same brick wall. Eventually we see Daniel get his application started thanks to his young neighbour who does it on his home computer.
Thank you DWP. Let's be clear, the DWP sets out to make people caught in this terribly cruel system fail, especially the generation that never had computers in their school days. I was born in 1959 and did not see my first home computer until 1998 - the first time I used one was well into the millennium, and brother did it scare me! Imagine finding yourself suddenly out of work and needing to use one for the first time ever to get assistance just to keep a roof over your head and food in your belly?
In case you haven't seen the film I will not give anymore away, except to say there was a scene that has inspired me to encourage the Prole Star to include a new feature...... A Charity feature on how to best advise you, our readers who can and do donate, to make a better impact. Things you may not have even considered before.......
The scene is when Kate goes to her local food bank where she is greeted warmly and treated like a human being. A volunteer is loading groceries into carrier bags and Kate asks for sanitary towels, an essential for dignity and hygiene any woman will attest to, but the foodbank does not have them - the volunteer does not know why but they simply don't have them.
This got me thinking whilst shopping in my nearest Sainsbury's yesterday. As is the norm I always spend a bit extra on items to place in the donation box on the way out......usually it's tins of beans and soup, but yesterday I remembered the scene I just mentioned.
Supermarkets are being recruited to give surplus stock to foodbanks rather than their waste skips, but food items whilst still appreciated and needed are not on their own enough...... Sanitary towels are needed desperately as are everyday toiletries. Cleaning products and toilet tissue most definitely too.
So if the Editor approves this new feature I hope I and some of our other contributors and writers will offer advice on how best to see your generosity is the best it can be in making a difference.
The intention too is to feature help centres in our towns and cities around the country to give these centres some much needed publicity and feature what it is they are doing, their aims and goals.....what makes them different or if they have just opened their doors and simply want the word spread in their locality.
So next time you are shopping and intend to give something, here are some alternative items you may like to add instead of your usual food items:
Sanitary Towels, Wet Wipes, Toothpaste, Toothbrushes, Shampoo, Soap powder, Toilet Tissue, Washing Up Liquid,
It's probably pertinent to tell you that these types of items are not included in the allowance on food parcels..... often they are on a separate table so recipients can just help themselves to them..... Thank you for giving, we love you. If you enjoyed this article please share far and wide on social media just a small way in which you can help those who need help to get help.