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I, Daniel Blake

March 3, 2018

IDB 2Widower Daniel Blake, a 59-year-old joiner living in Newcastle, has had a heart attack at work. Though his cardiologist has not allowed him to return to work, Daniel is deemed fit to do so after a work capability assessment and denied employment and support allowance. He is frustrated to learn that his doctor was not contacted about the decision, and applies for an appeal, a process he finds difficult because he must complete forms online and is not computer literate.

Daniel befriends single mother Katie after she is sanctioned for arriving late for a jobcentre appointment. Katie and her children have just moved to Newcastle from a London homeless persons’ hostel, as there is no affordable accommodation available in London. Daniel helps the family by repairing objects, teaching them how to heat rooms without electricity and crafting wooden toys for the children.

During a visit to a food bank, Katie is overcome by hunger and breaks down. After she is caught shoplifting at a supermarket, a security guard offers her work as a prostitute. Daniel surprises her at the brothel, where he begs her to give up the job, but she tearfully insists she has no other choice to feed her children.

As a condition for receiving jobseeker’s allowance, Daniel must keep looking for work. He refuses a job at a scrapyard because his doctor will not allow him to work yet. When Daniel’s work coach tells him he must work harder to find a job or be sanctioned, Daniel spraypaints “I, Daniel Blake, demand my appeal date before I starve” on the building. He earns the support of passersby, including other benefits claimants, but is arrested and warned by the police. Daniel sells most of his belongings and becomes withdrawn.

On the day of Daniel’s appeal, Katie accompanies him to court. A welfare adviser tells Daniel that his case looks sound. On glimpsing the judge and doctor who will decide his case, Daniel becomes anxious and visits the lavatory, where he suffers a heart attack and dies. At his public health funeral, Katie reads the eulogy, including the speech Daniel had intended to read at his appeal. The speech describes his feelings about how the welfare system failed him by treating him like a dog instead of a man proud to have paid his dues to society.

Will people believe this? Those who’ve been through the system know it’s true. Supporters of the Tories will say that Daniel could have worked, given all the chores he helped Katie with.

IDBFrom the end credits: «A very special thanks to workers within the DWP [Department for Work and Pensions] and PCS [Public and Commercial Services] Union who provided us with invaluable information but who must remain anonymous.»

In the film Daniel is offered a drink from the water cooler in the Jobcentre. Water coolers were removed from jobcentres in 2010 as part of the Tory cuts.

Included among the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”, edited by Steven Schneider.

The woman helping Hayley Squires’ character, Katie, in the much-discussed food bank scene was not an actor – she worked in the food bank, and was not told what was going to happen in the scene.

Amanda the Health Care Professional: Good morning, Mr Blake. My name’s Amanda. I’ve got a couple of questions here for you today to establish your eligibility for Employment Support Allowance. It won’t take up much of your time. Could I just ask firstly, can you walk more than 50 metres unassisted by any other person?

Daniel: Yes.

Amanda the Health Care Professional: Okay… Can you raise either arm as if to put something in your top pocket?

Daniel: I’ve filled this in already on your 52-page form.

Amanda the Health Care Professional: Yeah, I can see that you have but, unfortunately, I couldn’t make out what you had said there.

Daniel: Yes.

Amanda the Health Care Professional: Can you raise either arm to the top of your head as if you are putting on a hat?

Daniel: I’ve telt you, there’s nowt wrong with me arms and legs.

Amanda the Health Care Professional: Could you just answer the question, please.

Daniel: Well, you’ve got me medical records… Can we just talk about me heart?

Amanda the Health Care Professional: D’you think you could just answer these questions?

Daniel: Okay.

Amanda the Health Care Professional: So was that a yes, that you can put a hat on your head?

Daniel: Yes.

Amanda the Health Care Professional: Okay, that’s great… Can you press a button such as a telephone keypad?

Daniel: There’s nowt wrong with me fingers either… I mean, we’re getting farther and farther away from me heart.

Amanda the Health Care Professional: If we could just keep to these questions, thank you… Do you have any significant difficulty conveying a simple message to strangers?

Daniel: Yes. Yes, it’s me fucking heart. I’m trying to tell you but you’ll not listen.

Amanda the Health Care Professional: Mr Blake, if you continue to speak to us like that that’s not gonna be very helpful for your assessment… If you could just answer the question, please.

Daniel: Yes.

Amanda the Health Care Professional: Okay… Do you ever experience any loss of control leading to extensive evacuation of the bowel?

Daniel: No. But I cannot guarantee there won’t be a first if we didn’t get to the point.

Amanda the Health Care Professional: Can you complete a simple task of setting an alarm clock?

Daniel: Oh, Jesus. Yes… Can I ask you a question? Are you medically qualified?

Amanda the Health Care Professional: I’m a health care professional appointed by the Department of Work and Pensions to carry out assessments for Employment and Support Allowance.

Daniel: But there was a bloke out in the, er, in the waiting room, he says that you work for an American company.

Amanda the Health Care Professional: Our company’s been appointed by the Government.

Daniel: Are you a nurse? Are you a doctor?

Amanda the Health Care Professional: I’m a health care professional.

Daniel: Listen, I’ve had a major heart attack. I nearly fell off the scaffolding. I wanna get back to work, too… Now, please, can we talk about me heart? Forget about me arse, that works a dream.

[last lines] Katie: They call this a “pauper’s funeral” because it’s the cheapest slot, at 9:00. But Dan wasn’t a pauper to us. He gave us things that money can’t buy. When he died, I found this on him. He always used to write in pencil. And he wanted to read it at his appeal but he never got the chance to. And I swear that this lovely man, had so much more to give, and that the State drove him to an early grave. And this is what he wrote. “I am not a client, a customer, nor a service user. “I am not a shirker, a scrounger, a beggar, nor a thief. “I’m not a National Insurance Number or blip on a screen. “I paid my dues, never a penny short, and proud to do so. “I don’t tug the forelock, but look my neighbour in the eye and help him if I can. “I don’t accept or seek charity. “My name is Daniel Blake. I am a man, not a dog. “As such, I demand my rights. “I demand you treat me with respect.

Job Centre Floor Manager: There’s a special number if you’ve been diagnosed as dyslexic.

Daniel: Right, can you give us that ‘coz with computers, I’m dyslexic.

Job Centre Floor Manager: You’ll find it online sir.

Daniel: It’s a monumental farce, isn’t it? You sitting there with your friendly name tag on your chest, Ann, opposite a sick man looking for nonexistent jobs, that I can’t take anyway. Wasting my time, employers’ time, your time. And all it does is humiliate me, grind me down. Or is that the point, to get my name off those computers? Well, I’m not doing it any more. I’ve had enough. I want my date for my appointment for my appeal for Employment and Support.

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