Housing staff shown special screening of I, Daniel Blake

24 March 2017

On a drizzly Wednesday morning, nearly 100 employees from New Charter Homes in Ashton-under-Lyne attended a special showing of I, Daniel Blake, Ken Loach’s seminal 2016 film depicting the devastating effects that some of the recent welfare reforms have been reaping on ordinary people.

 

The matinee screening of the BAFTA winning film was held at Hyde Town Hall and was organised by New Charter at the request of their Chief Executive Ian Munro. He said; “I wanted us to have a collective chance to see the movie to help raise our awareness of the sort of experiences people are having with the way in which support from the state is turning into a struggle.”

 

The film follows Daniel Blake, a joiner who despite having a heart attack and being told not to return to work by his doctor, is deemed fit to work after a work capability assessment. He befriends a struggling single mother after she receives a sanction for being minutes late for an interview with the job centre.

 

Although it is a work of fiction, many of the scenarios in the film are based on real-life stories, and many of New Charter’s tenants have found themselves in similar situations, having to rely on food banks or choosing between ‘heating or eating’ since the various welfare reforms have been introduced.

 

For example, a recent report showed that nearly 81% of New Charter’s tenants who claim Universal Credit have experienced an increase in rent arrears. This figure is expected to increase once Universal Credit is rolled out across the region, and will be compounded by other reforms such as the benefit cap and the cap of housing benefit to the LHA (local housing allowance) rate.

 

Julie Vickers, Director of Revenues at Jigsaw Group added: “Many of our customer facing staff come into contact with tenants in similar situations to the characters in I, Daniel Blake on a daily basis but it still served as a powerful reminder of the struggles many find themselves in. Our job is not just to collect rent, but to work with tenants to help them cope with benefit cuts and this film really reinforces the importance of common sense and compassion when doing so.”

 

Karen Duncan, a Communications Officer who attended the screening said: “It was a very moving film and I think, no matter what our job is here at New Charter, there were lots of things for us to take away and learn from; especially that ultimately, our tenants are people with their own stories to tell.”

Although the screening was free of charge, a collection bucket went round raising money for local food banks, raising £35 and counting.