You may recognise the title of this post as the name of a well-known film. I, Daniel Blake won a BAFTA two years ago for Outstanding British Film and has also secured other notable awards. And it really does deserve its accolades.
Firstly … spoiler alert! I do talk about the film in-depth here so if you want to go and watch the film first before I ruin it all, please do!! But don’t forget to come back to my post afterwards.
In case you have decided to read on and haven’t seen the film – or even if you have seen it and need to refresh your memory – the film focuses on a super genuine guy, Daniel Blake, a talented carpenter but sadly widowed. At the beginning of the film, viewers learn that he has suffered a heart attack and has been classed as unfit to return to work by his cardiac consultant.
The film follows his numerous journeys to the job centre and his interactions with staff – both helpful and unhelpful – in his quest to start claiming Employment and Support Allowance.
However, after completing a work capability assessment he is, in contrast, deemed as completely fit to work by the Department of Work and Pensions; his application for Employment and Support Allowance being declined.
While Daniel starts proceedings to appeal the decision, he has to be seen to be looking for work otherwise he forgoes the only benefit he is entitled to; jobseekers’ allowance.
During the film, we see the struggles faced by Daniel and the charming friendship he forms with Katie – a single mum of two young children going through her own ordeal. He does all he can – using his remarkable skills – to help Katie and her family. We see how he puts his expertise to good use; making toys for the children, a bookcase for Katie and even giving tips on how to keep their home warmer.
The film focuses on pride, frustration and anger but also touches on moments of humiliation experienced by Katie during instances such as visiting her local food bank and resorting to prostitution to try to afford necessities for her children.
At the end of the film, Daniel’s appeal date comes through – by this time he has sold virtually all his belongings. Katie accompanies him to the appeal and his advisor explains things look really positive for him after both his consultant and physio had given their opinions (favourable to Daniel’s case). During a visit to the toilets to freshen up just before his appeal, Daniel collapses and dies.
I don’t know anyone who didn’t have a lump in their throat at this point. It was exceptionally sad and thought-provoking.
At the funeral, Katie read the paperwork Daniel had been due to read at his appeal. This focused on his feelings of the welfare system and how it had failed him; a hard-working man who had always given to society.
The whole film got me thinking more about poverty and how many people in the UK today are struggling to make ends meet. People often seem to have the opinion that those in search of benefits are lazy or trying to cheat the system. This may be the scenario in some situations but often is not the case at all as I, Daniel Blake demonstrates.
Poverty is such a hard issue to resolve but I am adamant that food banks really help to make a difference to people’s lives. Did you know that food banks, in fact, help feed about 350,000 people in the UK each year? The statistic is shockingly high but conversely, it’s amazing that the food banks can help so many people using donations made by ordinary people like you and me. It is so easy to buy just one extra item in your weekly grocery shop and donate it to your local food bank – many supermarkets even have a donation box in store. You would be surprised how a simple donation can make a huge difference to those in need.
Some people have entered a world of poverty not necessarily due to their own actions; it’s good to be kind and help those less fortunate so let’s try and do our bit; however big or small.