In January 2017, Participation and the Practice of Rights and the Right to Work: Right to Welfare group (R2W), in partnership with the Golden Thread Gallery and Cumann Scannán Loch Lao held two screenings of  I, Daniel Blake, as part of the Out to Lunch Festival

The Right to Work; Right to Welfare group were given special permission by Ken Loach and Sixteen Films to screen the award winning film in Belfast. The icing on the cake was this wonderful personal message of support from Ken which was read to the packed audiences of over 200 people at both events. The screenings were a huge success and have lead to another screening in Armagh and potential screenings in Derry and Coleraine in support of the Right to Work Right to Welfare group.

This week I Daniel Blake won the prize for Best British Film at the Bafta Film Awards 2017. Ken Loach's tour de force, earned five Bafta nominations in total and has won the coveted Palme D'Or at Cannes last year. 

I Daniel Blake captures what the R2W group of unemployed activists have heard from thousands of people at every dole office in Belfast over four years of organising and campaigning for REAL JOBS NOW! and the #PeoplesProposal.  The screenings were held to build support for the #PeoplesProposal campaign for due process and impact assessment for the sick, disabled and unemployed facing benefit sanctions. The scale of welfare sanctions is growing and set to get worse with the collapse of the Assembly following the recent RHI scandal.

Those attending the screenings were saddened and angered at the reality of the scale and severity of benefits sanctions the conscious cruelty of the system itself as portrayed in the film and as was explained by R2W group members.

Following the screening the group discussed their experience and the R2W campaign to challenge the unfair welfare sanctions system. Over 200 letters were signed for the now ‘unemployed’ MLA’s running for election on March 2nd – The letters offer advice and solidarity and support to any who may not get their jobs back. For those who are lucky enough to be elected the letters call on MLA’s to ensure the #PeoplesProposal is implemented to protect the sick, disabled and unemployed from the cruel sanctions without due process or impact assessment. The MLAs will receive their ‘dreaded brown envelopes’ this week.

In her last speech to the Assembly before it fell in January 2017 the First Minister Arlene Foster strongly defended herself against allegations of corruption and negligence linked to the RHI heating scheme scandal which could cost the public half a billion pounds. She said;‘Would you tolerate for one second action being taken against a constituent on the basis of utterly unsubstantiated allegations? I sincerely hope you wouldn’t.’ Check out our short film here.

From June 2015 - August 2016 11,230 decisions were made by 88 government decision makers to remove Employment and Support allowance from the sick and disabled. From April – June 2016 the monthly average of sanctions imposed by 51 government decision makers on Job Seekers was 942. These actions were taken against the most vulnerable people in our society without due process or impact assessment. A recent FOI revealed that the Department do not even monitor the impact of sanctions on families with children. 

R2W launched the #PeoplesProposal campaign in March 2016 following four years of surveying the impact of benefit sanctions at Belfast dole offices. The People Proposal calls for simple safeguards which can be implemented locally to guarantee due process and impact assessment. To date it has been supported by MLAs from the Ulster Unionist Party, Social Democratic Labour Party, Green Party, People Before Profit, the Sinn Féin Mayor of Derry, the Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (trade union representing socials security agency staff), Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, 1000 unemployed people and wide range of advice and support agencies.

Below are some media pieces from our screenings in Belfast.

Interview by NVTV Ciaran O’Brolchain

Short news piece 'I Daniel Blake at Golden Thread Gallery

Irish News article