Charlie Swinbourne: What of the ‘Daniel Blakes’ who are Deaf? (BSL)

Posted on November 4, 2016

Last Sunday, I went to the cinema to see the new film I, Daniel Blake. It’s directed by one of my favourite directors, Ken Loach, who often makes films about people who find themselves in difficult situations, and this film is no exception.

Watch Charlie signing his article on the video below, or scroll down to continue in English.

I, Daniel Blake is about a man who has had a heart attack, and that means he is too ill to work – although he can walk around and talk to people.  He has to take time and rest before he can return to work.

His problem is that when he tries to get benefits to support himself, he’s told because he is too ill to work, he can’t claim Jobseekers Allowance. He has to apply for Employment and Support Allowance.

But when he’s interviewed for Employment and Support Allowance, his illness doesn’t match their criteria. He is interviewed and is asked if he can walk a certain distance – and he says yes.

He’s also asked other questions that he says yes to. The film shows how his heart problem doesn’t match the criteria and so Daniel Blake is stuck, unable to get either benefit.

The film shows how he suffers, because he can’t buy food or pay his bills.

There’s also another character, a woman who is young with children, who has moved to the area. When she goes to her benefits appointment she is late, and because of that she loses her benefits and is unable to buy food for her children.

The film sounds depressing and sad, but it’s funny as well. The characters are really warm and nice, with good humour.

In the past, I’ve read newspaper reports about similar situations, of problems people have in claiming benefits and the effects on them. Lots of stories that match the film.

But what the film does is bring those stories to life, through drama, making the people seem real, rather than just stories we read about. It made a big impact on me.

After the film, I was driving home, and I was thinking about Deaf people in similar circumstances, because the film showed how hard it is for hearing people, but if you’re Deaf and communication is difficult, it’s harder to ask questions or challenge people. It made me wonder how Deaf people might cope.

Just last week, I read about how the government is trying to cut £29 per week from Employment and Support Allowance for Deaf and disabled people, which is only going to make it more difficult for them.

I recommend watching the film as soon as you can. I saw it with subtitles, so the availability is out there. I hope you watch it soon.

Find out about subtitled screenings of I, Daniel Blake by visiting the film’s page on the Your Local Cinema website here:

Charlie is the editor of Limping Chicken, as well as being an award-winning filmmaker. He directed the comedies The Kiss and Four Deaf Yorkshiremen go to Blackpool, and three instalments of the documentary series Found. As a journalist, he has written for the Guardian and BBC Online, and he is currently working on a new two-part comedy programme.

The Limping Chicken is the world's most popular Deaf blog, and is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne. 

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