‘Conscious cruelty’: Ken Loach’s shock at benefit sanctions and food banks: ‘Hunger is being used as a weapon,’ says veteran director, calling for public rage over situation he says is worse than when he made Cathy Come Home in 1966

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‘Hunger is being used as a weapon,’ says veteran director, calling for public rage over situation he says is worse than when he made Cathy Come Home in 1966

Ken Loach on the set of his new film I, Daniel Blake.
Photograph: Joss Barratt/Sixteen Films Ken Loach on the set of his new film I, Daniel Blake.

The present system is one of conscious cruelty,’ Loach said. ‘It bears down on those least able to bear it.’

Ken Loach has said there needs to be more public outrage around benefit sanctions and the reliance on food banks, with the situation much worse for working people than when he made his seminal film Cathy Come Home, in 1966.

The veteran film-maker rarely speaks while developing a project but is so deeply concerned about government policy on benefits and the sanctions regime that he gave an interview to the Guardian on the set of his latest film.

Loach, 79, is shooting what may be his last film, I, Daniel Blake, based on the writer Paul Laverty’s research of jobcentres, benefit sanctions and food banks. It tells the story of Blake, who has worked for years as a joiner but is then forced to give up work and claim benefits. “The present system is one of conscious cruelty,” Loach said. “It bears down on those least able to bear it. The bureaucratic inefficiency is vindictive and hunger is being used as a weapon. People are being forced to look for work that doesn’t exist.”

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