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Campaigners chain themselves to railings as new Ken Loach film prompts protest against benefit sanctions

Campaigners say benefit sanctions are harsh and unfair. Credit: ITV News

Campaigners have chained themselves to railings in Gateshead and Stockton this morning, to protest against benefit sanctions.

They say the practice of stopping benefit payments, for missing meetings or failing to actively look for work, is excessively harsh and pushes many people into poverty - and are calling for a full independent review into the system.

The demonstrations are being held on the day that the film I, Daniel Blake, is released in cinemas. Directed by Ken Loach, it was filmed and set on Tyneside, and criticises the welfare system, and particularly the use of sanctions. It was already won the prestigious Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

The protest in Stockton. Campaign placard reads: #WeAreAllDanielBlake Credit: ITV News

The Department for Work and Pensions says:

This is one person's artistic interpretation of the benefits system. We have transformed Job centres for the better, and recently announced that people with lifelong, severe health conditions will no longer have to be continually reassessed for their benefits.

Our staff are committed to helping people who are able to work find a job, and we spend around £90bn on working age benefits to ensure a strong safety net for those who need it most.

– Spokesman, Department for Work and Pensions
Campaigners in Gateshead are calling for a review of the sanctions policy. Credit: ITV News

Guidelines from the DWP on keeping your benefit payment:

Once you start to get benefit payment, this will continue as long as you:

- are available for work and agree to do the things in your Claimant Commitment (Jobseeker’s Agreement)

- go to meetings on time with your work coach and take part in interviews

- apply for suitable jobs your work coach tells you about

- do everything your work coach tells you to do to find work, such as attending a training course or updating your CV

- take part in employment schemes when your work coach tells you to - you’ll need to:

- meet your employment scheme provider on time and do the things they tell you to do to find work

- still meet your work coach and do what they tell you to do

- do all you can to find work

– DWP website