Ken Loach at I, Daniel Blake stage premiere: 'Hunger is now used as a weapon'

Ken Loach at the Cannes Film Festival Credit: PA

The film director Ken Loach has told ITV News Tyne Tees that "hunger is now used as a weapon" against people.

Mr Loach, who produced the award-winning film I, Daniel Blake, said things have got worse since his film sparked a debate about Britain's benefits system in 2016.

The government said it has helped two million people out of poverty since 2010 and is continuing to support struggling families.

Speaking at the premiere of the stage adaptation of the film at Newcastle's Northern Stage, he took aim at both the Conservatives and Labour, claiming "we’ve got a real problem with political representation".

He said: "Hunger is now used as a weapon. If you don’t take the job that’s offered, however poor the wages, however harsh the conditions, you will go hungry. That’s the state this country has reached.

I, Daniel Blake stage adaptation Credit: ITV News

"The film was called fiction when it first came out. We know that’s not true. They know it’s not true and we know they know.

"Why aren’t we more angry about that?

"It is such an extraordinary outrage that the government knows what is going on, they know the poverty they are inflicting on good people by denying them the benefits they’re due and we know also that food bank use has increased 50% in the last 12 months. 50%."

Drawing on the amount of food banks now in circulation and they types of people now using them, Loach said things have got worse since his film seven years ago.

He said: "Most people who go there are working. You meet people working in the NHS. People whose jobs you would think would pay a good wage to feed themselves and their family and it isn’t."

A Government spokesperson said: "We have helped nearly two million people out of absolute poverty since 2010 and have launched a £94billion support package worth around £3,300 per household to help those most in need.

"We know people are struggling which is why we have also raised benefits by 10.1%, increased the National Living Wage and are holding down energy bills."

With a general election expected next year, he said he is concerned that whoever secures the keys to Number 10 will not be committed enough to support people struggling in the benefits system.

He said: "I think we’ve got a real problem with political representation, because Starmer’s Labour Party doesn’t speak about this.

"He hasn’t even committed to ending the punishing sanctions on people who have got nothing and to knowingly put the people of this country into poverty and hunger, we shouldn’t have to organise against that, and that’s why it’s so brilliant the play is being done."

ITV News have contacted the Labour Party, but is still awaiting a response.

Dave Turner played the lead role on The Old Oak, Ken Loach's latest film. Credit: Sixteen Films/ITV News

Fresh off the plane from the Cannes Film Festival in France, where his new film, The Old Oak, received a standing ovation, Loach explained how it highlights social issues impacting a North East community chosen by the government to house Syrian refugees.

Asked why he chose to base both films in the North East, he said: "Because it crystallises so much that has happened, the old industries now gone, a culture formed in struggle.

"The North Eastern voice is just strong, funny, confident and so we always thought we’d work here and it’s been a brilliant place to work, brilliant."

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