Universal Credit system used to punish poor and vulnerable says film director Ken Loach

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By Noel McAdam – reporting for VIEWdigital

Universal Credit is being used to further punish the most poor and vulnerable people in society, the film maker Ken Loach has warned.

With the new welfare system still being rolled out across Northern Ireland, the veteran director insisted Universal Credit is “wholly wrong”.

Speaking in Belfast, Loach – who has long been a critic of governments on social welfare policies – said: “It’s all about the society we want to create and how we treat vulnerable people.”

He told VIEWdigital: “Universal Credit has and is being used to further punish people who are vulnerable, who are unemployed and who have fallen foul of some minor requirement of the bureaucratic system.

“It is all about humiliating vulnerable people and criminalising the poor and it’s wholly wrong. We need to have a system which helps and protects people who need it.”

Now aged 82, Loach is a firm supporter of the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and told a number of events across Belfast there is a “possibility” a new Labour government may prove able to effect real change in society including on social welfare.

He said he believes Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell have the creation of jobs through a programme of public investment “at the front of their minds.”

Film director Ken Loach in conversation with Eilish Rooney, Ulster University, at the Feile An Phobail event in St Mary’s College, west Beldast

The director is in Belfast to receive a special award for his contribution to cinema from the city’s film festival but appeared first at an event in St Mary’s University College, west Belfast, as a guest of Feile an Phobail, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary.

He faced a barrage of questions from a packed audience – and would do so again later at the Movie House on Dublin Road – many of which focussed on Britain’s involvement in the weekend attacks on Syria.

He said he is concerned about President Trump but could not decide “whether he is unstable or is simply playing the game of acting unstable.

“Putin is equally ruthless and the actions of neither of them reflects well on the countries they are supposed to be leading.”

He said he believed Prime Minister Theresa May agreed to join in the attacks because “there was a chance she would have been voted down in Parliament

“United Kingdom governments see themselves as dependent on the United States. if they say jump, we jump,” Loach added.

At the later event one woman who described herself as suffering from complex mental problems rose to her feet to thank the director for his most recent movie I,Daniel Blake which centred on the impact of the new welfare system on individuals.

Loach said the gesture meant a lot to him and added: “I do actually feel there is something in the air.

“There is anger and determination and a feeling people are not prepared to go on being humiliated. We cannot go on treating people with such cruelty.”

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