Is ‘I Daniel Blake’ close to Luton reality?

As well as short term needs, 30% of people visit because of changes to their benefits.  Other reasons vary, from having a disability to seeking asylum. (Asylum is very low percentage).  Photo: Mosque food drive, January 2017.

As well as short term needs, 30% of people visit because of changes to their benefits. Other reasons vary, from having a disability to seeking asylum. (Asylum is very low percentage). Photo: Mosque food drive, January 2017.

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As Luton residents fought back their tears at a recent Hat Factory film screening of ‘I, Daniel Blake’, a food bank worker shares its parallels with reality.

‘I, Daniel Blake’, tells the story of two friends, a middle-aged carpenter and an unmarried mother, depicting their frustrating journey through the benefits system, and an urgent food bank visit.

Hearts went out to mother-of-two, ‘Katie’, as she was relocated to Newcastle from a homeless persons’ hostel in London, with no affordable accommodation in the capital.

Salma Khan, project co-ordinator at Luton Foodbank, explains: “That was one point in the film that I could relate to, because we helped a lady with a four-month-old baby who was moved to Luton by another local authority, without enough advice or support from her previous council .

“It was difficult for her to receive benefits, because she had not lived in Luton for long.

“We also had another lady who had been abused by her ex-partner and ‘wouldn’t have survived’ without the food bank. She said that it didn’t matter whether you were hard up or a millionaire - anyone could be a victim of abuse.”

As Salma explains, 33% of clients use the food bank for short-term needs, such as a bereavement, being the victim of abuse, a partner leaving, or having to make an unexpected cash payment.

Luton Foodbank have connections with schools, councils, and homelessness charities, who can refer people if they are in need of help.

Clients have to be assessed to get a voucher and can access support from Citizen Advice from each distribution centre.

Salma says: “I think half the people we help are families and half are single men.

“We can give them food items and there are sanitary products available too, so we were already aware of the need for sanitary towels before the film highlighted it.

“People think we give out anything, however, there is an assessment process, and only five visits to the food bank are allowed per year - obviously we do help if it is an emergency. 87% of people only use the food bank once or twice in a year - they are not dependent .

“But I don’t want people thinking it’s not for them - just pick up the phone!”

Call: 01582 725838.