Written by Jojo Sutherland


Am I complicit?

Jojo Sutherland saw I, Daniel Blake because her friend was in it. But it’s left her with questions about her role in this mess we’re in.

Dave Johns in I, Daniel Blake. Photo: eOne Films.

Dave Johns in I, Daniel Blake. Photo: eOne Films.

I think I’m a good person. I regularly donate to food banks, give money to the homeless, perform for free for charity events and generally try to be a good friend. But I also own countless Apple products, drink Starbucks and purchase goods made by Nestlé.

I think I’m a good person but I also think I’m part of the problem. Until now I’ve never really considered that it’s my fault because I AM A GOOD PERSON. Surely buying the odd soya café latte doesn’t make me culpable? Does it really make any difference if I purchase an Aero? What is so bad about me voting, via an app, for my favourite to win X Factor?

I watched a film last week – a preview screening of I, Daniel Blake, a film I was excited to see because my friends are in it. A film that I, and many of my comedy counterparts, have been living vicariously through as it feels good to see a fellow comic get success. That hasn’t changed one bit, but my outlook has, so dramatically that I felt the need to write this.

I sat in a packed cinema with tears pouring down my face while witnessing the frustration of a man trying to get help from the state after suffering a heart attack, only to be thwarted and ultimately denied that help. I wept with rage at a single mother losing her dignity and pride because she couldn’t afford to feed her children, a scenario I was familiar with 20 years ago. But 20 years ago, the system worked to help me get back on my feet.

I sobbed with utter despair that ordinary men and women employed by the Department of Work and Pensions would actively be a block to helping the most vulnerable and needy. Why? Why would you agree to be complicit in a system you know is denying your fellow humans their basic needs?

“Surveys have shown that the public think £24 out of every £100 is claimed fraudulently, compared with actual official figures that show it is in fact £0.70 per £100.”

I asked that question to the writer of the screenplay, Paul Laverty. He explained how, during the research for the film he was helped by many people working within the system and added, despite the Government’s denial of targets, that there were targets and a certain number of sanctions that needed to occur each week.

Why? Why would employees help the government mete out this travesty? Fear is the answer: fear of speaking up, the fear of losing your job if you take a stand.

He also explained the public perception of benefit fraud, the stigma attached to claiming benefits and the assumption by many that people who claim are scroungers.

Surveys have shown that the public think £24 out of every £100 is claimed fraudulently, compared with actual official figures that show it is in fact £0.70 per £100. This costs the taxpayer somewhere between £1.3bn and £1.6bn but accounts for far less than the £4.4bn officially assumed to be lost by tax evaders and a further estimated £5.5bn from tax avoidance. Hearing this, that’s when my outlook changed. I too am complicit.

I know Google UK paid just £6m to the Treasury on a turnover of £395m; I know that because I just Googled it! I’m writing this on my Mac but instead of buying a Starbucks today I walked a bit further and got a coffee from Social Bite.

But, in reality, I don’t know what to do. I feel helpless; I want to shout from the rooftops, I want to scream at everybody, “What are we doing?” Why are we not making people accountable? How can I walk past another person sleeping on the street and not feel wholly responsible for facilitating the companies that flout tax schemes?

I am a good person but it’s not enough, I need to be a better one – we all do.


What can you do to change things?

Sign a petition: There are loads of petitions out there, demanding anything from the end of DWP sanctions to a screening of I, Daniel Blake in the Houses of Parliament.

Give to your local food bank: Information on where to find your local centre can be found here.

Shop at independent stores: If you object to the fact that Starbucks doesn’t pay its share of tax, do what Jojo did and buy your cuppa at a local cafe or a social enterprise like Social Bite.

Give some cash to Shelter: With winter coming, you might want to give a Christmas present to the homeless charity or your local shelter. More details here.

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Written by Jojo Sutherland

Jo jo Sutherland - Charismatic comedy mother, entertaining audiences worldwide and proving that you can have it all