Can you put a hat on?

By Sarah Scott, marketing consultant

You might think the question in the title is a strange one. Perhaps even more so when you learn that it’s one of several asked as part of an assessment for Employment Support Allowance eligibility in the opening scenes of the 2016 film, ‘I, Daniel Blake’.

Daniel is a carpenter recovering from a massive heart attack. He’s desperate to get back to work but finds himself caught up in the welfare system, looking to receive some income replacement, until his doctor declares him fit to return to work again.

I’ve really no idea whether the ability to put a hat on is a genuine assessment question or not. I’d like to think not. Either way, the scene is liberally sprinkled with a humour I’m certain is missing when individuals are thrust into the world of benefits for real. The health professional assigned to Daniel’s case asks a wealth of questions, none of which seem to relate to his condition, and all of which elicit an honest, if cheeky, answer.

In reality, we know the hoops and hurdles to overcome in order to claim benefits are numerous. We also know that if someone who was previously employed is ‘lucky’ enough to be able to claim, the money they receive won’t afford them the lifestyle they were once accustomed to.

What’s the alternative?

If ‘I, Daniel Blake’ were anything other than a gritty British piece of social realism, the plot, and almost certainly the ending, is likely to have been dramatically different.

I’d like to think a masked and caped hero would have stepped in to save the day. This hero’s actions might have meant that Daniel wasn’t forced to visit a foodbank or live with the stigma of being on the breadline, as in Ken Loach’s film. He wouldn’t have been forced to ignore the red ‘final demand’ bills that came through his door, or resort to selling his furniture for a little extra money.

And the reality is that his hero could have been quite easy to find if he’d just known where to look.

Had Daniel taken out just a small amount of income protection while he was working as a carpenter, his future in the film would almost certainly have been less bleak. Admittedly, after his heart attack he would have been forced to adjust his standard of living but, when you see the alternative in the film, it’s a small concession to make.

Isn’t it expensive?

According to our State of the Protection Nation research, just 4 per cent of people have income protection, and 31 per cent of those who don’t have any say it’s because it’s too expensive. But it doesn’t need to be.

Many providers offer a range of deferred and payment periods giving you the flexibility to put income protection into plans with even the tightest of budgets.

By increasing the length of time before a claim begins to be paid – some providers offer up to 52 weeks – you can reduce the premium amount. Similarly, you could reduce the amount of time a claim is paid for (perhaps down to a year) to cut the cost a little more.

Objections to the cost of cover can almost certainly be overcome with a degree of tweaking. Even if you can only incorporate a small amount of income protection in a plan, it could make a huge difference.

‘I, Daniel Blake’ makes a great talking point around why we should all have a little bit of income protection included in our plans. But, if you’re looking for alternative conversation openers, we have a range of suggestions from other advisers in our video library.