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25.01.2019

“Sorry We Missed You” – The Story of Debt & Zero Hour Contracts

Photo Credit: Courtesy of eOne

The film team that made “I, Daniel Blake”, are set to return later this year to the big screen with a new film that will focus on issues of debt, zero hour contracts, and the gig economy: essentially the story of modern-day Britain for many.

The new movie, which is due to be released in October, and is directed by veteran filmmaker Ken Loach, is based on a screenplay by long-term collaborator, Paul Laverty, and is set in Newcastle.  It tells the story of a working-class family who is struggling to cope with the aftermath of the credit crunch and is trying to secure the ever elusive, work-life balance that many families in the UK struggle to secure when raising a family.

The film plot focuses on the lead character, the Father, Ricky, who gets a new van and tries to start a business as a self-employed driver.

Ken Loach speaking about the movie has said:

“Daniel Blake was about someone who couldn’t work, this is about a family that is busting its gut to work and is doing all they can and is about the problems that people face, the stress, and what work has become: in its insecurity and in its temporary nature.  A lot of people are like Daniel Blake, but I think even more people are in the situation where they are working very hard, both husband or wife or a single parent and are doing everything they can, but still, their lives hang by a thread”.

Can debt be given the “I, Daniel Blake” treatment?

Many are hoping the film will do for the issue of debt and insecure work that which “I, Daniel Blake” did for those struggling on benefits, in helping raise awareness of the issues that many families are facing: unpaid bills, unreliable income, and mounting problem debts.

In “I, Daniel Blake” the story is told of a 59-year old widowed carpenter, who has a heart attack and has to claim benefits.  At the end of the movie, Daniel dies as he is waiting to go into the appeal that is to decide whether he will get his benefits.

The movie won critical acclaim and multiple awards, including the Palme d’Or (the highest prize at the Cannes Film Festival), but was also politically controversial, with Business Secretary, Greg Clark, dismissing it as “fictional”.

Problem debts, low wages and zero hour contracts are not fictional

What is not fictional, however, are the issues dealt with in “Sorry we missed you”, with the Office of National Statistics (ONS) estimating that over 1.8 million employment contracts in the UK do not guarantee any hours of work, representing 6% of all employment contracts in Britain. The number of contracts the ONS believe is also increasing year on year.

In addition to that, the number of people working in the gig economy is also believed to be increasing, with recent research suggesting that it may be as much as 19% of the UK workforce who are currently self-employed, sole traders or freelancers; with another 6% planning on joining the Gig Economy in the next year, representing another 1.5 million workers.

Also, a recent study by the Trade Union Congress found that the average household debt in the UK is now £15,385, which does not include mortgages and is now higher than it was in 2008, in the immediate aftermath of the credit crunch.

The problems this creates for many workers is they cannot always depend on receiving a steady income each month and where they have to rely on Universal Credit, often leads to them experiencing large fluctuations in their income each month. This means missing bills and having to rely on debt to support themselves, whilst struggling with problems debts. It may even mean receiving visits from bailiffs or facing over-aggressive recovery tactics by HMRC and Local Authorities, who have both recently been criticised by the House of Commons Treasury Committee for their approach to debt recovery.

Sorry We Missed You

With the new movie by Ken Loach and Paul Laverty touching on these issues, it is hard to believe the film will not appeal to an even larger audience than “I, Daniel Blake”, with many being able to relate to the story and empathise with the characters.  Also, judging from their previous collaborations in making films like “Sweet Sixteen”, “My Name is Joe” and “The Angel’s Share”; “Sorry We Missed You” is likely to be a huge success at the box office.

All that waits to be seen is whether it will have the same political impact “I, Daniel Blake” had on its release.

If you are struggling with problem debts and need to seek advice, give a Creditfix adviser a call on 0808 2234 102 for free, confidential advice.

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