I, Daniel Blake director Ken Loach given standing ovation at Labour conference

I, Daniel Blake director Ken Loach given standing ovation at Labour conference

Film-maker Ken Loach has been given a standing ovation at the Labour Party conference after praise for his work in changing the perception of benefit claimants.

Debbie Abrahams, the shadow work and pensions secretary, said the impact of the "iconic" film I, Daniel Blake could not be underestimated, having been seen by millions in Britain and around the world.

In her speech, Ms Abrahams announced plans to allow hundreds of thousands of women born in the 1950s to retire at 64 on a reduced state pension, rather than having to wait until 66.

She also called on the Government to pause its rollout of the flagship universal credit benefit.

"At last year's conference I played the trailer from I, Daniel Blake, Ken Loach's iconic film about a man recovering from a heart attack, but found fit for work and battling for help from the Department for Work and Pensions," she told conference.

"Its impact in changing attitudes about social security claimants from the Tories' 'shirker, scrounger' narrative, to the reality that the vast majority of claimants have contributed to the system all of their lives, cannot be underestimated.

"And as Ken is also here this afternoon, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank him for all he has done."

After the crowd had risen to their feet, Ms Abrahams said: "Not many people know this, but over two million people nationally have seen I, Daniel Blake, and about 10 million across the world."

Changes to the state pension age being brought in by the Government mean that many women who had expected to retire at 60 will have to work several years longer before receiving support.

Many were caught by surprise when the timetable for moving to the later retirement age was accelerated in 2011.

The Waspi (Women Against State Pension Inequality) campaign is pushing for a transitional "bridging pension" to help women whose retirement plans have been thrown into disarray.

Labour now says women will be offered the chance to retire at 64 on a reduced state pension, instead of 66 under the Government plans. The change would benefit women born between 1954 and 1960.

Precise figures on how much pension the women would get were not immediately available, but Ms Abrahams will say the scheme would be "cost-neutral in the long term".

It would mean that all those affected by the Government's "chaotic mismanagement" would have a chance to retire earlier.

Ms Abrahams will also say there is evidence of deepening poverty as more welfare claimants are transferred to universal credit, which replaces a range of older benefits.

She will cite reports that one in four claims are not paid within six weeks, leading to increased debt and mounting rent arrears.

Former pensions minister Sir Steve Webb, now director of policy at insurer Royal London, said it would take at least two years to implement Ms Abrahams' proposals even if legislation was drawn up for the 2018/19 session of Parliament.

"By the time the new law could be implemented, most of the women who had the shortest notice of state pension age changes would already be drawing a state pension," said the former Liberal Democrat MP.

He added: "Under equalities legislation it is unlikely that this new option could be made available only to women.

In addition, there are serious practical problems with allowing people to opt for an early pension which is permanently paid at a lower level than the full state pension.

"For example, if the scheme is to be cost-neutral, they would not be allowed to claim pension credit or other benefits to top up their low income.

"But if they could not do so then they could be living permanently below the poverty line throughout their retirement."

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