Paul Atherton's account of living (with a disability) in a Britain with a decimated social security system did indeed question the end of austerity discourse.
Social work staff and students enjoyed a really stimulating presentation from documentary film-maker Paul Atherton under the title ‘The End of Civilised Society'. Paul – in his I Daniel Blake t-shirt – explained the shifts in the names and accessibility of benefits and social support from the 1980s to the present, with the associated narrowing of the social contract from meeting people's needs to conditional benefits. He offered some analyses of the causes of social change, many of them consequences of individualism, and offered some alternative ways of framing how a society might look after those who need help. He pointed to the particularly mean and vicious trope of criticizing benefit claimants that popular media has profited from and explained how this fundamentally misses the point of any insurance system.
As an Expert by Experience, he kindly allowed students to ask political and personal questions and his own experience of homelessness was revealing. Students were interested in approaches to meeting people’s needs such as Housing First, and Universal Basic Income schemes that have a different starting point. He also offered an insight into his experience of racism in a Welsh village and spoke fondly of his first social worker who placed him as a baby – and we noted how practices have changed and are now more professional and distant. His own biography is fascinating, his analysis insightful and engaging. Interesting to see the mind of a film-maker at work, the issues documented lived.
Paul is a London-based Film and Television Producer specialising in social commentary documentary (including racism, feminism and domestic abuse). His work has premiered in as diverse locations as the Leicester Square Odeon and Museum of London. Paul suffers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, has been homeless for the past 10 years and gets DWP support for his disability.
Dr Pam Alldred
+44 (0)1895 267270 Pam.Alldred@brunel.ac.uk