A job scheme contained in the programme for government is “borrowed from the Tory handbook in Britain”, it has been alleged.
The Anti-Austerity Alliance has said Fit for Work is modelled on a British scheme which has been widely discredited and was the subject of Ken Loach's Palme d'Or winning film I, Daniel Blake.
The programme for government contains a provision for a “Fit for Work programme to support more people to get back to work if they have an illness or disability.”
Minister of State with Responsibility for Disability Finian McGrath defended the proposed scheme in the Dáil and said it was based on an EU model.
It is being initiated by Arthritis Ireland and is designed to help people with musculoskeletal disorders maintain active healthy lives and participate in the workforce.
He explained: “Any such proposals will be in line with the wealth of evidence which shows that generally employment is good for one’s mental and physical health and wellbeing and, conversely, that unemployment is damaging.”
Anti-Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit TD Ruth Coppinger said the Government was intent on introducing a privately-run scheme which "put profit over the interests of people" and had been used by the Tory party to target poor people.
Fellow TD Mick Barry said a similar scheme in the UK was widely criticised for forcing sick people to return to the workforce. He pointed to a review carried out by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in the UK which found that between between December 2011 and February 2014, 2,380 people died within six weeks of a work capability assessment (WCA) which found they were fit for work.
“People with illness, mental health issues or disabilities have been declared fit to work through an assessment which has been described as a box ticking exercise,” he said. “If introduced and pursued, this scheme could have devastating impacts.”
Senator John Dolan, who is the Disability Federation of Ireland chief executive, said there was fears that a Fit for Work scheme, modelled on the British example, will be target driven and force people to work who are not fit to do so.
“There are worrying concerns and criticisms of the UK Fit for Work scheme related to the assessment process, unreasonable target-based cultures, resources, time and expertise available to the assessment process and subjectiveness.”