Government’s disability reforms will not ‘knock people off benefits’, says Taoiseach

PBP’s Paul Murphy accuses Leo Varadkar of emulating UK model of work capability assessments as portrayed in film I, Daniel Blake

The Government is not going to follow the UK model of “knocking people off benefits” when it comes to reforming disability payments, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.

Mr Varadkar said the Irish model was “still under development” and is about recognising “that all disabilities are not the same and that some people need more support than others”.

The Fine Gael leader was responding to People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy in the Dáil on Wednesday, who asked Mr Varadkar had he seen the film I, Daniel Blake, which is about people with disabilities who are forced to go through medical assessments under the work capability assessment introduced by Britain’s Tory government, with their disabilities and inability to work not being recognised.

“It is a heartbreaking, very difficult film to watch. The reason I ask is because it seems that the Government is out to make this film happen in real life in Ireland by copying the Tories’ policy of the work capability assessment,” Mr Murphy said.


“That is the essence of the Government’s proposals in relation to the disability and domiciliary care allowance, introducing a medical assessment to assess capability of work and then putting people into three different tiered categories based on how much they can work.

“It seems to me rooted in a fundamentally Victorian view of the deserving and undeserving poor. Either a person is fit for work or they are not fit for work. This idea of a tiered system is just about dragging people through the mill and putting huge pressure on people.”

Mr Murphy said he had spoken with a mother of four who has a disability, as do all of her children, and that the assessment process would be “dehumanising, soul-destroying to try to prove that you and your children are ‘disabled enough’ to get the support needed”.

In response, Mr Varadkar said he had seen the film I, Daniel Blake, describing it as “very good” but “one-sided”.

“All of the characters in the film, or at least all of the people in receipt of benefits in the film, are very genuine and honest people who need help and have done as much as they can for themselves,” he said.

“There are other programmes, like Benefits Street and so on which show you a very different picture. Of course, as is always the case, the truth lies somewhere in between.

“That is the real world we live in. In terms of reforming our disability payments, we are not going to follow the UK model, the UK model is all about knocking people off benefits. Our model, which is still under development, is about recognising that all disabilities are not the same and that some people need more support than others.”

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times