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Taoiseach references 'Benefits Street' in debate about new disability payment plans

Changes made to disability payments will recognise that not all disabilities are the same, with some needing more support than others, the Taoiseach has said.

During Leader’s Questions in the Dáil, People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy accused the Government of copying “the Tory policy” of the work capability assessment.

He said the Government’s proposals to introduce a medical assessment which would put people into three different tiered categories based on how much they can work is similar and would put “huge pressure” on those with disabilities.

He suggested the Taoiseach watch the British movie, I, Daniel Blake, suggesting it showed the cruelty of that policy.

Deputy Paul Murphy- speech from 27 Sep 2023

Taoiseach's Questions

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Mr Varadkar said he had seen it when he was minister for social protection. 

“It is a very good film, by the way, I would recommend it to anyone,” he said. However, he added the film was “one-sided”.

“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.

“There are other programmes, like Benefits Street and so on which show a very different picture,” he said.

Mr Varadkar said as is always the case, “the truth lies somewhere in between”.

Mr Varadkar said in terms of reforming disability payments, “We are not going to follow the UK model, which 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,” he said.

Mr Murphy argued a tiered system would drag people “through the mill”, adding he had been contacted by a mother of four children, each of whom has a disability.

“She said that the assessment process would be dehumanising and soul-destroying to try to prove that you and your children are ‘disabled enough’ to get the support needed,” he said.