Archive for July 7th, 2021

Letter from the Chair re Basic Income for Artists

7th July 2021

As you all will know, today 7th July is the last day to apply (or reapply) for the Pandemic Unemployment Payment for members whose business has effectively ceased due to the pandemic. Although the scheme is closing, we know that for many members, things are far from back to normal. While some sectors have reopened, we know that for others, a return to regular work is still a long way off. It’s clear that the pandemic has exposed the inequalities and instabilities of working as a writer. You may recall that last year, the Arts and Culture Recovery Taskforce report Life Worth Living made ten recommendations for our sector. Crucially, those recommendations included a proposal to pilot a basic income scheme for a three-year period in the arts, culture, audiovisual and live performance and events sectors. We were pleased to see the taskforce was of the view that a pilot basic income would keep the sector intact, minimising the loss of skills and contributing to its gradual regrowth, with ongoing benefits: social and economic, local and national. It’s difficult to overstate the impact a basic income scheme could have for writers and our ability to create new work, and it’s clear why artists and arts workers have been chosen as the pilot group. It is worth pointing out that while artists and arts workers have been chosen as the pilot group, if successful this has the potential to become a full Universal Basic Income scheme for all Irish citizens.

Since this was announced last year, we have written to the Minister to ensure that the voice of writers is heard as the plans for a pilot basic income scheme advance. Board Member Michele Manahan has been instrumental in driving our agenda on future supports for our members, and has also met with the National Campaign For the Arts, who have been a key voice in pushing for change in the sector. In correspondence from the Minister’s Department, we have received confirmation that as part of the National Economic Recovery Plan launched on 1st June, the Minister has recently established an Oversight Committee for the appraisal of the Arts and Culture Recovery Taskforce Recommendations, including the Basic Income Guarantee pilot scheme for artists. The Oversight Group held its first meeting on 27th May and is being chaired by the Department joined by representatives of the Departments of Finance, Social Protection, Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Public Expenditure and Reform as well as Enterprise, Trade and Employment. The Directors of the Arts Council and Screen Ireland are also members as well as a representative of the County and City Managers Association. This Oversight Group is to prioritise the examination of the way a Basic Income Guarantee pilot scheme for artists can be delivered. The Oversight Committee is expected to report to the Minister by the end of July. According to the Department, it is too early to be definitive about the exact nature of the pilot scheme, including the cost. However, the Minister hopes to be able to offer more definitive information once the Oversight Group reports to her in July.

We will continue to lobby Minister Martin on your behalf, and once there are further developments, we will keep you updated. In the meantime, we hope that you are managing to keep working (and getting paid for it). As always, if there is anything we can do to help, please do let us know.

Jennifer Davidson
WGI Chair