The Arts Council today has welcomed a new government scheme to allow artists to gain access to social welfare supports.
The scheme was announced by Fine Gael leader and the Minister for Social Protection, Leo Varadkar TD, and the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Heather Humphreys TD at Poetry Ireland’s new headquarters on Parnell Square.
This is a welcome move by the Irish government, showing that they are taking a more progressive step, valuing the work of artists by making it easier for visual artists and writers to access social welfare supports and support their work.
The initiative, as part of the Creative Ireland Programme, will assist self-employed artists who apply to the Department of Social Protection for Jobseekers Allowance and artists meeting a certain set of criteria will not be subject to the department’s ‘activation process’ for the 12 months.
“Artists are at the very centre of the Creative Ireland programme, and I have been particularly keen for some time now to do more to recognise the income challenges faced by artists. This pilot scheme is not a panacea, but it is a clear sign that the Government recognises the vital role that artists play in Irish society and that we respect and value their contribution”, Minister Humphrey’s said today.
This is something that the Arts Council has been campaigning towards for years and have advocated for artists for many decades. The Arts Council has researched and compared artists’ incomes and have found that on average, they are far lower than those in almost all other sectors.
Speaking at the announcement, Minister Varadkar stated that it’s important to promote Ireland as a home for art as it has always been central to Irish culture.
“Ireland is world-famous as a haven for art and artists who are central to our culture. This reputation for artistic achievement is part of our global USP. Promoting Ireland as a home for art and artists is central to may plans to double our global footprint in the years ahead. I believe it is only right that we allow for some flexibility within the social welfare system to allow artists to access social welfare supports when they need them. Up to now, artists have found it difficult to access social welfare and of course many artists takes on extra jobs to support their livelihoods”, Minister Varadkar said.
The Arts Council Director Orlaith McBride said that it is a welcome sign that the government are acknowledging the work of artists.
“This pilot scheme recognises for the first time that artists’ incomes do not follow the same patterns as the majority of people,” Ms McBride said. “Of course we accept Minister Humphreys’ view that this initiative is not a panacea -- and may apply to a relatively small number of artists -- but we are fully committed to working with her and Minister Varadkar over the coming 12 months to monitor and evaluate the initiative, and, we hope, expand and improve it in the years to come.”
The pilot initiative will be reviewed after one year.
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