- 07 Aug 20
"89% of them are living in financial uncertainty," they say in a Pandemic Universal Payment memo to Government, which also contains their solutions...
Ireland's National Campaign For The Arts has warned the Government that there could be a mass exodus of Irish creatives unless they're properly supported during the pandemic.
"The future of Irish arts is at stake," they stress. "Investment in the sector, in the form of funding and grants, is hugely welcomed. However, it is imperative to also protect the most vulnerable part of the arts eco-system: the individual artist and freelance arts worker. These individuals form the backbone of the arts sector and, according to a recent study, 89% of them are living in financial uncertainty."
Here's their statement in full:
Since the closure of the arts sector, the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) has been a critical lifeline for artists and arts workers. The scheme has been welcomed by NCFA, however with social distancing and other measures likely to remain for some time to come, a number of issues must now be be addressed. While NCFA welcomes the recent extension of the PUP, the tiered reduction of the PUP payment will have a disproportionate impact on freelance artists and arts workers. More than 68% of NCFA membership currently availing of the PUP will have their payment reduced by September 17th.
Ireland already has one of the highest costs of living in Europe. Forcing skilled artists and arts workers to live on as little as €203 per week while the industry is closed down, through no fault of their own, will cause permanent damage to the cultural landscape of Ireland. This will lead to a significant talent drain and it may take years to recover.
The arts sector is unlikely to return to sustainable levels of work by April 2021 – the proposed end of the PUP scheme. We call on the government to consider what will happen to artists and arts workers at that point. NCFA is ready to work with Government to identify meaningful interventions that will address a prolonged closure of the industry.
Many artists and arts workers are still not able to access the PUP, including those who were on Jobseeker’s at the outset of the pandemic, those who have been availing of Maternity Benefit, and those over the age of 66, who do not have private pensions, or may not have qualified for the contributory state pension, and rely on employment income solely.
The future of Irish arts is at stake. Investment in the sector, in the form of funding and grants, is hugely welcomed. However, it is imperative to also protect the most vulnerable part of the arts eco-system: the individual artist and freelance arts worker. These individuals form the backbone of the arts sector and, according to a recent study, 89% of them are living in financial uncertainty.
The arts, through books, music, film, and TV, provided respite and escape during lockdown. It has never been clearer that we will all lose out when artists can no longer produce their work, or when there is creative flight from Ireland.
The proposed changes to the PUP do not recognise the unique and precarious nature of the employment conditions of many freelance artists and arts workers.
They go on to offer detailed solutions at http://ncfa.ie/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Covid-PUP_Updated-Memo-from-NCFA.pdf of which some of the key ones are:
A Total Income approach (including self-employed and PAYE) would be a much fairer way to calculate artists and arts workers income.
If the rule were worded as follows: Under PUP rating rules, employed and self-employed income can be combined.
Welfare (should) confirm that it is now policy that it is possible to exclude PAYE income in 2019 or 2020 where the rate based on the individual’s self-employed income in 2019 or 2018 gives a higher weekly average. Note: the above method of calculation has already been used by Welfare in a small number of cases and successful appeals based on the above method being communicated back to individuals by email.
Income averaging is available to farmers but not to artists. Introducing income averaging for artists and arts workers, over three years starting from 2018, would assist greatly to
counter the effects of artists’ and arts workers’ precarious work patterns. Income averaging is available to farmers but not to artists. Introducing income averaging for artists and arts workers, over three years starting from 2018, would assist greatly to counter the effects of artists’ and arts workers' precarious work patterns.
Confirmation that all artists and arts workers can sign on to the PUP at this point given that their trade has collapsed completely due to COVID.
Continue the PUP until mass gatherings are permitted again and cultural events can take place to full capacity. Use the basis of the PUP Scheme to begin trials for Universal Basic Income. NCFA welcomes the government’s openness to this model as set out in the Programme for Government. We believe that the arts and culture sector is a prime sector to trial UBI as a highly-skilled vocational sector who are currently critically undervalued. The PUP has provided a model for how UBI could be rolled out. This would make an enormous difference to the lives of many artists and arts workers, and their families, and would take significant pressure off the Arts Council and social welfare services.