Thursday, 5 May 2022
Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions
2. To ask the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the changes she will make to the basic income for the arts pilot scheme to ensure that recipients of the disability pension will have their disability supports protected if successful in qualifying for the pilot; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22099/22]
5. To ask the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if she will work with the Minister for Social Protection to ensure that payments to artists with disabilities will be protected as the basic income for artists scheme is rolled out; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22552/22]
In relation to the welcome basic income scheme for those in the arts, those in receipt of disability supports are concerned that if they avail of this scheme they will lose supports that are currently available to them. Will the Minister of State, Deputy Chambers, shed some light on that for me?
I propose to take Questions Nos. 2 and 5 together.
I thank Deputies Ó Ríordáin and Boyd Barrett for their questions. Eligibility for social welfare supports, as the Deputies will be aware, is a matter for the Minister for Social Protection and neither I nor the Minister, Deputy Catherine Martin, have any statutory functions in that regard.
However, I can assure the Deputy that the issue of disabled artists participating in the basic income scheme it is a matter which the Minister, Deputy Catherine Martin, takes very seriously. The Minister wants to ensure that all artists, including those with a disability, can apply to participate in the pilot.
The basic income for the arts is a sectoral support for the arts to give recognition to the intrinsic value of the arts to Irish society and to place a value on the often unpaid work that is undertaken in order to develop an arts practice required to produce the art we all as a society enjoy and benefit from.
Stakeholder engagement has been core to the policy development process for the basic income for the arts and this included a stakeholder forum on 15 December 2021, which over 150 people attended, representing 50 resource organisations and representative organisations, including disabled artists and representatives from Arts and Disability Ireland. In addition, the Minister, Deputy Catherine Martin, held a public consultation throughout the month of January and the impact of such a scheme on artists with disabilities was a theme which was raised throughout the consultation.
As the Deputies will be aware, the basic income for the arts pilot scheme was the number one recommendation of the Arts and Culture Recovery Taskforce, which the Minister, Deputy Catherine Martin, established to make recommendations to ensure that the arts and culture sector would recover fully after Covid and thrive post pandemic. The Department of Social Protection was a member of the oversight group the Minister established last year tasked with appraising the recommendations set out in the Life Worth Living report, including on the manner in which the basic income for the arts pilot should be implemented.
In addition, bilateral engagement between the two Departments on the treatment of the basic income for the arts payment has been ongoing over the past number of months, in particular, discussions around the treatment of the grant payment for the purposes of income disregards across a number of social welfare schemes, including disability allowance.
I can assure the Deputies that the issue of artists with disabilities is something which the Minister, Deputy Catherine Martin, is focused on. The Minister believes that the basic income for the arts has the potential to help artists and creative arts workers, including those with disabilities, to overcome labour market barriers by creating a self-sustaining creative practice, operating on a self-employed basis.
As the Deputy will be aware, the pilot scheme is a three-year research programme to examine the impact a basic income-style payment could have on artists and creative arts workers and their creative practice. A key research question will be the impact such a payment could have on artists with disabilities. To that end, the Minister, Deputy Catherine Martin, was determined since the outset of the pilot scheme that artists with disabilities would be in a position to participate in the scheme to the greatest extent possible within the legislative framework to ensure the research captured the experience of disabled artists.
Accordingly, as I mentioned already, the Department has worked with the Department of Social Protection, to establish that the payment will be treated as earnings from self-employment and can be taken into account in earnings disregards that apply to many social welfare payments, including disability allowance and the one-parent family payment. That means that the basic income for the arts will be treated like any other income a person on social welfare earns from employment.
In the case of the disability allowance, it will be possible for many people to avail of the basic income and retain social welfare benefits in addition to the moneys received from the pilot scheme. Of course, each individual case will differ depending on other household income.
The actual impact of the basic income on a person's welfare entitlements will depend on each individual’s circumstances and applicants will need to engage with the Department of Social Protection on the matter.
The Department of Social Protection published a guide to the interaction of the basic income for the arts pilot scheme with Department of Social Protection payments, www.gov.ie/en/publication/bd818-interaction-of-the-basic-income-for-the-arts-pilot-scheme-with-dsp-payments, on Gov.ieon 13 April to assist all applicants in receipt of Department of Social Protection supports, including those with disabilities.
The Department of Social Protection has also undertaken to engage directly with disabled artists who are selected for the pilot to help them understand the impact accepting the payment would have in their individual circumstances.
The Department has met with representatives from the disabled artists community to examine how best we can make artists aware of the position established between my Department and the Department of Social Protection in respect of supports and the treatment of the basic income for the purposes of income disregards. My Department also has a dedicated email address to answer any questions that applicants may have about any aspect of the scheme to assist artists and creative arts workers with queries about the pilot.
I thank the Minister of State. I am intrigued by that response. It is quite comprehensive. As the Minister of State was going through it, I was not sure whether we were going to a space where the Minister was working on it. Towards the end of the response, it appeared the Minister of State outlined the Minister is aware of the issue and is working on it but he seemed to indicate that there is not an issue. However, there may be individual cases which the grand sweep of what the Minister is trying to achieve will not cover. I ask the Minister of State to outline to the House that somebody in receipt of disability support will be classed as a self-employed person and on that basis, he or she should not have any concerns about losing whatever supports he or she has.
As the Minister of State can appreciate, the arts are about giving license to those who have tensions within their lives to express them and if we are excluding those with disabilities from this scheme, then that will be a major disadvantage, not only for them but for the wider Irish society. I am intrigued to get more detail on the Minister of State's response. It appears to be welcome.
Obviously, the Minister is aware of the issue. I say, "Well done", to the Music and Entertainment Association of Ireland, MEAI, among others, for campaigning on this. However, it is worth saying, on the task force that was looking into the basic income project, there was no representative of people with disabilities and we need to be absolutely certain that there is not a disincentive for people with disabilities to sign up for the basic income pilot. Certainly, on the calculations the MEAI has done, there is potential for them to lose in some cases the medical card and for a failure to take into account that people with disability carry additional costs to those who do not have disabilities. An Indecon report recently estimated there is €10,000 a year additional costs if one has a disability. Whereas somebody who does not have a disability will get 100% of the benefit of everything over previous social welfare basic payments, the people with disability could see much of that additional money eaten up by what they lose when they take up the payment.
I thank both Deputies for the questions.
To respond to Deputy Boyd Barrett, I am informed that there were 150 people at the stakeholder forum, representing 50 resource organisations and representative organisations, including representatives from Arts and Disability Ireland.
Similar to all income, the payment will be reckonable for the purpose of social welfare means tests. Whether a person's social protection payment will be impacted or not will depend on his or her individual circumstances. However, many of the income supports provided by the Department of Social Protection include income disregards to encourage people to work.
The Department of Social Protection has undertaken to engage directly with disabled artists who are selected for the pilot scheme to deal with and address their individual circumstances. As I said earlier, the impact that income from the basic income pilot scheme will have on a person's disability allowance payment, for example, will depend on each person. There is no definite consequence. I am aware of the concern that exists in the broader community, as the Deputy mentioned, but perhaps I can go into more detail about it in a later reply.
This scheme in general is extremely welcome. There will always be issues, but this is a big one if one is a person with a disability and one is expressing oneself through artistic means and one may be locked out of the scheme. What I am hearing from the Minister of State is that he is aware of this, that he is meeting and engaging, that he is engaging with the Department and that this is going to be resolved both on a wide basis and on an individual basis. If that is the case, those who are listening to this debate will be comforted by that. I want to be absolutely clear that this issue has been recognised, that the Minister is aware of it and is working it out with the Department and those who represent artists with disabilities and that it will be resolved on a project basis and on an individual basis.
Unless it is addressed, people on disability payments or blind payments could potentially lose up to €90 of their payments. Inevitably when one is getting a higher payment as one would on the basic income, it is going to impact on other payments. However, the critical point here, as has been pointed out by the MEAI and others, including Disabled Artists and Disabled Academics, DADA, is that people with disabilities carry additional costs variously estimated, depending on levels of disability, at between €7,000 and €12,000, or an average of approximately €10,000, and there is the potential to lose their medical card. What they want is certainty that this will not be the case and that the additional money over basic social welfare payments in the new €325 payment will be available to artists with disability to channel into their art, which is the purpose of the basic income pilot, and is not gobbled up by them compensating for losses in their disability payments.
As I said earlier, in the case of the disability allowance, for example, it will be possible for many people to avail of the basic income and retain social welfare benefits in addition to the moneys received from the pilot scheme. However, it is important to stress that, as part of that, every individual's case is different in terms of their household income. The Deputies will know how familial cases vary. That is why there is a structure with the Department of Social Protection. The Department will engage directly with all disabled artists who are selected for the pilot scheme to help work through and understand the impact that accepting the payment will have on their individual circumstances. It is something on which the Minister, Deputy Catherine Martin, is focused. She believes the basic income has the potential to help artists and creative arts workers, including those with disabilities, to overcome labour market barriers by creating a self-sustainable creative practice operating on a self-employed basis. That is why there is that structure between the two Departments to work through. As I said, the Department of Social Protection is willing to engage with all who are selected as part of the pilot.