Tuesday, 5 October 2021
Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht
I propose to take Questions Nos. 248 and 249 together.
I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 8, 49 and 63 today
I am critically aware of the devastating impact that Covid-19 has had on all areas of the arts and cultural sector, and I have endeavoured to make sure that the concerns of those in this sector have been understood and addressed. I have personally met with numerous representative organisations and officials in my Department have continued contact with these organisations and others on a regular basis throughout the pandemic, to confirm that I had the most up-to-date information to ensure appropriate supports were delivered for the sector. This includes stakeholder forums in August and September where I spoke directly to a wide range of stakeholders and heard their concerns.
In relation to the Basic Income Guarantee pilot, the Arts and Culture Recovery Taskforce report Life Worth Living, was published in November 2020 and made ten recommendations for the sector. These recommendations included a proposal to pilot a basic income scheme for a three-year period in the arts, culture, audio-visual and live performance and events sectors. I believe the delivery of this pilot will be key to underpinning the recovery in the arts and culture sector and will provide much needed certainty to the artists and creatives who choose to avail of the pilot scheme.
The Life Worth Livingreport describes a basic income as an unconditional state payment that each citizen receives, in this instance, for the arts and cultural sector. The introduction of such a basic income pilot would create a more stable social protection mechanism to allow artists and workers to sustain themselves during the pandemic. It should keep the sector intact, minimising the loss of skills and contributing to its gradual regrowth, with ongoing benefits: social and economic, local and national.
I fully agree that the arts sector represents a very appropriate area for a Basic Income Guarantee scheme for many reasons, including that:
- it is often characterised by low and precarious income;
- it includes a broad mix of employment types and;
- it has been chosen for Basic Income pilots in other jurisdictions allowing for international comparisons to be drawn e.g. Finland, Germany, Canada and France.
I was delighted that as part of the National Economic Recovery Plan, I secured a commitment from Government to prioritise the development of a Basic Income Guarantee pilot scheme for the arts and cultural sector. As Minister with responsibility for Arts and Culture, I am conscious of the value that this sector brings to all Irish citizens, which was particularly evident during the pandemic. The importance of Irish culture, Irish art and Irish productions as a whole cannot be understated in terms of its impact both internationally and at home. The Government recognises that bold steps are necessary for our much treasured arts, events and cultural community to come back stronger than ever before.
I established an Oversight Group in June of this year to appraise the recommendations in the Life Worth Living report. Although the remit of the Oversight Group included the examination of all recommendations in the report, I asked that they prioritise the consideration of the Recommendation on a basic income guarantee pilot scheme for artists and arts workers as a priority. The Oversight Group is chaired by my Department and 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 alongside a representative of the County and City Managers Association.
The Oversight Group has met 8 times over the last 4 months to discuss the Basic Income recommendation alongside the other 9 recommendations. To assist in these discussions, the Oversight Group established a subcommittee to focus solely on the progression of the recommendation for the basic income Pilot Scheme. This sub-committee met 9 times over the summer months to develop a number of options that could fulfil the requirements of a pilot scheme as set out in the Life Worth Livingreport. The Oversight Group, with the research carried out by this sub-committee, has provided me with a preliminary report on the different options for a 3 year pilot scheme which I am currently considering.
A number of organisations have given presentations to the Oversight Committee in order to inform their considerations these include:
- the NCFA (the National Campaign for the Arts)
- Social Justice Ireland
- Praxis – the Artists Union
- Dr Stephen Kinsella – Economist in University Limerick and Niamh NicGhabhann & Annmarie Ryan who had done research in the area of artist basic income
In addition, Equity the actors union are due to present to the group next week.
The objectives of the pilot scheme will include:
- To minimise the ongoing loss of skills in the arts sector, both artists and arts workers;
- Contributing to the sectors recovery post-pandemic, with ongoing benefits: social and economic, local and national;
- Enabling artists to focus on their practice without having to enter into employment in other sectors to sustain themselves;
I believe it is particularly important for this pilot scheme to also address the wellbeing of those in the arts and cultural sector, and to stimulate the arts sector’s recovery post-pandemic.
I will be providing further detail on how this pilot scheme will operate in the near future as part of the discussions around Budget 2022. Significant stakeholder engagement will take place in the coming weeks between my Department and those in the Sector to ensure that this pilot meets the needs of the sector alongside the objectives agreed by the Oversight Group.
I envision that this pilot should launch in early 2022 and I believe it will bring new life and support to the Arts and Cultural Sector, after the difficult circumstances they have endured over the last year and a half.