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Basic income scheme for arts and culture sector could benefit 55,000 workers

A basic income scheme for the arts and culture sector will be discussed by ministers at Cabinet today.

Image: Shutterstock/Jim Polakis

AN OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE will be set up as a matter of urgency to assess a recommendation for a basic income scheme for the arts and culture sector.

A report from the government’s arts and culture recovery taskforce, which was presented to Cabinet by Minister for Arts Catherine Martin today, calls for a basic income scheme to be introduced for the sector.

Speaking to reporters this afternoon, the minister said her Cabinet colleagues were very supportive of the measures contained in the report, and she believe they will engage positively on the issues.

The minister said engagement with the oversight committee will happen quickly, stating there is an urgency in supporting those working in the arts and entertainment business, who have in dire circumstances in the pandemic.

Around 55,000 workers could benefit from the new scheme which will give a tax-free payment to workers and performers in the arts and entertainment business to meet essential living costs.

The payment could be between €200 and €276 per week and will be tax-free.

Anything recipients earn above that will be taxed as normal.

Welcoming the report today, Minister Catherine Martin said the report sheds light on a “dire crisis that the sector now faces – incomes have disappeared; performers have no audiences; cultural spaces, concert halls and galleries remain empty and the lights have been turned off for the live events sector”.

The idea for a basic income is similar to a recommendation in the programme for government about rolling out a universal basic income scheme.

Clare Duignan, the Arts and Culture Recovery Taskforce chairperson, said the aim of the group was to help those working in the sector survive. 

“Things are absolutely desperate for people,” she said, adding that the taskforce believes this sector is ready and suitable for the pilot project for income support.

Irish Equity, a section of Siptu, has welcomed the proposal to introduce a basic income scheme for workers.

Karan O Loughlin of Irish Equity said the arts is a largely low pay sector, particularly so in the live performance area.

She encourages the government to act quickly on the recommendations that are so badly needed for the survival and development of the sector.

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In addition to the basic support scheme, the report also seeks to establish a new VAT compensation scheme for artists and for freelance arts, live entertainment and events workers and companies.

It also calls for business supports grant scheme for SME’s in the events industry that are excluded from the COVID-19 restrictions support scheme (CRSS).

A capital improvement programme, including targeted resources for local authorities to adapt, equip or improve public spaces so that cultural events and activities can take place outside, is also called for.

The National Campaign for the Arts said in a recent report that the basic income idea had gained ground over the past months.

A recent survey it carried out showed that 72% of artists working in Ireland were earning less than the National Minimum Wage before Covid-19 hit.

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