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draw the dole

New social welfare scheme promises 'breathing space' for unemployed artists

Unemployed artists will be able to receive jobseekers allowance while also focusing on their own work for 12 months.

SELF-EMPLOYED ARTISTS have been promised “breathing space” as part of a new scheme that will allow unemployed creatives to focus on their own work for 12 months rather than taking part in normal jobseeker activities. 

The scheme, an extension of a pilot scheme announced in June 2017, is intended to allow artists to develop their portfolios and skills during their first year of unemployment while also receiving Jobseekers Allowance. 

The scheme was announced today by Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty, and the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan. 

The scheme will begin in September. “In Ireland, we hold a very special place for the arts and I hope that through this initiative some we can create some breathing space for creative people to flourish,” Doherty said in a statement. 

Over 100 artists and writers have taken part in the original scheme, which extended jobseekers allowance to visual artists and writers and saw them classified as self-employed for the first time.

The new scheme will extend these benefits to other artists. 

Trade union Siptu has welcomed the news. “This is a positive step forward on the path to recognition of the professional status and value of performing artists in Ireland,” said Siptu’s arts and culture sector organiser Karen O’Loughlin.

“However, we also need a broader discussion about the working lives of artists and their capacity to have longevity and dignity in their careers. The way to truly value artists is to ensure they can make a secure living from their work and that means the development of a basic income scheme for them,” she said. 

The Musicians Union of Ireland (MUI) called the decision a “significant breakthrough” for musicians. 

“We have to continue to fight to have our artists valued in a meaningful way,” Graham Macken, an MUI organiser, said in a statement. 

The Department of Culture, Heritage and Gaeltacht will now work with the Arts Council and other organisations to develop a validation process for professional accreditation. 

Artists “deserve our full support particularly given the significant income challenges they can face”, said Madigan. 

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