New scheme will allow artists to avail of welfare benefits

Writers and artists to be acknowledged as self-employed and can seek jobseeker’s allowance under pilot plan

Heather Humphreys, Minister for Arts:  the new pilot scheme was not a panacea but would begin to address the imbalance for artists. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / The Irish Times

Heather Humphreys, Minister for Arts: the new pilot scheme was not a panacea but would begin to address the imbalance for artists. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / The Irish Times

 

Artists and writers are to be acknowledged as self-employed and permitted to seek jobseeker’s allowance.

Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar and Minister for Arts Heather Humphreys confirmed the new pilot scheme will be in operation for 12 months and examined for further expansion after that point.

Currently artists and writers cannot avail of any welfare benefits.

Speaking in Co Dublin this morning, Mr Varadkar insisted this was a signal of the Government’s commitment to the arts.

He said: “More than ever before, we need creativity if we are to thrive and flourish in a globalised world.

“What matters most in the new economy is the ability to design and innovate, to re-imagine and reconfigure.

“What can set us apart as Irish men and women is our ability to think and act creatively – like the artist who starts her day with nothing, or the writer staring at a blank page who is driven by an inner creative impulse to produce a thousand words of meaning by the end of the day.

“We all know that through engagement with arts and culture we can stimulate imaginative and innovative thinking, develop conceptual skills, and bring people together in collaborative creativity.”

Half of income

Under the scheme, artists would have to provide a declaration from the Visual Artists Ireland body to their status. Writers would have to do similar from the Irish Writers Centre.

Both professions will also have to be registered as self-employed with the Revenue Commissioners and demonstrate at least 50 per cent of their income has been derived from their art in the preceding year.

Once a person has been classified as a self-employed artist on the DSP system they would not be subject to activation process for at least a year.

Checks and balances

The conditions associated with jobseeker’s allowance will continue to apply, as they do for all other claimants. Artists will have to prove that they are genuinely seeking other work, taking part in courses or classes like CV preparation, job-searching or referral to JobPath, Tús and Jobs Clubs, for example.

If an author or an artist is involved in a project, they will not be able to claim the allowance.

The Fine Gael leader said he would examine the potential for expansion to other professions after 12 months.

Strict checks and balances will be applied to ensure the supports are not abused.

The Arts Council and the Irish Writers Centre welcomed the roll-out of the scheme. Ms Humphreys acknowledged this was not a panacea but would begin to address the imbalance.