WATCH: Support the Arts Industry with Universal Basic Income scheme

Deputy Patrick Costello raises the UBI pilot scheme for Artists during oral questions with Minister Catherine Martin and urges her to set out a timeline for its implementation.

Full transcript:

Deputy Costello – At the end last year, we had a report from the arts recovery task force with a series of recommendations on supporting and renewing the arts sector in the wake of Covid. Will the Minister give us an update on this? Has any progress actually been made in implementing these recommendations, particularly that of a universal basic income pilot? As we heard today from other Deputies, the arts sector is really struggling and this would be an essential way of supporting it.

Minster Martin – Life Worth Living, the report of the arts and culture recovery task force was published in November 2020.  It made ten recommendations.  The introduction to the report suggested the establishment of a cross-sectorial implementation group to oversee and monitor the implementation of these recommendations.

Several of the recommendations are in train or have already been implemented.  In particular, recommendation No. 4, securing the viability of the live events industry, recommendation No. 6, ensuring the well-being of Ireland’s creative and cultural community and recommendation No. 9, providing more outdoor public spaces for cultural events, are largely implemented. Meanwhile significant work is ongoing with recommendation No. 3, ensuring fair play for the makers of creative content; recommendation No. 7, building sectorial capacity through upskilling and professional development; recommendation No. 8, making space for arts and live entertainment to contribute to national recovery; and recommendation No. 10, addressing the environmental impact of arts, cultural and event activities.

The recommendations included a proposal to pilot a universal basic income scheme for a three-year period in the arts, culture, audiovisual and live performance and events sectors. The task force was of the view that a pilot basic income would 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 believe the arts sector represents an appropriate area for a pilot basic income scheme for many reasons. It is characterised by low, precarious and often seasonal income. Artistic and creative work is intrinsically valuable to society.

I have established an oversight group with the remit of addressing the recommendations of the Life Worth Living report, particularly those which are outstanding. The group’s membership is drawn from Departments and agencies which have the ability and wherewithal to make appropriate progress on the outstanding recommendations. The oversight group is being chaired by my Department and includes 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. They will be joined by a representative of the County and City Managers Association.

I have asked the oversight group to prioritise the examination of recommendation No. 1, a basic income for artists. This is pushing an open door with me. I have engaged with relevant Ministers and colleagues on this matter who have indicated their support for developing this proposal.

Deputy Costello – There has been much talk in the media about the various areas which are suffering. Many areas have suffered in the wake of Covid-19 but, in recent weeks, most of the discussion has focused on restaurants and pubs. The live music venue and the general arts sector which is struggling. This proposed universal basic income is the best way to address the precarious nature of this sector. While I welcome the development from the oversight group and the work done to date, a clear timeline or date for when this trial will begin would ease the uncertainty and insecurity that many in the arts industry are feeling. Will the Minister provide us with that information?

Minister Martin – On a personal level, I have spoken of my support for and have also written about a basic income for artists. Universal basic income is also core to Green Party policy.

Work is being done on this matter. It has gained the support of my colleagues in the Cabinet and the relevant Departments in the oversight group. This work on a basic income for artists is independent of the work of the Low Pay Commission which has been tasked by my colleague, the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, to examine the programme for Government commitment to pilot a universal basic income within the Government’s lifetime. I intend, therefore, to proceed with the development of proposals for a basic income for artists as a matter of priority. The sector is on its knees. People in it have heard too much talk about valuing our arts and culture and they need to see that we do. Our actions will show it