December 8, 2023
Basic Income for the Arts Report welcome, but ignores Disabled Artists and artists on welfare – Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Gaeilge, Gaeltacht, Arts and Culture, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, has welcomed the Initial Impact Assessment of the first 6 months of the Basic Income for the Arts, but has criticised the failure to analyse the impact on disabled artists and artists on welfare.

The Dublin South Central TD said:

“Sinn Féin welcomes the research that has been conducted on the first 6 months of the Basic Income scheme, and commends the researchers from the IGEES for their work.

“Early indications show a positive impact on participants, in terms of their ability to work in the arts and reducing depression and anxiety. These are significant findings in a sector characterised by precarity.

“What is largely absent from the report, however, is an analysis of the impact the scheme has on artists with disabilities or in receipt of social protection.

“For many months before the scheme was developed, disabled artists were pointing out that they would be effectively excluded unless provision was made so that they would not have to choose between maintaining the disability supports they require to meet the cost of living with a disability, or availing of this artists’ support, which would put them over the threshold for disability allowance.

“Minister Catherine Martin said before the scheme was ironed out that she would work with Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys to address their concerns. This came to nothing.

“When I raised the matter with Minister Martin in May of this year, she promised that at very least the research on the scheme’s impacts would analyse this issue. Specifically, she said ‘the research programme… will capture the experience’ and ‘the interaction of this support and social welfare payments, especially for those with disabilities, will likely be one of the most important insights to emerge from the pilot’.

“Now we see that is not the case in the research produced at the 6 month point. Disabilities do not feature, and the only reference to social welfare payments is an admission that ‘it is possible that applicants in receipt of social protection payments declined participation to avoid losing access to certain social protection supports. Therefore, the sample might be skewed in this regard’.

“When I discussed this with the Minister in May, I also highlighted the case of a basic income recipient who was being pursued with debt letters from the Department of Social Protection because he accepted a spot on the scheme, despite having sought clarity from them before doing so that it would not negatively impact his social protection.

“I have heard only recently that he is still making repayments and his appeals are being ignored.

“This is an example of someone whose ability to pursue their artistic potential has been hampered rather than helped as a result of the basic income scheme, and there are many others – disabled artists in particular – who never signed up because they feared exactly that.

“This is not good enough. Disabled artists are now at an added disadvantage compared to their artist peers who receive the basic income. The research so far doesn’t even attempt to examine the issue.

“Minister Catherine Martin must act to end the discrimination against disabled artists and artists on welfare by her Government. She must also ensure that the next instalment of research on the scheme covers these issues as she promised me in May.”

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