February 14, 2022
Basic income pilot scheme could see disabled artists stripped of supports – Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Gaeilge, Gaeltacht, Arts and Culture, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, has expressed concern that the needs of artists with disabilities are being ignored as the long-awaited basic income for artists pilot scheme is being developed.

The Dublin South-Central TD has criticised Minister’s Catherine Martin and Heather Humphreys for failing to provide reassurance that disabled artists won’t be left worse off.

Teachta Ó Snodaigh said:

“There is a real danger that the basic income for artists (BIA) scheme will disadvantage, rather than empower, artists with disabilities relative to their peers. The €325 a week could put them over the income threshold for means-tested supports like disability allowance, the blind pension or access to housing and a medical card.

“This would force artists with disabilities selected for participation in the scheme to choose between availing of the BIA or maintaining their disability supports, while other artists, including artists earning considerable incomes already, will get the BIA without having to make any such sacrifice.

“Disability supports are intended to help people with disabilities meet the added cost of living with a disability. Expecting artists with disabilities to spend their arts support to meet that cost, rather than develop their artistic potential, would be nothing short of ableist.

“When a pilot basic income for artists was first proposed by the Arts and Culture Recovery Taskforce in 2020, it specified that certain social welfare payments currently held on the basis of needs should not be affected, and was intended to cater to artists in all their diversity.

“However, it appears from answers received to parliamentary questions submitted on this issue by Sinn Féin spokesperson on Social Protection, Claire Kerrane TD, that the plight of artists with disabilities is being consciously overlooked.

“Minister Catherine Martin says it’s a social protection matter for Minister Heather Humphreys and that ‘like all income the grant payment will be reckonable for both income tax and social welfare means test purposes’.

“Minister Humphreys, meanwhile, says it’s an arts matter for Minister Martin and that ‘any issues regarding the interaction between the new pilot payment and existing payments… will fall to be addressed in due course as work on the proposed pilot is progressed’.

“This shirking of responsibility and the failure of either Minister to even mention disability or the situation for disabled artists in their answers is far from reassuring, and it also suggests problems won’t be ironed out until after the scheme is underway, which will be too late for the artists involved.

“There is no excuse for the failure to plan ahead with the needs of people with disabilities in mind.

“This has been in planning for over a year, and not only have Teachta Kerrane and I been raising this since the scheme was first proposed, but the Disabled Artists and Disabled Academics Campaign have been consistently engaging with politicians from all parties on the matter, including presenting to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Disability Matters in October.

“I am demanding that Ministers Martin and Humphreys finally listen and put their heads together now, before the scheme is finalised, and work out a way to ensure artists with disabilities are not discriminated against and faced with this Sophie’s choice between supports.”

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