July 28, 2021
Catherine Martin must explain why Universal Basic Income for artists proposal has been changed into ‘working age payment’ – Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Gaeilge, the Gaeltacht, Arts and Culture, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, has demanded an explanation from the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Catherine Martin on why the much publicised Universal Basic Income scheme for artists is now being called a “working age payment”, and has asked what implications this will have for artists.

The Dublin South Central TD said:

“Sinn Féin believes in providing a Living Wage for all, and has called for years for this to be piloted in the arts sector. While we are yet to be convinced that the Universal Basic Income model is the best way to go about this, we recognise that after the devastation that Covid-19 restrictions have had on the already-precarious arts sector, that we need to back proposals that will provide workers in the industry with support; especially with no reopening plan in sight.

“The proposal for a UBI pilot for artists, as recommended by the Arts and Culture Recovery Taskforce last October, however, appears to now be changed beyond recognition.

“Despite repeated assurances by the Minister that she would implement the pilot UBI for artists, it was only through answers to parliamentary questions that we discovered that the basic income for artists being developed is separate to the promised UBI pilot. What this means remains unclear.

“Now, we learn from the Pathways to Work Strategy 2021-2025, not only are the government hellbent on reintroducing the failed JobBridge scheme, but they are have also started referring to this proposal as a “working age payment/basic income guarantee in the arts sector” (p. 59).

“This phrase should raise alarm bells for everyone, given that the “single working age payment” is what Ministers Éamon Ó Cuív and Joan Burton tried to ram through as a one-size-fits-all replacement for basic social protection needs, similar to the disastrous Universal Credit rolled out by the Tories in Britain.

“I remember campaigning vigorously against it at the time and thankfully the idea was scrapped, which makes it all the stranger that the phrase is being revived in relation to support for artists.

“Outlined in the document is the new aim of the scheme – to “support” people to “make the transition to work” – and rather than each person receiving the same amount regardless of means, those in employment are to receive more.

“I hope this is not yet another insulting attempt by government to “encourage” arts workers off basic welfare supports and to “upskill” to other sectors.

“Giving those in less need more money, as seems to be suggested here, is fundamentally regressive, and seems to completely undermine the reason given by the Green Party for wanting a UBI – to help carers or those in precarious work.

“With only half a year before it is set to be rolled out, the proposal now seems very much at odds with what was sought by the National Campaign for the Arts and the Taskforce, and we remain none-the-wiser as to who will qualify as an artist for the scheme, how many will benefit, or how much it will cost.

“Minister Martin’s response to my parliamentary questions on the matter suggest she is unaware that such details of her proposal have been decided upon and are outlined within the Pathways to Work Strategy, which begs even more questions about how the long-awaited arts supports are being handled in government.”

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