Praxis: The Artists Union of Ireland is calling for the wellbeing of artists to be the first priority of the new pilot for a Basic Income Guarantee Scheme for artists in Ireland.
We welcome the proposed scheme, which we want to see permanently improve the living and working conditions of artists in Ireland. Artists are key contributors to Irish society, enriching our life and culture. A basic income scheme would dignify our precarious and undervalued work, helping to lift us out of poverty, protect our livelihoods, assure our financial security, and promote our wellbeing. The scheme would also make artistic work more viable for those who otherwise wouldn’t have seen an artistic career as viable, nurturing diversity in a new generation of artists.
While we welcome the scheme and congratulate our peers in organisations such as the National Campaign for the Arts for initiating the pilot, we have some concerns about the current shape of the pilot scheme. In particular, we are justly concerned that the purpose and objectives of the pilot are only now being calibrated, after the scheme has already been budgeted, and just a few months before its implementation in Quarter 1 of 2022. We also have reservations about some of the goals that have been suggested for the pilot, which would seek to measure its success by the productive activities of artists. Artists are intensely productive workers who are already contributing enormously to Irish culture and society for little in return. The goals of this scheme should be to dignify this work and lift us out of our insecure conditions, not to increase levels of artistic production.
Praxis believes that any Government basic income scheme should be linked to basic living costs, in order to ensure that its recipients can meet a minimum standard of living. Currently, there is a vast discrepancy between the average income of those that will administer the basic income pilot scheme and those who will receive it.(i) We believe this gap should be closed. We note research from Living Wage Ireland that the basic living costs of living in Ireland for an adult without dependents are between 383.60 and 519.74EURS a week.(ii) We ask either that the value of the scheme be raised to meet these costs, or the name of the scheme be altered to reflect that it is merely a ‘partial’ or ‘supplementary’ basic income.
Praxis will advocate for these matters on behalf of its members at the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, and the Gaeltacht’s Stakeholder Engagement Forum on 15th December 2021. We look forward to a meaningful discussion with the Department and ask that its consultations with artists be continued in stages before the scheme begins next year.
On behalf of
Praxis: The Artists’ Union of Ireland & Praxis Basic Income Working Group
Position Paper on the Artists’ Basic Income Guarantee Pilot Scheme
1. Purpose and Objectives of the Pilot Scheme
I. Praxis believes that the purpose of this scheme should be to pilot a full basic income guarantee scheme for all artists and creative arts workers in Ireland.
II. The primary objectives of the scheme should be to improve the living and working conditions of artists and creative arts workers, particularly in terms of:
• Financial security
• Work stability
• Health and wellbeing
• Ability to make meaningful choices in life and work
• Ability to realise artistic potential
• Family and social life
• Bargaining power with workplaces
III. The Department should therefore perform research into the current state of these conditions for artists and creative arts workers in Ireland, which should be used to assess the success of
IV. The scheme should have a clear pathway for broader implementation if its objectives are successfully met.
2. Selection Procedures for the Pilot Scheme
V. In order to best monitor the above objectives within the limited 2,000 pilot participants, Praxis
asks that the Department set controls to ensure the inclusion of the following:
• Artists & creative arts workers living below the poverty line
• Artists & creative arts workers in multiple employments
• Artists & creative arts workers with disabilities & significant health issues
• Artists & creative arts workers at the beginning of their career
• Artists & creative arts workers with dependents
VI. Praxis defines the professional ‘artist’ in the broadest sense of the word, as someone who selfidentifies as such and is seeking to earn an income from their practice. We recognise the full diversity of artistic work, which is unique to every individual. We ask that an inclusive list of criteria be used to assess artists’ eligibility for the scheme. For example, applicants could be deemed eligible for submitting two or more of the following items of evidence:
• Letter of reference from a recognised arts organisation
• Contract of employment in the arts
• Tender of services in the arts
• Website or document showing a portfolio of sustained practice
• Proof of membership of a professional arts organisation
• Accredited educational certificate in the arts
• Proof of artistic sales or income • Proof of receipt of artist funding from a recognised funder
Additional criteria will be required for creative arts workers, who we do not represent.
VII. The application procedure for the scheme should be available equally and freely to any adult artist or creative arts worker resident in Ireland, regardless of language abilities, citizenship status, educational background, learning difficulties, location of residence or other demographics.
VIII. The application procedure should be simple and straightforward, not requiring the excessive, time-consuming, free administrative labour that is required for other public art funds.
IX. A work plan or proposal should not be a condition for entry to the scheme. Participants of the scheme should be trusted to carry out their activities as they see fit.
X. The scheme should not seek to make value judgements about the quality of applicants’ work. Existing public funds that seek to assess applicants on their artistic merit perpetuate a cycle of inequality, wherein the best funded artists have the means to achieve that “artistic merit.”
3. Operation of the Pilot Scheme
XI. The pilot scheme should be implemented as a regular, unconditional, income scheme for artists and creative arts workers. It should be considered a guaranteed payment to protect artists’ livelihoods and not an income payment made in exchange for consistent work.
XII. The value of the scheme should meet the costs of a minimum standard of living, as defined by focus groups of Irish citizens in research for Living Wage Ireland.
XIII. The scheme’s payments should be distributed and administered by Revenue or the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, and the Gaeltacht.
XIV. Payments received in the pilot scheme should not be means tested against social protection supports, such as Disability Allowance, Blind Pension, Carers Allowance, Child Benefit, Widows Pension, Rent Allowance, the Housing Assistance Payment, or the Medical Card.
XV. The Department of Social Protection should ensure that local social welfare offices are aware of the scheme and its implications for welfare recipients. Our experience of the Professional Artists on Jobseekers Allowance was that many officers were not sufficiently trained to implement the scheme.
XVI. Institutions, organisations and employers, whether state funded or otherwise, should not be able to justify lower pay or free labour when considering employing an artist participating in the scheme. The Workplace Relations Commission and Labour Court should be equipped to process any discriminatory practices based on these criteria. In particular, bodies which receive public funds, via the Arts Council or otherwise, should be beholden to the Arts Council’s 2019 Paying The Artist policy, which is a requirement for Arts Council grants.
XVII. Whether or not an artist is in receipt of the scheme should not be a factor in decisions to offer public arts funding. The best way to ensure this is to mandate funding bodies not to collect that information as part of their application processes.
XVIII. Any workplace discrimination or preferential treatment between artists and creative arts workers on the basis of their participation in the scheme should be monitored throughout the pilot.
XIX. Any discrimination in private residential renting should be discouraged with the same legal proceedings available to tenants under the Equal Status Act 2001, which prevents landlords from discriminating against recipients of social welfare payments, HAP, or rent supplement.iii
XX. The Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, and the Gaeltacht should continue to meaningfully consult stakeholders over multiple stages during the coming months, and throughout the lifetime of the pilot scheme.
XXI. Monitoring and assessment of the pilot scheme should be conducted by relevant experts, such as social policy researchers, sociologists, UBI experts, trade unions, and representative organisations for artists and creative arts workers. Assessment of the pilot should be made on the basis of whether the above objectives were met.
XXII. Assessment of the scheme should continue over several years, in order to capture any long term effects of the scheme.
4. Context for the Pilot Scheme
XXIII. Any Basic Income Guarantee Scheme for artists should complement universal access to public art services and not be used to justify their marketisation. XXIV. Funding for this pilot scheme must be understood to be supplementary to current public funding levels for the arts, dedicated specifically and exclusively to uplifting, supporting and securing the basic needs of artists themselves, and enabling them to persist in their creative practice. The existing level of arts funding should be increased for the support, facilitation and amplification of art and opportunities for participation in cultural activity.
XXV. No private institution should be directly or indirectly profiting from this scheme or the application system itself.
XXVI. Praxis notes the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, and the Gaeltacht’s confirmation that the scheme is not the Universal Basic Income (UBI) pilot mentioned in the 2021 Programme for Government. In solidarity with our fellow precarious and undervalued workers, we ask that the findings of this pilot be considered in any developments towards a full UBI. Praxis supports the broader implementation of a full Universal Basic Income Scheme in order to support everybody’s artistic potential. We believe that a UBI would help us fulfill our vision of a ‘equal, ample, and quality art access for all’ by providing financial protection to everybody who wants to be an artist.iv
XXVII. Any basic income scheme should be financed through progressive taxation such as a wealth tax, inheritance tax, and capital tax. The universal aspect of such schemes could maintain existing levels of wealth inequality, which must be reduced if we are to enjoy a more equal society.
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