A pilot scheme has been launched by Minister for Social Protection, Leo Varadkar, and the Minister for Arts Heather Humphreys to make it easier for artists and writers to access social welfare supports.
The announcement was made today at Poetry Ireland's new headquarters on Parnell Square in Dublin.
The initiative will assist self-employed artists who apply to the Department of Social Protection for Jobseekers Allowance. The pilot initiative, which will be reviewed after one year, will apply to visual artists and writers.
Under the new mechanism, the Department will provide for the classification of self-employed professional artists. Such artists would not be subject to the activation process for 12 months.
"This pilot scheme is not a panacea, but it is a clear sign that the Government recognises the vital role that artists play in Irish society and that we respect and value their contribution," said Minister Humphreys.
"This is a pilot initiative which will initially be available to writers and visual artists. The issue of income for artists is something that has been raised with me on a regular basis, so I hope this pilot initiative can be seen as a very positive step for the arts community.
"We will closely monitor the implementation of the pilot initiative, before considering whether extending the arrangements to professional artists in other disciplines."
Speaking at the announcement Minister Varadkar said:
"Ireland is world-famous as a haven for art and artists who are central to our culture.
"I believe it is only right that we allow for some flexibility within the social welfare system to allow artists to access social welfare supports when they need them. Up to now, artists have found it difficult to access social welfare and of course many artists take on extra jobs to support their livelihoods.
"Following extensive work between both Departments, with input from the Arts Council, this new mechanism will allow artists to be classified as self-employed for the purposes of accessing social welfare supports. The normal checks and balances will apply to ensure the initiative is not open to abuse, but my hope is that this will make it much easier for professional artists to access social welfare supports when they need them."