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Today’s Budget 2022 announcement contained some welcome news on the Basic Income initiative for artists and arts workers with the Arts Council’s allocation maintained at its current level too. Could this also be a turning point for the Arts and Culture sector in determining its own, more sustainable future?

Work worth doing
These announcements have generally been welcomed by a sector that closed first, reopened intermittently and briefly and is now one of the few still operating at reduced capacity. Today’s announcement of a Basic Income pilot initiative is so needed to take Artists and Arts Workers out of a vicious cycle of poor pay and conditions and the debilitating effects of precarious work on all aspects of life. In support of the work of the NCFA, we must all support this initiative and make the case for extending the Basic Income initiative across the arts and culture sector.

Hearing politicians’ repeated calls to look ahead, look forward and look to the future is hard going while many people in the sector are working for below minimum wage pay. The Covid-19 journey has been a hard one with so many arts and culture organisations, artists and arts workers existing on a cocktail of stability funding, TWSS, EWSS, and the PUP scheme supports. While such supports were essential in the last 20+ months, today it was confirmed they all will be phased out by April 2022. Before then, many arts organisations, arts workers and artists won’t meet the income eligibility criteria. To promote systemic change around pay, conditions and the quality of work in our sector and move beyond dependency, now is the time to examine why such a high proportion of artists, arts organisations and arts workers will have to rely on these supports until the bitter end. Such an examination would help inform how to rebuild a stronger and more resilient sector, better equipped to deal with future uncertainties.

Lives worth living
It has been widely quoted that the arts and culture make our lives worth living, the tenet of the Taskforce Report in December 2020. Less widely recognised is that low pay and poor conditions make it difficult for artists to have sustainable careers and plan their own lives. With work being intermittent and uncertain, artists live and work in precarious conditions with limited access to health care or benefits and housing being out of reach. Valuing the work of artists means parity of pay, not just esteem. Join our Open Forum on Monday 18 October to talk about the systemic changes you want to see around artists and arts workers’ pay and conditions.

Planet worth saving
The focus of many of this Budget’s climate action measures are price increases of the stick variety. The Green Arts Initiative in Ireland (GAII) would welcome and support any Department initiative to encourage the arts and culture community to take on a climate action leadership role in their communities. Arts organisations are ideally placed in their communities with many already working with artists to address climate and environmental issues to contribute towards the building of a shared, more sustainable future.

We’ll keep you updated about any other Budget news and reopening plans.