Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Questions (407)

Joan Burton

Question:

407. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Social Protection if he will examine the supports for working artists in the social protection system; and if the Government will relax activation rules for working artists to allow them to support themselves as they produce the art and cultural pieces for which our country is rightly proud. [13597/16]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The jobseeker's benefit and jobseeker’s allowance schemes provide income support for people who have lost work and are unable to find alternative full-time employment. The 2016 Estimates for my Department provide for expenditure this year on the jobseekers’ schemes of €2.8 billion.

It is accepted that periods of unemployment are a normal feature of the acting and artistic professions and people in these professions can qualify for a jobseeker’s payment when they are unemployed. Jobseeker’s payments compensate for periods of involuntary unemployment only and it is not the function of my Department to provide income support through the jobseeker’s schemes to any group, including artists during periods of unemployment, which are involuntary. For this reason, social welfare legislation provides that all jobseekers must satisfy certain qualifying conditions in order to be entitled to an unemployment payment including, being available for full-time work and be genuinely seeking work. The legislation does not impose any restriction or limitation on the right of a person to the opportunity to engage in the employment of his or her choice. All unemployed persons should avail of reasonable employment opportunities and Artists are treated no differently to any other unemployed person. My Department’s INTREO service now provides a more focussed service to those in receipt of a jobseeker’s payment, including Artists.

My Department has no plans to introduce new sector specific working age payments that provide exemptions to be available for and genuinely seeking employment.

It is essential to the sustainability and integrity of the jobseeker’s schemes that these criteria remain a core feature of the State’s supports for the unemployed.