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Departmental Schemes

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 11 November 2021

Thursday, 11 November 2021

Questions (107)

Cathal Berry


107. Deputy Cathal Berry asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media if she will provide greater detail on the proposed universal basic income for the arts sector that was announced in budget 2022; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [55101/21]

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Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Tourism)

I was happy to see on page 160 of the budget last month that there is a €25 million allocation to support a pilot basic income guarantee scheme for the artistic community in the country. It is a very good concept but I would like to know a little more of the detail. Perhaps the Minister could use the opportunity this morning to expand the detail of the scheme and let everybody know what is involved.

I was delighted, as part of the national economic recovery plan, to secure the commitment from the Government to prioritise the development of a basic income guarantee pilot scheme for the arts and cultural sectors. As Minister with responsibility for arts and culture, I am conscious of the value this sector brings to all Irish citizens. It is something we really felt during the Covid-19 pandemic when they were taken from us. The importance of Irish culture, art and productions as a whole cannot be understated and it contributes to individual and societal well-being, as well as contributing to Ireland's reputation as a country with a rich cultural history and output. The intrinsic value of culture and the arts to society was particularly evident during the pandemic, as I mentioned.

Against this backdrop and my own experience of the arts, funding for the basic income guarantee pilot scheme was a key priority of mine for the budget and I secured €25 million to realise the pilot scheme next year. With regard to the timeline for the launch of the pilot, the Deputy will appreciate that this is a major policy intervention requiring significant resources to develop a coherent policy and to operationalise. This work is ongoing and my ambition is to open the scheme for applications during the first quarter of 2022. The oversight group continues to meet regularly and met yesterday with a representative from SIPTU.

My Department will hold a stakeholder consultation forum on 8 December on the basic income guarantee pilot scheme, in particular to tease out the eligibility criteria for the scheme. It is really important we develop the scheme in close consultation with the sector. We will be using a professional facilitator to run a world café method event to ensure the arts sector and resource bodies and representative organisations are given the opportunity to feed into the policy development for the scheme. The selection process for recipients of the basic income will be finalised following the stakeholder engagement early next month. However, I can confirm that participation in the scheme will not be based on a means test and it will be a non-competitive process, so once a person satisfies the eligibility criteria, that person will be included in a randomised selection process. A number of unsuccessful applicants will be invited to participate in a control group to facilitate a comprehensive ex post facto appraisal of the pilot in due course. Proposals for the parameters of the scheme will be finalised in light of the stakeholder engagement.

That is a useful reply and we are really in full agreement that Ireland's artistic and creative sector has achieved world renown for good reason. These people are exceptional and need to be supported just to maximise value both from a societal and economic perspective. I thank the Minister of articulating the timeline in general. Who is the scheme for? What internal sectors within the artistic community is it for? I appreciate the Minister has indicated the first quarter of 2022 for the devising of the scheme but when is it anticipated that payments will start to flow for the people involved? How will people apply for this? Will they apply in writing or online? Will there be interviews or how will that be teased out? If the Minister does not have this information to hand now, perhaps there may be a press release or further details issued in the next couple of months.

I thank the Deputy. It is my intention that the pilot scheme will be open to eligible artists and creative arts sector workers. The process for recipients will be finalised through the stakeholder engagement I mentioned, which should happen next month. I can confirm it will be a non-competitive process and people will be chosen randomly. My intention is to have a number of streams, such as professional artists, emerging and developing artists and arts workers.

This will be subject to two further stakeholder engagements in the coming weeks. This consultation is key in that regard.

It is good the Government recognises that the artistic sector needs to be supported financially. I would argue that it also needs to be supported infrastructurally. There are many small towns and villages throughout rural and regional Ireland that do not have an artistic centre, although they have digital hubs. Perhaps this is an issue the Minister will raise with her Cabinet colleague, the Minister, Deputy Heather Humphreys. Many of the digital business hubs are underutilised at the weekend and evenings. Could these spaces be provided for use by the artistic and creative community at weekends and after normal business hours? It is good that the artistic community will be supported financially, and I look forward to the launch of that scheme, and its expansion in 2023 and thereafter.

The Department of Rural and Community Development is working with us and other Departments in order to map out all digital hubs throughout the country, and Údarás na Gaeltachta is also developing digital hubs in Gaeltacht areas.

I refer to the Deputy's proposal for the use of digital hubs for arts purposes. I would be interested in any proposal that allows digital hubs to be adapted for arts purposes and I will engage with the Minister, Deputy Humphreys, and with Údarás na Gaeltachta on this matter. I understand the Minister may have mentioned the concept of adapting digital hubs for arts purposes in her discussions with the Arts Council recently.