A pilot initiative to assist self-employed visual artists and writers who apply to my Department for jobseeker’s allowance was launched in June 2017. The initiative, which is a commitment under the Creative Ireland Programme, was a collaboration between my Department and what is now the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, with the support and advice of the Arts Council. My department also consulted with the artists and writers professional bodies. It was decided that the initiative would apply to members of Visual Arts Ireland (VAI) and the Irish Writers Centre (IWC). A key feature of the initiative is that it acknowledges the status of self-employed artists and writers and gives them a 12 month window to focus on building up their work before they become subject to labour market activation. Therefore, they are exempted from labour market activation, which is mandatory for most recipients of a jobseekers payment, for a period of twelve months. Naturally there are safeguards in place to ensure that claimants are professional visual artists and writers and, in addition, applicants must satisfy all of the usual qualifying conditions for jobseeker’s allowance.
There were 42 artists and writers on the scheme in April. The figure of 42 does not imply that there are only 42 professional visual artists or writers in receipt of jobseeker’s allowance. It simply means that there are 42 recipients of the payment who are availing of the pilot arrangements and therefore they are not party to the activation process for 12 months. A total of 54 artists and writers have availed of the scheme to date.
The general population of jobseeker’s allowance recipients is not classified as to their occupation or profession so it is not possible to say how many writers or visual artists are in receipt of jobseekers payment. The arrangements for the exemption scheme will be reviewed later this year.