‘Life Worth Living’ report recommendations; 4 months later

Photo by Kurayba on Creative Commons

The report of the Arts and Culture Recovery Taskforce, titled ‘Life Worth Living’, was published back in October and made a set of 10 recommendations that focused on the support and recovery of the Irish arts and entertainment sector.

Multiple recommendations from the report by the Arts and Culture Recovery Taskforce are now in place, but the consensus is that segments of the industry still feel they aren’t getting enough support.

The live events sector has not seen the same level of support as it’s artistic counterparts according to Elaine O’Connor from the Event Industry Alliance and member of the Taskforce.

Since its publication two of the recommendations have been put in place. 

Minding Public Spaces

The Outdoor Public Space Scheme 2021, announced by Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin, on February 11th, responds to the 9th recommendation in the report.

In this recommendation, the Taskforce proposed a capital improvement programme be introduced to reimagine public spaces to ‘support cultural endeavour and enable safe social activity’. Under this scheme, local authorities can receive up to €250,000 to upgrade or create versatile outdoor spaces that provide infrastructure for the arts, events and creative industries.

According to Jane Daly from the Irish Theatre Institute, this “was something that the Taskforce unanimously across all artforms felt was a really important recommendation to feature.”

Daly expects to see the effects of this scheme come into place over the summer. 

“A lot of artists and arts organisations are putting together proposals and will be working with their local authorities to come up with really workable solutions to providing arts and entertainment activity,” she said.

O’Connor also welcomes the scheme, but emphasises that local authorities must work to ensure these spaces are versatile for all types of events.

“When they’re having a conversation about how the spaces are going to be used practically [it’s important] that they’re taking everyone’s thoughts into consideration,” said O’Connor.

“It’s great to see the recommendation fall into place, it’s how it is used now is the real question,” she continued.

O’Connor recommends that when local authorities are investing in these outdoor spaces they put in infrastructure such as outdoor electrical sockets that could be used for all performances and events instead of generators. This would save money for those using the space and be safer said O’Connor.

Taking Care of The Mental Wellbeing of the Sector

In December, Minister Martin, announced €230,000 would be allocated to expand the Minding Creative Minds Service.

This meets the 6th recommendation from the Taskforce which called for “establishing a programme that provides wellbeing supports to the creative sector.” 

Minding Creative Minds is an online wellbeing service for the Irish creative community. The services it provides include a 24/7 phone line, short and long term counselling services, legal services, financial consultations, mediation, and career guidance.

When it was established in June 2020 it was only for those working in the music industry but with this additional funding it expanded to support all areas of the creative industry.

While O’Connor commends the Department for taking the recommendation on board and providing funding for Minding Creative Minds, she feels this service is not clear enough for those working in the events industry to identify with it. 

“At the time that was one of the primary routes we thought the we might be able to give people assistance and now that we are further down the line from an event perspective and from an event industry perspective I have concerns that the uptake is quite low,” explained O’Connor.

“Their website is very orientated towards the creative sector.” said O’Connor. “When they refer to the creative sector or creatives that’s not me. I never identified as a creative person. I do event production, that’s putting up fences, site maps…The business owners don’t consider themselves creatives,” she explained.

While Daly welcomes this funding she notes the need to also establish a long term Freelancers Assistance Programme as recommended by the Taskforce.

“The key now is to keep it going for the long term and to ensure that the freelancer in this sector has access to supports in the same way as if you were in employment in a big organisation” said Daly.

Further progress has been made on other recommendations although they have not yet been established.

Is UBI Possible?

On February 1st, Minister Martin requested support from the three Government parties on the implementation of the UBI pilot scheme.

According to Daly, the introduction of a Universal Basic Income (UBI) pilot scheme was the “key recommendation” in ‘Life Worth Living’.

UBI featured in the Green Parties programme for Government and the Taskforce felt that the arts sector should be used as a pilot for it, said Daly.

The pilot scheme would involve an unconditional State payment paid at the National Minimum Wage in lieu of a primary weekly social welfare payment, according to the report. 

It would be an opt-in scheme that would allow other income to be earned separately and taxed at the marginal rate.

“The National Campaign for the Arts has been talking about about universal basic income for a number of years and I think if anything Covid highlighted the importance of this as a mechanism that can sustain and secure the future of the arts,” said Daly

However, she believes the implementation of this recommendation will take time.

“I think you could be looking at an 18 month period before this would come into being. It’s not something that can happen over five or six months” Daly said. “It’s a lot of investment and so there’s a lot of number crunching that needs to be done.” 

O’Connor agrees that developing the UBI pilot scheme will take time but she also feels that by focusing on artists the scheme has become too narrow.

“For our sector we have loads of artists but we have loads of other people that it leaves behind,” said O’Connor.

“So pilot scheme or not that was supposed to fill the gap that we needed and without it now we’re kind of excluded.”

Minister Martin also said she would establish an oversight group for the implementation of the Taskforce’s recommendations which will have a role to play in the development of a UBI. 

However, Minister Martin also said that while she and her Department will advocate for it, the establishment of a UBI is a matter for the Low Pay Commission.

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