In one of his last acts as Irish Social Protection Minister, newly elected Taoiseach Leo Varadkar launched a new programme which hopes to benefit artists and writers in Ireland.
The plan, which will allow self-employed professional artists to claim for jobseekers’ allowance, means they will have much easier access to social welfare payments.
Mr Varadkar said it would enable fledgling artists to get a head start and that it was important for Ireland to invest in creativity.
“There is a long-standing tax exemption for artists but that is no help to young artists or struggling artists who are trying to get started in life,” he said.
“What this programme does, for the first time, it says to artists who are starting off, who are trying to make money from their art, that they can still claim social welfare and they won’t be subject to the same controls for activation procedures.”
Under the tax exemption scheme, the first €50,000 (£44,000) per annum of profits or gains earned by writers, composers, visual artists and sculptors from the sale of their work is exempt from income tax in Ireland in certain circumstances.
In the new initiative, when applying for jobseekers’ allowance, they would not be subject to the activation process for the first year.
To ensure the system isn’t exploited, normal checks and balances will apply but the programme will make social welfare payments more accessible.
“Investing in the arts and culture is investing in ourselves,” Mr Varadkar said. “This reputation for artistic achievement is part of our global USP.
“Promoting Ireland as a home for art and artists is central to my plans to double our global footprint in the years ahead.
“I believe it’s only right that we allow for some flexibility within the social welfare system to allow artists to access social welfare supports when they need them.
“Up to now, artists have found it difficult to access social welfare and of course many artists take on extra jobs to support their livelihoods.”
Irish Arts Minister Heather Humphreys said that although the new scheme is by no means a solution, it is a clear sign that the Irish government recognises the vital role that artists play in Irish society.