Minister Catherine Martin has been informed that persons who participated in the basic income for artists scheme are now being pursued with debt letters for thousands of euro in social protection overpayments.
The basic income for artists, BIA, is a pilot scheme that was introduced by Government following consultation with the arts sector in order to assess how such a scheme could best support professional arts practice in Ireland.
It provides a €325 per week payment to those who participate in the scheme.
The information regarding overpayments was presented to the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media during Priority Oral Questions session in the Dáil today.
Claims were also made during the Dáil questions session that artists were given no warning prior to or following the commencement of the scheme that receipt of the basic income payment would impact them in this way.
Minister Martin rejected that position.
However, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD who raised the matter highlighted one case in particular, of an artist who ‘proactively’ sought clarity on the impact of the basic income scheme on his Jobseekers Allowance Payment prior to his participation:
“The person in question was doing everything right in just seeking clarity, yet the Department continued to pay him. That meant he ended up with a payment of €3,000 that is now being demanded of him,” he said.
“As he said, the fact that the Department were aware that he was not entitled to jobseeker’s, yet continued to dispense payments to him is deeply concerning. He went on to say that this implies the Department knowingly let him put himself in a position of serious debt, despite proactive clarity seeking on his part, that he would have been homeless were it not for the jobseeker’s payment.”
The Minister reiterated her view that these issues relate primarily to the manner in which the social welfare schemes assess income from other sources:
“These matters are an issue for the Minister for Social Protection under the various chapters of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005,” she said.