Writers' and Artists’ Social Welfare Initiative

This page relates to Professional Writers only. If you are a Visual Artist and are looking for further information please visit the VAI website.

The Irish Writers Centre welcomes the launch of a new pilot initiative which acknowledges the professional status of writers and artists applying for Jobseeker’s Allowance. The pilot is being developed in partnership between the Department of Social Protection and the Department of Arts, Heritage Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, as part of a key commitment to artists under the Creative Ireland programme.

What is this initiative about and what difference does it make to me as a professional writer?

This scheme is really designed to make it easier for writers and artists to access Jobseeker’s Allowance during times when their incomes are low and to provide support to develop income opportunities.  The two departments are recognising that professional artists (collectively) have had inconsistent levels of experience (positive and negative) when making a claim at their local social welfare office – some Deciding Officers understand the living and earning conditions of professional artists while others don’t, therefore creating difficulties for the artist in pursuing their profession. 

This pilot programme is designed to facilitate this process for writers and visual artists, in the first instance, during the 12 months of the pilot. The Irish Writers Centre and Visual Artists Ireland have been invited to facilitate the process, as they are already set up to certify the professional status of writers and artists through their respective professional membership schemes.  This is of immediate help to the Deciding Officer in that they will not require further evidence of professional status.

Has the pilot started and how long will it last?

Yes, the pilot initiative was announced on June 12, 2017 and will run for 12 months.
We hope that this will be extended for a longer period. The Irish Writers Centre is continuing its conversations with the Departments of Arts and Social Protection in regard to scheme length and in order to feedback comments and findings to make the scheme as relevant to writers as it can be.  The pilot is a way of assessing uptake, interest and issues in the scheme to take on board for its future development. 

How is the pilot initiative different from the existing Jobseeker’s Allowance scheme?

Under the pilot scheme, the criteria for Jobseeker’s Allowance remain the same, and like all jobseekers, writers must be available and genuinely seeking work in order to qualify for the Allowance.  You must be able to show evidence of this to the Department of Social Protection.  Also, the Allowance is means-tested, and you will need to research the rules for eligibility on the Department of Social Protection’s website.

However, there are significant differences. 
Now, under the pilot scheme, professional writers will be able state Professional Writer as their primary profession without being challenged. The new system now makes this easier and writers will no longer have to hide their primary profession so as to access supports.  This new professional status under the Social Protection services is a real and symbolic recognition of the status of professional writers and artists in Ireland and recognises their contribution to Irish culture within the state support systems.

Secondly, during the initial application process, you are now able to state activities that form the everyday life of a writer as evidence of job-seeking, such as: applications for bursaries, funding, residencies, workshops and outreach opportunities and any other examples you have of actively pursuing opportunities related to your practice that could potentially generate income. Being available for work now takes into allowance the range of work that writers undertake. Participation on courses and workshops of an advanced nature may also be taken into account as evidence you are upskilling.

Thirdly, you will not be “activated” for the period of 12 months, which means you will not be asked to go on government approved training courses which would ordinarily be a mandatory requirement of accepting Allowance. In effect, you can freely pursue literary endeavors as legitimate forms of job-seeking.  However, you are also free to be “activated” if there are approved training courses that you would like to attend.

Are there any other qualifying criteria?

Yes, there are two. 

Firstly, you must be registered as being self-employed for tax.  If you are already submitting returns under this designation, then you will need to bring some correspondence from the Revenue which confirms this.  Otherwise, you will need to register as self-employed with the Revenue Commissioners.

Secondly, you will need to demonstrate that 50% of your income from last year has come through your professional writing. If, for example, you have a declared income of 7K, then 3.5K should be from your practice as a writer. This includes income from all forms of work that a writer undertakes, for example: readings, commissions, being on selection panels, funding awards, workshop facilitation, guest lecturing, specialist panels, public speaking and artist talks, etc.

Do I need to become a Professional Member of the IWC to avail of the scheme?

Yes, in the first instance, and for the purposes of the 12 month pilot scheme. This is something that will be reviewed when the pilot ends.

The reason the IWC was approached to facilitate this scheme was that our Professional Membership criteria was reviewed and accepted by both Departments as suitable evidence of professional status. Front line officials for Social Welfare are not in a position to assess whether an applicant is a professional writer and will tend to err on the side of caution. This is the reason that they have asked us to provide professional members who are applying for Jobseeker’s Allowance with a certificate as valid proof. 

Upon request, the Irish Writers Centre can issue you with a certificate which will confirm you as a Professional Member of the IWC. This will be accepted as evidence of your professional status when applying for Jobseeker's Allowance. 

If you are not a Professional Members and would like more information, you can find out how to apply here.  If you are already a Professional Member, and would like to avail of a certificate, then please apply to Arnold or Orla at info@writerscentre.ie , putting Professional Member Certificate in the subject line.
How do I apply for the scheme?

You must first contact your Social Welfare Office in order to find out if you are eligible for Jobseeker’s Allowance, which is means-tested. If you are eligible you must contact the Irish Writers Centre to apply for Professional Membership, or ask us for a certificate, if you are already a Professional Member. This will be accepted as evidence of your professional status when applying for Jobseeker's Allowance. You will also need to bring with you evidence of your earnings for the last year and a letter from the Revenue (or other such proof) stating you are registered for tax as self-employed.

Can I work part-time and apply for the scheme?

Yes, however, you will need to show that 50% of your income is from writing or related activities. You will also need to ask your Deciding Officer about how much you can work, before it affects your Allowance.

What else is there that may be of interest to me as a Professional Writer?

If you qualify as an IWC Professional Member, you may also be eligible under Artist Tax Exemption.

Income you earn from your writing may be exempt from Irish Income Tax (IT) in certain circumstances. Revenue may make a determination that certain artistic works are original and creative works generally recognised as having cultural or artistic merit.

Revenue can make determinations in respect of artistic works in the following categories:

  • books or other forms of writing
  • plays
  • musical compositions
  • paintings or other similar pictures
  • sculptures. 

Guidelines have been drawn up by the Arts Council and by the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. These are used to determine whether a work is original and creative, and whether it is generally recognised as having cultural or artistic merit. Sometimes other bodies are consulted such as The Arts Council in reaching decisions in relation to Artists’ Exemption. 

If Revenue make a determination for a piece of work, you are deemed to have Artists’ Exemption from the year in which the claim is made.  This means that income up to a maximum of €50,000 per annum from these works are exempt from IT.  (For the years 2011-2014 the maximum amount exempt was €40,000.)

Back to Work Enterprise Allowance
If you are already in receipt of a Social Welfare payment and have been on your scheme for at least 9 months, then you may be eligible for Back to Work Enterprise Allowance to encourage you to set up your own business and to become self-employed.  Your DSP Case Officer will be able to help advise you as to approved business schemes.

Any Questions?
If you have any specific questions please email us at info@writerscentre.ie and we will respond to you individually.