Social Welfare Scheme for Professional Writers and Artists

Social Welfare Scheme for Professional Writers and Artists on Jobseeker's Allowance

Good news for writers and other artists: following a pilot period when The Irish Writers Centre and Visual Artists Ireland facilitated the process through their professional membership schemes, the Social Welfare Scheme has now been extended on a permanent basis, and, from September 2019, will include all self-employed artists. This page relates to Professional Writers.

The Irish Writers Centre welcomes the continuance of this initiative which acknowledges the professional status of writers and artists applying for Jobseeker’s Allowance. The scheme was 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. During development, thanks to our professional members’ input, the Irish Writers Centre fed back comments and findings to make the scheme as relevant to writers as it can be and we are continuing the conversation with both departments.

You can also find out more about this scheme on welfare.ie.

What is this initiative and what does it mean for me as a professional writer?

This scheme was 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.

Under the scheme, professional writers will be able state Professional Writer as their primary profession without being challenged. The 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 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 endeavours as legitimate forms of job-seeking and focus on your creative output. However, you are also free to be “activated” if there are approved training courses that you would like to attend.

What are the qualifying criteria

Please consider carefully if this is the scheme for you.

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 10K, then 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. You will need a Certificate of Professional Membership to confirm your status as a Professional Writer to Social Welfare.

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 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 Member 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 Fiona 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?

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 advise you as to approved business schemes.

Artist Tax Exemption

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.

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.)