The Irish pilot of a universal basic income for artists (Editorial, 7 February) is partially the equivalent of France’s support for performing artists. There, dancers, musicians, designers and technicians who are working on a production receive unemployment support. This was introduced in 1936 as the régime salarié intermittent à employeurs multiples (system for intermittently salaried workers with multiple employers) to support technicians in the film industry. This created the right to publicly funded unemployment benefits for each day that they were not in work. Recipients have to have done a minimum of 507 hours of paid work during a one-year period.
I understand that this applies more broadly across the arts in France, and a similar system exists in Belgium. In December 2020, the UK trade union Equity called on the government to introduce a basic income guarantee for creative workers in the performing arts. This would provide them with financial stability during the pandemic and ensure that they are free to take work when it arises without fear of losing other forms of support. We should not ignore one of the UK’s most successful assets in the way the government seems to be doing.
• Here’s my big idea for an arts policy that your excellent editorial called for: use a windfall tax on pandemic-fuelled profits made by online gambling and video-streaming services to support a “new deal of the soul”. This would pay organisations to commission art for, with and by children and young people that deserves a wider audience. Ensure that freelancers are paid to be at the heart of this, and go beyond schools to find those young people most at risk of continued social isolation and dislocation.