A campaign has been launched by Scottish and English artists’ unions, with the aim of helping freelance and self-employed workers who will be affected by changes to the taxation and benefits system through the introduction of Universal Credit.

In a joint statement, the Scottish Artists Union (SAU) and Artists’ Union England (AUE) said: “We believe that the stringent enforcement conditions of Universal Credit will result in far greater hardship and debt for artists and makers in receipt of top-up benefits.”

Universal Credit is currently being introduced in stages across the UK and will replace six benefits – Jobseeker’s Allowance, Housing Benefit, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Employment and Support Allowance, and Income Support.

SAU’s recent membership survey revealed that 67% of respondents are in receipt of working tax credits. They said: “Many artists, including those with children, are currently in receipt of top-up benefits, and we believe that the introduction of Universal Credit will have an extremely negative financial effect on artists, and will be extremely detrimental to the fragile ecology of the artistic community.”

The two bodies believe that Universal Credit is particularly problematic for artists, many of whom are claiming benefits to subsidise the low – or no – pay earned from their arts practice.

“Creative work doesn’t always pay, and the conditionality of Universal Credit is likely to make it more difficult for artists to justify their labour when it is only being valued in economic terms. It is therefore more likely that artists will be forced to take on paid work in other sectors to the detriment of their practice.”

Minimum level

Among a number of issues artists will face under the new system is a minimum level of assumed earnings based on hours worked and the minimum wage. SAU and AUE believe this is incompatible with the already precarious and low-paid nature of artist’s labour.

Supporters of the campaign can get involved by doing a number of things. This includes: downloading the campaign statement and forwarding to local MPs; arranging a meeting with your MP ; and asking your MP to take the issue to the Department for Work & Pensions.

You can also join the debate on social media using the tag #ScrapUC.

Paying Artists Regional Advocate Mark Gubb will be joined by Angela Kennedy of Artists’ Union England at the a-n supported discussion The money problem: or, how artists could be paid more than £10,000 a year, on Wednesday 18 November, 6-8pm at Block 336, Brixton, London. The event, which costs £7, is part of the System Failure series of discussions hosted by Artquest

More on a-n.co.uk

Universal Credit: guide by financial services experts Counterculture explaining how Universal Credit is calculated and how it may impact those who are self-employed.