Arts and Heritage Sector: COVID Recovery

Oral Answers to Questions — Communities – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 30 November 2021.

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Photo of Pádraig Delargy Pádraig Delargy Sinn Féin 2:30, 30 November 2021

T2. Mr Delargy asked the Minister for Communities, following the publication of the culture, arts and heritage recovery task force’s report, for an update on her plans to support the arts and heritage sector. (AQT 1852/17-22)

Photo of Deirdre Hargey Deirdre Hargey Sinn Féin

I set up the culture, arts and heritage recovery task force this year in response to the pandemic and to look at the opening of the sector. I was pleased to approve the creative individuals' recovery programme on 15 September. The key recommendation that came out of the task force report was to ensure that there were immediate payments for individuals who were impacted and continue to be impacted as a result of the pandemic and the restrictions. That grant will be an award of up to £2,000 per individual.

There has been a good uptake in applications for that scheme. It closed on 6 October. Some 1,830 applications have been received. That will see around £3·6 million being invested over the next short while for those individual artists who have been impacted. The current assessment is that 1,485 eligible applicants are seeking just under £3 million. That will provide much-needed support to individuals, freelancers and those who are self-employed.

I hope to make an announcement shortly on how I intend to provide support to sectoral organisations. That was another critical area that came out of the task force. I hope to make an announcement on that soon. On 23 November, I published the report that the task force compiled. It is an important piece of work. I am grateful to the chair, Rotha Johnston, and all those busy people who took the time to be part of that work. I have accepted the report's recommendations. That is clear. I met the task force on outlining its proposals and to say that I accepted its recommendations. The response plan —

Photo of Deirdre Hargey Deirdre Hargey Sinn Féin

— sets out and outlines how we will progress it.

Photo of Pádraig Delargy Pádraig Delargy Sinn Féin

Thank you for your answer so far. Clearly, the arts and heritage sector has an important role in the economic and social recovery, so thank you, Minister, for your commitment and for implementing the task force's recommendations. Will you also provide an update on the level of resource that is earmarked to support that work?

Photo of Deirdre Hargey Deirdre Hargey Sinn Féin

As I said, there is £3·6 million for individual artists and freelancers. Work is ongoing at the moment to assess those applications and make payments. We are also working on organisations and looking at a sum of money that will help to promote and support them as they continue to meet the impact of the pandemic.

Where overall funding is concerned, earlier in the year, I secured an additional £13 million from the Executive for those support programmes. In the next short period, I will roll out the proposals on how that money will be spent.