We are reviewing and updating this article regularly. This piece was last updated on 30.03.20
Financial Support for the Creative Sector
Earlier today (March 30), Welsh Government Mark Drakeford announced a new £500 million Economic Resilience Fund for Wales. The Fund is intended to plug the gaps in the support schemes already announced by the UK Government, including the Job Retention Scheme and the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme.
“We understand that artists and arts organisations in Wales are anxious to know what support might be available to address the many serious consequences of the Coronavirus pandemic. We’re trying to ensure that clear support is available, as it is in the other part of the UK, and we’re working flat out with Welsh Government colleagues to ensure that the Wales support package best meets the sector’s needs. Please be patient with us for a few more days – if scarce funds are to go where they’re most needed, it’s important that we take the time to get this as right as we can.”
In these difficult and unprecedented times, the Arts Council of Wales recognises and empathises with the serious personal and professional impacts for artists, practitioners and organisations arising from Covid-19.
We stand firmly with the artists and arts organisations of Wales and our priority is to find practical ways of supporting those who are trying to manage the financial consequences of the current situation.
Included below you’ll find information for those working as artists, freelancers and in publicly funded cultural organisations.
We’ll continue to update this information as the situation develops. We’ll publish updated information on our website and use our social media channel to alert you to any changes in advice. We’ll listen carefully to your experiences and concerns and try to respond with the help and support you need. In the meantime, the following guidance applies.
Given the range of the potential scenarios – and the fast‑moving nature of the situation – you’re strongly advised to refer the official advice that most matches your particular circumstances.
Public Health Wales is working with the Welsh Government and other UK public health agencies to closely monitor the situation in worldwide. Their latest releases can be found here: https://phw.nhs.wales/
Severe travel restrictions to and from certain countries are in place including to and from the UK and the situation is changing rapidly. Several countries are introducing retrospective self-isolation restrictions, and if you’ve recently travelled internationally it’s important that you check on the latest advice on: https://gov.uk/guidance/travel-advice-novel-coronavirus
Information on travelling abroad can also be found here: https://fitfortravel.nhs.uk
If you think you’re developing symptoms, you can find tips on self‑isolating here: https://phw.nhs.wales/topics/latest-information-on-novel-coronavirus-covid-19/what-to-do-if-you-have-symptoms-of-coronavirus/
Information relating to events, performances and venues
As with all issues relating to Coronavirus in the UK, you should continue to follow Government advice.
Official government advice (issued on Monday 16 March) stipulated that people should avoid public buildings including theatres. As a result, most venues, halls and theatres have concluded that they have no option other than to close. Venues are likely to remain closed until further notice.
However, if you, or a member of your staff, develop the symptoms, you and your family should stay home, and self isolate.
You should only contact the NHS Helpline on 111 if:
- you feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home
- your condition gets worse
- your symptoms do not get better after 7 days
If you haven’t already done so, you should review your contingency and business continuity plans. You might wish to consider the following in guiding and supporting your staff.
Given Government advice, you should encourage staff to stay at home, even if they’re not showing any of the signs of COVID‑19.
This is a fast-moving situation, and the position is unclear with respect to insurance in the case of cancellation. In all cases, you should consult with your broker/insurance company.
You should remember:
- Productions – some cancellation cover might include losses arising from “communicable diseases”, although this might be affected by specific exclusions and the timing of when a policy was taken out. (There’s little prospect of Coronavirus itself being covered in policies taken out in recent weeks.) The amount of cover might also be limited, and only sufficient to cover short‑term cancellation or closure.
- Venues – the standard policy for Business Interruption might contain an extension clause covering communicable or infectious diseases, but these tend only to be effective is the disease is found at the premises. A government-imposed closure would not normally be covered, even if beyond the control of the venue.
- Employers – under liability insurance, companies have a duty of care to staff and to visitors. It’s therefore important that the latest government advice is distributed and adhered to in order to avoid potential negligence claims.
- Festivals and Events – face particular challenges. Their events tend to be firmly anchored at a particular point in the year, although some are considering postponement. Others have reluctantly concluded that they will postpone for a year.
Arts Council of Wales funding support
We’re acutely aware of the very difficult situation facing arts organisations and individual practitioners. These difficulties are serious and significant. Arts organisations are facing multi‑million-pound losses to income as a result of cancelled and postponed events. Individual artists are trying to work out how they can avoid the financial consequences of cancelled contracts and the loss of work.
The scale of the problem is beyond our financial resources alone; so we’re urgently exploring with the Welsh Government what financial support might be available to mitigate the effects of closures, cancellations and loss of income.
At present, we don’t know what form such support might take. However, in the meantime we can offer straightforward guidance now on more immediate action that we can take:
- Funding to the Arts Portfolio Wales – organisations will continue to receive funding but funding conditions that specify types and levels of activity will not apply for at least three months. This comes into force with immediate effect. We can also advance grant payments to assist you with cashflow. In exchange for our support, we ask you to honour contracts agreed with freelancers and artists and to think about what help you can offer to your communities.
Over the next few days our officers will be in touch with Portfolio organisations to make contact and to find out more about the particular challenges that you face.
Project funding awards – we’re keen to give you every possibility of making use of the grant funding you’ve received to cover project costs that you either have incurred or will incur in the future. You might wish to explore whether activity can be deferred until later in the year. However, if this isn’t possible, all funding awards already committed to covering your costs will be honoured – regardless of whether the funded activity is cancelled, reduced or rescheduled.
In exchange for our support, we ask you to honour contracts agreed with freelancers and artists and to think about what help you can offer to your communities.
Over the next few days our officers will be in touch with grant recipients to make contact and to find out more about the challenges that you’re facing in managing your project(s).
- Applications currently submitted and being assessed – we’re continuing to assess, and make decisions, on applications already in our system. We’ll do our very best to stick to the usual published processes and timescales. If you’re successful in your application, we’ll contact you to see if you need to amend your plans in the light of Government advice at that time. We’ll try and find ways of helping you to realise your plans, but if that’s not possible you can choose to withdraw from your funding award. We’re aiming to take a pragmatic and flexible approach should plans require change as a result of COVID-19.
New Funding Applications – we want to ensure that we do our very best to invest in artists and arts organisations at this difficult time. It’s clear that many people face a challenging and uncertain future with new difficulties presenting themselves daily. Our priority in the short-term has to be to find effective ways of responding to the most urgent needs and we’re working hard, in collaboration with our Welsh Government colleagues, to find practical solutions. For the next three months we will therefore not be accepting new applications to our funding programmes. We will keep the situation under review over the coming weeks and announce any changes to our approach in due course.
Support for freelance professionals
We know that individual artists and self‑employed freelancers face particular challenges and enjoy few of the advantages in these difficult times of those in employment. Where freelance professionals have been contracted to provide services for, or on behalf of, an organisation we would ask that these commitments are honoured. If the organisation is funded by the Arts Council, we’ll expect this to be the case.
Individual freelancers have a wide range of different financial needs, and we will struggle to find ways of helping in every individual circumstance. However, we know that the threat of financial hardship is very real worry for many, so we’re engaged in detailed conversations with the Welsh Government to try and work out what support we might be able to offer.
In the meantime, benefits for Freelancers impacted by Coronavirus cancellations was set out in the UK Government’s recent Budget announcement and in an additional announcement on 26 March. We accept that there is a limit to the types of support that these schemes can offer, but we’d suggest nonetheless that you explore the possibility of support:
- Self-Employed Income Support Scheme
- Employment & support allowance (you have to have paid NI contributions over last 2-3 years)
- Universal Credit (suspending the minimum income floor restriction is suspended and there is no need to go to a job centre)
Many arts professionals are members of Equity, Musicians Union or other sister unions. These have a range of advice and it might be useful to consult.
Arts Council of Wales Investment Review 2020 and Arts Council Conference
Held every five years, the Arts Council’s Investment Reviews decide which organisations the Arts Council will revenue fund for the next five‑year period. It’s an open‑to‑application process that includes existing annually funded organisations (the Arts Portfolio Wales), and any ‘new’ organisations that are bidding to become a member of the Arts Portfolio Wales.
The Investment Review opened for applications on 2 March with a 24 April 2020 deadline. Decisions were scheduled to be taken in October, with new funding arrangements put in place from April 2021.
It’s quite clear that it would not be viable – or fair – for us to continue with the current Investment Review process. With many organisations involved in an immediate fight for survival, an Investment Review would be an unhelpful distraction for you and for us.
We are therefore postponing the Investment Review for one year and will be in touch later in the year about the new arrangements and timetable.
We have also decided that our conference, which was to have been held on 18 September, will not now take place.
Arts Council of Wales preparedness
We have been reviewing our own preparedness to ensure we can continue to deliver the most effective service whilst dealing with the emerging situation.
From Tuesday 17 March, following the latest Government advice on responding to Covid-19, Arts Council of Wales has decided to follow the recommendation given and is encouraging those staff members who can do so to work from home. We will be doing all we can to reduce the impact of this development on the sector and to continue to provide as good a service as possible to all our colleagues in the arts in Wales.
Following Government advice, we have stopped all but essential travel. There will be no business travel outside the UK. We are also having to cancel planned meetings and are asking people to contact us by phone, email or videolink.
Increased and effective use of digital tools helps to manage our business delivery. However, we’d be grateful if you could be mindful that our staff may be directly impacted as the virus spreads and could be juggling a variety of demands (such as caring for family members). That said, we’ll do all we can to minimise the impact on our business operations wherever possible.
Keeping in touch
We continue to collect intelligence from across the sector so we can better understand the support that you need in the short and longer-term. You can also share information with us about what’s happening to you at: firstname.lastname@example.org
We’re already receiving a large number of enquiries to which we’ll respond as soon as we can. However, given rapidly changing events, please bear with us while we work our way through the queries.
It’s hard to find the positives in such a challenging and difficult situation. The arts are by their nature creative in adversity, even if this is the biggest challenge we’ve faced in our lifetime. Your inspiration and creative talent have the potential to be a lifeline for others in our wider communities. We’re thinking hard about how we can all stay inspired and help others to be inspired through the arts. We’re sure that you can help us to stay connected and to inspire audiences, old and new, at a time when that’s needed more than ever.
Finally, our key message is to take care and to look after yourselves, your families and your loved ones. The current situation is deeply worrying, but we’re determined to do everything that we can to help protect the resilience and vibrancy of the arts in Wales.