Written evidence submitted by What Next?

 

Submission to the DCMS Select Committee

The Impact of COVID-19 on DCMS Sectors

20/06/20

 

  1. About Us

https://www.whatnextculture.co.uk

 

1.1.             What Next? brings people together to debate and shape the future of arts and culture in the UK

 

1.2.             We are the only, free-to-access national movement that brings together both freelancers, and small and large organisations to debate and shape the future of the arts and culture in the UK. 

 

1.3.             We work to:

 

1.4.             We are comprised of 30 chapters operating across the UK, who each meet regularly in their own local community and together at fortnightly meetings. All are supported by a tiny core team working a total of 3.5 days a week and a Steering Group of sector leaders.

 

  1. About this submission

2.1.             What Next? is aware that the DCMS Select Committee has already received a great deal of expert and detailed information on the devastating financial impact of Covid-19 on the cultural sector, particularly on organisations. We also recognise that many sector support organisations have made the case for the economic value of the cultural and creative industries to the UK, and for the cultural eco-system that supports this contribution. We support these arguments, but we do not seek to duplicate them in this paper.

2.2.             The evidence that we include within our submission to the Select Committee has chiefly been gathered through a number of Roundtables set up through What Next? with DCMS officials on the following:

2.3.             It has also been informed by intelligence gathered through our regular sector Zoom meetings, weekly meetings of our regional Chapter Chairs, and through participation on the DCMS Cultural Renewal Taskforce Events and Entertainment Subgroup. The recommendations have not yet been tested widely throughout our movement and we will look to do so over the coming months.
 

  1. Summary

3.1.             When COVID-19 hit in March, many cultural organisations immediately developed comprehensive plans to meet the needs of their communities and are working innovatively and flexibly to continue to do so. D/deaf and disabled artists modelled leading-edge practice in self-care and creative home working.

3.2.             The majority of freelancers in the sector lost the majority of their work and those who initially ‘fell through the cracks’ have not been supported.

3.3.             This lack of effective financial support is likely to have had a disproportionate impact on freelancers from diverse backgrounds and with protected characteristics.

3.4.             Urgent action on behalf of the self-employed workforce is needed to ensure that everyone has access to emergency funding.

3.5.             There is concern that the Cultural Renewal Taskforce and its associated subgroups do not have adequate representation from individuals with lived experience of diversity, or with knowledge of learning, community and participatory work  Letters have been sent to the Secretary of State from Black, Asian and Ethnically Diverse Leaders in theatre and from Disabled Artist Group We Shall Not Be Removed. These concerns should be addressed swiftly by government.

3.6.             Equality Impact Assessments must be made more visible and must be undertaken at all levels of decision and policy making across government and the sector.

3.7.             Given the current landscape there is significant opportunity for the sector to reshape, around the leading-edge of innovative, socially-engaged, inclusive practice (based on education, climate justice, social justice, diversity, inclusion and wellbeing). The economic drivers for the sector and the nation should be brought together with this social argument to create a national blueprint for cultural renewal that works for all four countries and for all stakeholders. This work should be done comprehensively, and given time to be owned and led by sector stakeholders, leaders and a wide-range of partners across the voluntary, community, local government, commercial and education sectors. We look forward to supporting DCMS and ACE with this work.

3.8.             The sector must acknowledge the structural inequalities that are embedded within its systems, and must put robust, long-term measures in place to ensure that there is strong and equitable representation of Black, Asian and ethnic minorities, disabled colleagues and of colleagues from all protected characteristics in its leadership, artists, workforce, cultural offer, audience and  participants.

3.9.             We support Julie’s Bicycle in calling for a just and green cultural recovery that is supported by the Cultural Renewal Taskforce. and embedded throughout government policy.

3.10.         There is a wealth of evidence that culture and creativity is fundamental to our health and wellbeing, and to community cohesion (see for example Fancourt, D. & Finn, S. 2019, What is the evidence on the role of the arts in improving health and well-being? A scoping review, World Health Organisation Europe). Participatory, socially-engaged practice is particularly capable of addressing the medium to long term impacts of Covid-19 on mental as well as physical health.

3.10.1.   We call on the Committee to acknowledge the value of art and culture during lockdown, and to recognise its fundamental value in our recovery and rebuilding of the UK.

3.11.         DCMS and funders have demonstrated unprecedented trust and flexibility to grantees in this time and we call on them to continue this approach as we move forward.

 

  1. What has been the immediate impact of Covid-19 on the sector?

4.1   Many cultural organisations immediately developed comprehensive plans to meet the needs of their communities

4.1.1         Whilst many arts and cultural organisations were forced to close their doors immediately with the onset of Covid-19, many pivoted swiftly around the needs of their communities and worked to design and deliver creative, innovative and critically important programmes of work. This is their core practice and expertise.

4.1.2         These programmes range from operating food banks, to providing specialised youth work, homework support and learning resources, free software and technology for creative young people, mental health support, physical creativity packs through children’s doors, community art galleries on lamp-posts, and local, socially distanced performances and opportunities to make and share art online and in the real world.

4.1.3         They also include targeted programmes of creative activity for vulnerable people, older people, or those shielding because of pre-existing health conditions - often created in partnership with local health, social care and voluntary sector services; and programmes of activity designed for carers, paid and unpaid, and those resident in care homes, prisons, and hospitals.

4.1.4         Over two million UK households do not have access to the internet and there are millions more whose access is partial and subject competing family demands.

4.1.5         A very few examples of these organisations include:

 

4.1.6         Some organisations such as Unlimited immediately created micro-funding schemes to pay freelance artists to create work. Others, like Eden Court, offered  staff secondments to the local authority to work on immediate community COVID relief work. Museums and large cultural organisations such as the Royal Opera House donated their PPE to the NHS. Mobile libraries of books, art and creative challenges are being delivered by hand around hotels and hostels where homeless people are living, organised by Cardboard Citizens, The Reader, Accumulate, St Mungo’s and With One Voice.

4.1.7         Due to COVID-19 there is unprecedented interest and demand in arts projects with social and health outcomes e.g. arts and homelessness, arts and criminal justice and arts and health, and this demand is coming directly from local government and charities. These cultural projects and others are reaching a much wider group of isolated people, and people who weren’t previously engaged in creativity. There is an opportunity post COVID to learn from this work and perpetuate this engagement with people with some of the highest needs in society.

4.1.8         We call on the Committee to acknowledge the value of art and culture during lockdown, and to recognise its fundamental value in our recovery and rebuilding of the UK.

4.2   The majority of freelancers in the sector lost the majority of their work.

4.2.1         There are a number of slightly different estimates as to how much of the workforce in the creative industries is freelance, due to a lack of centralised collection of data from HMRC. However, estimates from the Creative Industries Federation average at around 47%, going up to 70% in some sub-sectors. The Federation also estimates that 95% of businesses in the creative industries are micro businesses.

4.2.2         Most of these freelancers lost their current and future work almost overnight as the pandemic unfolded, as this snap shot captured by the Cultural Learning Alliance on 25th March shows. More evidence on this has been provided through BECTU and the Creative Industries Federation.

4.2.3         Many of the freelance individuals in this predicament are also volunteers and trustees for other parts of the sector. The loss of their livelihood significantly impacts on their abilities to take on these roles and weakens the overall governance capacity of the sector at a time when it is most needed.

4.2.4         The sector is interconnected: one person’s disaster is a problem for the whole sector. Individuals often fundraise for projects which benefit many employment days for other artists, e.g. actors, set-builders, graphic designers

 

4.3   The strengths and needs of disabled artists in the COVID Pandemic

4.3.1.        What Next? supports the strong and comprehensive submission to the committee from Andrew Miller, UK DCMS Disability Arts Champion. As he states, ‘according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), disabled people make up 21% of UK population. The term disabled in the context of that statistic (and this evidence) includes people who are D/deaf, neuro-diverse, learning disabled as well as those with physical impairments.

4.3.2.        The professional D/deaf and disabled artists in the UK make some of the most extraordinary and high-quality art and culture in the nation, and it is essential that their voices are recognised and listened to alongside other leaders in the sector. The UK is a global leader in disability arts.

4.3.3.        D/deaf and Disabled artists showed immediate leadership in the cultural sector in modelling effective home working, self-care and innovative creative solutions.

4.3.4.        A high proportion of the D/deaf and disabled artist community have been self-isolating or shielding for many months. There have been significant problems for some colleagues in accessing the personal assistance and basic support that they need. A proportion of individuals have faced acute financial hardship and systemic issues in accessing food and medication. Their return to the workplace will be delayed when compared with their colleagues and this will detrimentally affect the strength of disabled people’s voices and contributions.

4.3.5.        There have been some problems with the delivery of Access to Work in COVID-19. There are significant additional costs (e.g. PPE for support workers) which claimants now need to meet, some of whom may already be at the cap. Access to Work is also retrospective - meaning that organisations are bearing the immediate brunt of these costs. DCMS officials have proactively investigated these issues and have taken them directly to colleagues in the DWP, who have made adjustments which have been greatly valued by the sector, but the issues have not yet been fully resolved. It is also worth noting that furloughed colleagues lose their Access to Work entitlement and so cannot participate in conversations about the wider sectoral future.

4.3.6.        D/deaf and disabled artists continue to make work in this landscape and many disabled-led organisations have been working directly with their artist communities to offer support, commissions and advice.

4.3.7.        As with many freelancers, most creative livelihoods for D/deaf and disabled artists were immediately affected. Training programmes are largely cancelled and the disappearance of organisational infrastructure, siloing and lock-down have had a significant impact on the ability of the community to come together. Not all colleagues had or continue to have access to the internet.

4.4.      Many philanthropists acted swiftly, with trusts and foundations finding ways to creatively and flexibly support their grantees

  1. How effectively has the support provided by DCMS, other Government departments and arms-length bodies addressed the sector’s needs?

5.1   DCMS civil servants and Arts Council England colleagues have worked extremely hard, and their swift responses and dedication in this crisis have been extremely impressive. They have put together effective funding packages at unprecedented speed. We also want to recognise that many individuals have been working round-the-clock on behalf of the sector whilst managing their own complex mental and physical health needs and priorities as caused by the pandemic.

5.2   DCMS Officials have attended three What Next? Roundtables with disabled artist leaders, one with freelancers and self-employed colleagues, and one with learning and participation experts. Minister Caroline Dinenage MP has held weekly calls with the sector to listen to, and to address needs and impact.

5.3   The Job Retention Scheme

5.3.1.        The Job Retention Scheme has provided immediate relief to many organisations and is extremely welcomed, but the tapering of the scheme and current time-line are problematic. Most institutions do not have the reserves, or the projected income to meet staff costs in the medium or long-term. Fundraising has been significantly affected by the pandemic. This is leading to some organisations already ceasing to trade, and others beginning conversations about large-scale redundancies.

5.3.2.        We are also aware that the structure of the Furlough Scheme has meant that some organisations have not been able to carry out the community work that they have wanted to, as they could not afford to keep their expert professionals on their staff.

5.4.     Self Employed and Freelance Support: SEISS

5.4.1.        The government’s support scheme for self-employed colleagues was welcomed and provided a life-line to many, but from the outset there were a large number of colleagues that were not eligible for funding and who ‘fell through the cracks’. These included:

 

5.4.2.        The Treasury has not yet moved to help or support these individuals and it is imperative that the committee recognises that for many of these colleagues, their situation has not changed since March. They have endured three months of deep uncertainty and financial hardship. This recent article in the Guardian includes case studies and statistics of those most affected. These colleagues are in acute need and are still in the first, emergency phase of this COVID-19 pandemic. Until this is addressed, they cannot be part of the visioning and planning for the sustainability and recovery of the sector. They are effectively shut out of conversations about their future and many are leaving their profession.

5.4.3.        The lack of effective financial support is likely to have a disproportionate impact on freelancers from diverse backgrounds and with protected characteristics. Ubele has produced this report on the impact of Covid-19 on the BAME Community and Voluntary Sector which gives a snap-shot of the initial impact on these communities.

5.4.4.        Urgent action on behalf of the self-employed workforce is needed to ensure that everyone has access to emergency funding.

5.4.5.        It is also important to note that organisations and individuals will not all be able to take their place in the workforce as artists or staff members at the same rate. Some will need to continue to shield, will have caring responsibilities, or may be more susceptible to the virus. It is essential that this funding is extended to accommodate these different rates of return.

5.5.      Arts Council England Funding

 

5.5.1.        The Arts Council England emergency funding schemes have been swiftly and flexibly delivered and have mitigated acute and immediate need. This has been truly appreciated by the sector and has benefitted thousands. However, these schemes are finite and cannot cater for everyone who needs them. A recent Arts Professional article shows a £32million shortfall in the funds available.

 

5.5.2.        There is also concern within the sector that repurposing funds in this way will mean many fewer budgets for people to develop and deliver the project work that makes up their income and enables them to create. There is a recognition that for many organisations in the portfolio, the need will be in six or twelve months time when reserves are drained or revenue projections unrealised. It is understood the current ACE rescue package is only designed for the period until September 2020.

 

5.5.3.        Arts Council England funding is also appropriately geared towards creative practice; but does not cover any of the workforce in ‘back office’ functions (barring core support given to NPOs - a small proportion of the sector), so consultants, coaches, evaluators, strategists, fundraisers, stage managers and technicians cannot access support and need intervention from other sources.

 

5.6.     Cultural Renewal Taskforce

 

5.6.1.        In May, the Government created the Cultural Renewal Taskforce with the Secretary of State appointing a Commissioner for Cultural Renewal to lead it.  This leadership of the sector at this time is needed and welcomed and we recognise and thank the taskforce for its work in lobbying for effective ways forward for the sector.

5.6.2.        There is concern that the taskforce and its associated subgroups do not have adequate representation from individuals with lived experience of diversity, or with knowledge of learning, community and participatory work Letters have been sent to the Secretary of State from Black, Asian and Ethnically Diverse Leaders in theatre and from Disabled Artist Group We Shall Not Be Removed. These concerns should be addressed swiftly by government and the taskforce.

5.6.3.        Much of the work of Taskforce and its groups since May has been concentrated on developing immediate guidance for safe working practices with social distancing for cultural organisations.  These processes have been driven by internal central government timescales, have been developed at speed and led by a number of different partners including Ernst and Young, DCMS officials and Sector Support Organisations.

5.6.4.        This is an extremely complex task and there are a number of critical considerations:

5.6.4.1.  Any practical narrative for delivering work safely must be developed and presented alongside a financial model that enables organisations and individuals to deliver it. At present there are no revenue projections for socially distanced work that are economically viable for the sector.  We know that these conversations are happening in government, but within a different workstream.

5.6.4.2.  Whilst the guidance documents are understandably focused on operational issues, in making these decisions, each industry and organisation is making ethical and existential choices about who they are and who they’re for. 

5.6.4.3.  The guidance must go beyond compliance and should celebrate diversity; these documents will set the tone for our immediate (and very possibly longer-term) future. They must exemplify the social model of disability and not the medical model, and they must give disabled colleagues agency and power to decide how they want to manage their professional and personal budgets, and engagement with culture, both as audiences and artists.

5.6.4.4.  Equality Impact Assessments must be mandatory for all, and have the same general status as Risk Assessments (carried out with professional experts and shared widely and clearly). Many disabled people in the creative industries are deeply concerned that recovery planning will directly exclude them as artists, employees, participants and audiences when cultural facilities begin to reopen. Equalities Impact Assessment and Monitoring is therefore required to be applied to all the decisions of the Cultural Renewal & Recovery Taskforce. Without these measures we risk eroding the last 30 years of work, as well as potentially breaking Equality Act directives.

5.6.4.5.  The guidance should recognise the different metrics of risk that individuals work to; risk is not a one size fits all measure. And we need to do this whilst removing reference to ‘vulnerable’ people, except to refer to those specific groups of 'clinically extremely vulnerable’ and ‘clinically vulnerable’ people - even then, we need to recognise that many more people than are in those groups will need particular adjustments and arrangements (no employer should require proof in order to make those adjustments). 

5.6.4.6.  The guidance should recognise that the economic power of households that include a disabled person is currently thought to be £249bn, and venues need this spend more than ever before. Consideration of the requirements of disabled people will inevitably improve the working, volunteering and leisure environments for many others (for example, but not only, older people) as well as mitigating against the expense of having to make adjustments in retrospect (always more expensive and always less effective) and there is a compelling financial imperative to get this right from the outset.

5.6.4.7.  As mentioned in 4.1.3 there are many organisations continuing to offer excellent work with, for and by communities. The narrative therefore needs to recognise this and should not focus on ‘reopening’.

5.6.4.8.  There should be individual budget lines that support costs for PPE and adjustments that organisations and individuals need to make to deliver work safely. These should be entirely separate to the emergency funds for initial acute need, and to investment for future recovery.

5.6.4.9.  The government’s consultation process and its response to COVID-19 has not been accessible, with no provision of captioning, BSL interpretation or alternative formats of documents. The speed of the process itself has also worked against accessibility as colleagues have not had sufficient time to respond to complex documentation.

5.6.4.10.       The guidance should reference and recognise the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black, Asian and ethnic minority communities and the need for organisations to better understand this.

  1. What will the likely long-term impacts of Covid-19 be on the sector, and what support is needed to deal with those?

6.1   What Next? supports the strong and comprehensive submission on Diversity of the Creative Industries by Dr Dave O’Brien to this Select Committee.

6.2   Given the current landscape there is significant opportunity for the sector to reshape, around the leading-edge of innovative, socially-engaged, inclusive practice (based on community, participation, education, climate justice, social justice, diversity, inclusion and wellbeing). The economic drivers for the sector and the nation should be brought together with this social argument to create a national blueprint for cultural renewal that works for all four countries and for all stakeholders. This work should be done comprehensively, and given time to be owned and led by sector stakeholders, leaders and a wide-range of partners across the voluntary, community, local government, commercial and education sectors. We look forward to supporting DCMS and ACE with this work.

6.3   Unless this holistic model is adopted we risk,

 

  1. What lessons can be learnt from how DCMS, arms-length bodies and the sector have dealt with Covid-19?

7.1   This sector has been hit extremely hard by COVID-19 and all colleagues are working in extraordinary circumstances and managing complex personal situations from anxiety, to caring responsibilities, to illness and grief. This should be acknowledged by government. However, it has been made increasingly clear that whilst in the same storm, not everyone is in the same boat, with widening inequalities opening up between individuals and organisations.

7.2   Going forward the DCMS, Arts Council England and the sector all need to work together to:

7.2.1         Evaluate their COVID-19 responses and to develop robust emergency planning structures for the future; ensuring representation, consultation, access and transparency at every stage of the framework.

7.2.2         Develop a cross-cutting emergency response approach that links museums, galleries, libraries, heritage, digital and the performing arts rather than developing separate strategies (though we recognise there are some differences within the sector).

7.2.3         Draw on the strengths and leadership of D/deaf and disabled colleagues: flexible, digital home-working, including self-care, is often the default working practice of the D/deaf and disabled community.

7.2.4         Join-up across England and the devolved nations, and develop a strategy to work internationally and collaboratively on a vision for culture

7.2.5         Equality Impact Assessments must be made more visible and must be undertaken at all levels of decision and policy making

7.2.6         Access budgets for participation in emergency planning, response, recovery and decision making must be made available to all

7.2.7         The Cultural Renewal Taskforce should join up with colleagues in DfE, DCMS, DWP and MHCLG and other Taskforces such as the Loneliness Taskforce to ensure a comprehensive strategy.

7.2.8         Strengthen the ecology of arts and culture across the UK: most people, audience, visitors, participants as well as artists and creatives do not see the boundaries between nations when it comes to touring, seeing and making work and the cultural/artistic life of the whole UK is  interlinked and co-dependant.

 

  1. How might the sector evolve after Covid-19, and how can DCMS support such innovation to deal with future challenges?

8.1   As expressed above, we believe that a structured, democratic and consultative approach to the current COVID-19 crisis and our national and international recovery will lead to strong innovation and ideas for evolution..

8.2   In the first instance we suggest the following measures, but these ideas have not been robustly tested throughout our movement. We will seek to do this in the coming weeks.

8.2.1         The sector must acknowledge the structural inequalities that are embedded within its systems, and must put robust measures in place to ensure that there is strong and equitable representation of Black, Asian and ethnic minorities, disabled colleagues and of colleagues from all protected characteristics in its leadership, artists, workforce, audience and  participants.

These measures must:

 

8.2.2         Data on progress, equality impact assessments and access budgets must be resourced and analysed at all levels, and by all partners from DCMS to micro-businesses.

8.2.3         We strongly support the recommendations included in the submission on Neurodiversity by B. Morris and C. Freeman.

8.2.4         We also call on Arts Council England and DCMS to diversify their workforces and to ensure that those with lived experience of diversity are involved in all levels of decision making.

8.2.5         We believe that the majority of any future investment funding for the arts and cultural sector could be channelled towards the realisation of the Arts Council’s Let’s Create Strategy, as this sets out a vision for diversity, inclusion, learning and a local, place-based approach – all of which will be essential to the sector’s and the nations recovery. For it to be effectively delivered DCMS will need to work with ACE to help join up other budgets and policies, from health, to education, to the voluntary sector, to local authorities.

8.2.6         The post-COVID-19 landscape will be characterised by a need for deep and long-term investment in wellbeing, mental health, education and community support, and as such, the cultural sector should be supported to help meet these needs in the short, medium and long term. We believe investment should be prioritised for those who are already experts in this work – like the organisations mentioned in 4.1.3 and the many others like them, as well as directly to communities. We recognise that budgets for this work are often directly offset by more commercial arts practice, and that it will be extremely difficult for this model to be sustained in the future.

8.2.7         Dedicated, CPD, training, networks and support for colleagues delivering socially engaged practice, including training in working with trauma, is needed to ensure that our collective ambitions for recovery are realised.

8.2.8         Investment in risk-taking and innovation to make work that doesn’t necessarily require everyone to be in the same place at the same time, either to make it or to experience it.

8.2.9         Acknowledgement that the growth of the Creative Industries has had a human cost, as it has been underpinned by precarious conditions for freelancers and the self-employed. New models must include much more structured support for these colleagues.

8.2.10      There will need to be a comprehensive package of support for unemployed young people and those at the start of their careers, building on learning from schemes like the discontinued Future Jobs Fund, and overhauling and strengthening apprenticeships policy and practice. Access to funding to make artistic work should be simplified, with requirements for a track record removed from funding systems. The scheme should proactively support the diversity of the sector.

8.2.11      A mechanism must be found for the Department of Education to work purposefully and productively with the DCMS to support high quality cultural learning for every child and young person in the transition through COVID-19 and beyond.

8.2.11.1                      In the short term we recommend that DCMS works with the DFE to ascertain whether cultural organisations can help to provide learning spaces for schools who do not have the space to open safely for children. Budgets should be made available to support increased costs for cleaning, PPE and other adjustments. Specific guidance should be made available to schools to enable them to carry out the necessary risk assessments and put in place their own protocols for using alternative spaces.

8.2.11.2                      In the medium term we call on DCMS to support funding for blended cultural learning that can take place in person, in cultural organisations, or online, depending on fluctuating social distancing guidance.

8.2.11.3                      In the long term we support the Cultural Learning Alliance in its call the development of a vision and national plan for cultural learning from early years through to Higher Education, with a robust and resourced plan for continued professional development and learning for the workforce, and ring-fenced money for schools. This work should be developed and led with children, young people and teachers and must meet their needs.

 

8.2.12      Cultural organisations should use their expertise to support schools to de-colonialise their curriculums, the proposed DfE Arts Premium could provide funds for this. Ofqual and examining boards should change set texts and specifications should be redrafted with an anti-racist and inclusive agenda across all subjects, including the arts and history. The Royal Court Theatre and London Theatre Consortium are already working with examining boards to suggest more diverse set texts and have provided lists of possible plays that could be used in Drama GCSE.

8.2.13      We support Julie’s Bicycle in calling for a just and green cultural recovery that is supported by the Cultural Renewal Taskforce. and embedded throughout government policy.

8.2.14      DCMS should proactively engage with The Cabinet Office’s development of the National Disability Strategy to support disabled people’s participation in culture through and after the pandemic.

8.2.15      Any plans for the future of the sector should take into account differences to the sector landscape that will take place due to the ongoing Brexit negotiations and should ensure alternative funding for equivalent international cultural and creative collaboration and partnership.