The pandemic has left disabled people who work in the arts and culture sector in a “shockingly fragile” position, according to the campaign group behind a new survey.
The results of the survey, carried out by the UK Disability Arts Alliance, suggest there are significant threats to the continued participation of Deaf and disabled people in the arts and culture sector as a result of the fallout from the COVID-19 crisis.
The survey was commissioned to mark the first anniversary of the alliance’s #WeShallNotBeRemoved campaign, which has pushed for an inclusive recovery of the cultural sector, and to ensure that Deaf and disabled people do not face discrimination as the industry reopens.
The survey results suggest that the pandemic has delivered a “weighty” blow to disabled people in the arts sector, and left them in a “shockingly fragile environment”, said the alliance.
Three-fifths (59 per cent) of the more than 100 disabled creatives who took part said they were definitely or possibly worried that they would have to leave the industry because of a lack of work.
And nearly half said they had had less work (43 per cent) or no work at all (six per cent) since the pandemic began.
But the survey also showed the importance of financial support schemes during the pandemic, with 20 per cent of respondents receiving grants from the government’s self employment income support scheme (SEISS), with another 15 per cent on furlough and 20 per cent receiving emergency support grants from one of the UK’s national arts councils.
Those surveyed also expressed wider concerns about the impact of the pandemic as the country gradually emerges from lockdown, with more than eight in 10 mentioning continued access for disabled people as one of their top three concerns.
The report says this suggests that many disabled creatives have little trust in the wider cultural sector to prioritise access as the country comes out of lockdown.
The survey also received responses from 24 disability arts and cultural organisations, with half of them saying their future was at risk because of the pandemic.
Four-fifths said they had received emergency funding during the pandemic, from the UK arts councils, trusts or foundations, or the government.
And nearly three-fifths (58 per cent) had used some or all of their financial reserves during the pandemic.
Andrew Miller (pictured), co-founder of the alliance and the campaign, who has just completed three years as the government’s disability champion for the arts and culture sector, said: “This survey is the first to reveal the full fragility of disabled people’s place in the cultural sector following the pandemic and highlights alarming intersectional inequalities.
“The impacts on disabled freelancers and disability arts organisations are significant, and will require additional targeted support from funders and a rebuilding of trust with the wider sector, to ensure the UK remains a global leader in fully inclusive culture.”
Jo Verrent, senior producer with Unlimited – the disability arts commissioning programme that grew out of London 2012 – and convenor of the campaign, said: “We all knew the pandemic was impacting on disabled people in the arts sector heavily – now we can see just how weighty that blow has been.
“There is a brief window in which to act if we wish to stop the erasure of disabled people from the place it’s taken over 30 years for us to gain in the cultural sector.
“It is now for the right people to read, share and act on these findings and take immediate action.”
The report was funded by Unlimited and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.
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