Budget. It’s a word that strikes fear into the hearts of many people trying to work out how to make affordable work, sustainable work, and accessible work. When I got my head around how I wanted to think about budgeting, it was by going beyond “how am I spending this” and into “how does my budget fit with who I am”. That’s why this week I’m discussing accessible finance and budgeting for access.
Your budget is your ethics
I’ve heard this statement from two excellent influences – Spread the Word and Quiplash – and both are right. Your budget is where money changes hands. That means that it exists as an example of your ethical approach to the people and places you work with. For us, this is central to our approach to access. We try and ensure we’re paying a decent and liveable wage, while keeping our work sustainable.
That means having an approach from the outset which is transparent and values people’s time, input, and contributions. It means making sure people are being paid fairly (and promptly), and that you can justify the payments you make.
How we pay
At CRIPtic, we try to have reasonably fixed rates. We know what is paid for a half-day, a day, a week, a short workshop, a reading, a long workshop. We understand what the exceptions are (e.g. specialists, consultants) and when we would use them. When using them, we would always want to justify that.
Here, we set the rates at a level which is balanced as best possible to be sustainable both for the organisation and for the people working with us. It’s important that we keep that under consideration and review.
We wish we were in a position to pay more – to ourselves as well as our collaborators. We recognise that this would require industry change, but also that we wouldn’t pay below our fixed floor because people need to be earning a liveable wage. If people aren’t being paid sustainably then the art is not sustainable, or ethical.
And what we charge
The rates we charge outsiders, collaborators and other organisations are sliding scale. These depend on work and workload – but we face a lot of costs other than the time worked (or paying people for that), which our day rate has to cover.
This is also designed to allow us the financial space to support projects that are low-no budget, cross-subsidised by the outside work we take on.
We never want to be unaffordable where people want support in improving access, but we also know that it’s impossible to survive as an organisation without money coming in. If we want to be able to pay everyone fairly, then we need to be able to charge rates that allow us to sustain that.
This means that while we do as much work to develop and support community projects as possible, ultimately we cannot take on work that is not sustainable for us. We need to ensure people are always fairly paid, either through sliding scale cross-subsidisation or not taking the work on.
The problem is budgeting for access. This is more of a challenge. Access to Work is supposed to pay access costs for deaf and disabled people while working. In practice there are three month delays on applications, and difficulty getting the right support in grants. This means that we’re often very dependent on funders to support the costs of access. This might be anything from adaptive equipment to BSL interpreters. We’ve been very grateful indeed to Arts Council England for their generous approach to funding these costs in the past, but not everyone has access to those kinds of resources.
Budgeting for access in an Arts Council grant
“Personal Access Costs” are the additional costs faced to a project for working with deaf and disabled people. If you’re working on a new budget with a team, you’re in a strong position to talk to everyone about their access needs. Where people have access riders, that helps, but if not, it’s a discussion to open up.
When you know who your team are, this is a discussion to open up at the outset. Ask them what additional costs they face and what barriers they face as deaf and disabled creatives. Ask whether there are things that funding would do to reduce those barriers. This could be taxis to work or a hotel if the commute is too long.
The best way we can do this is prediction. We look at a project, and we say:
“We anticipate employing a Deaf signer in this role, so we need funding for two BSL interpreters”. “We are a disabled-led team. In our experience, we need two access workers in the space – one for Jamie and one for the wider project”.
By mapping out these predictions at the beginning of a project you will uncover the majority of the costs required to make a project accessible. Once you have your access budget, we would recommend adding an access contingency at 10% of your overall access costs. When an unexpected access cost arises, you will have the flexibility to be able to meet this with your budget.