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Universal Basic Income: Plans for Trial

universal basic income

For the first time, plans for a universal basic income trial have been set out in England. Under this, thirty people could be paid £1,600 a month without any conditions being met.

Researchers from the think tank, Autonomy, are seeking financial support for this trial which would take place over a two-year period. This call for a trial is being supported by charity Big Local and Northumbria University.

What is a universal basic income?

The concept of a universal basic income requires the Government to pay all individuals a set salary regardless of their means. Similar pilots are already being conducted elsewhere. For example, in Wales, the devolved Government is running a £20m scheme paying a £1,600 a month for two years to young people leaving care. It says it will report on the outcome after the trial finishes.

Where did the idea come from?

Calls for a universal basic income have been ongoing for some time – organisations such as the Basic Income Conversation have promoted the idea as a way to alleviate poverty, while in 2020, more than 170 MPs and peers urged the government to introduce a universal basic income to “give everyone the financial support they need to provide for themselves and their families” during the COVID19 pandemic.

Also, last year, Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, said a universal basic income was an idea “whose time has come” as he spoke on the cost-of-living-crisis. Burnham said, “A universal basic income will put a solid foundation beneath everybody so that they can have a life with security and stop worrying about everything.”

What do the plans involve?

Autonomy wishes to conduct a pilot programme to analyse the mental and physical impacts of a universal basic income on those who receive it. Supporters of a universal basic income argue that it will tackle poverty and simplify the welfare system. The hope is that this study will make a comprehensive case for the implementation of a national basic income, along with fully understanding the potential this policy would hold.

Cleo Goodman, a co-founder of the initiative Basic Income Conversation, said: “We’re hopeful that this plan will result in the first ever basic income pilots in England. No one should ever be facing poverty, having to choose between heating and eating, in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Basic income has the potential to simplify the welfare system and tackle poverty in Britain.”

Participants will be drawn from central Jarrow, in north-east England, and East Finchley, in north London. Two years of community consultation has taken place. Anyone from the areas is able to put themselves forward to take part and can remain anonymous. While participants will be drawn randomly, the organisers plan for it to be a representative group and to be made up of 20% of people with disabilities.

A control group will also be recruited and not paid the basic income to monitor their experiences during the same period.

The costs

On top of the £1.15m budget for the basic income payments over two years, there would be further costs of about £500,000 for the project’s evaluation activities, admin, and community support teams. Autonomy says if funding for income payments was secured, it would most likely come from private philanthropic sources, or local or combined authorities.

Advocates argue that universal basic income can provide a level of economic security to everyone. It is seen as a potential solution to insecurity in the labour market, while others say it is expensive and support should be targeted to particular groups such as families with children or care leavers.

Moreover, some argue completely against it on the basis that it is extremely costly so could divert funding away from public services, and not necessarily help to alleviate poverty.

Final thought

The concept of a basic income would radically change society. Understandably, there are concerns about the costs and the lack of means testing. Yet, there is a strong argument made when we consider the cost-of-living-crisis. Moreover, in the globalised and volatile world we live in, government’s struggle to shield their populations from crisis. Maybe a universal basic income will be crucial to maintaining survival and well-being in the future.

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