Stroud group calls for Universal Basic Income trial

Emma Kernahan is one of the co-founders of UBI Lab Stroud

A campaigner says she hopes a Universal Basic Income (UBI) Scheme could be “this generation’s version of the NHS”.

By: Esme Ashcroft

See original post here.

Emma Kernahan is one of the founders of UBI Lab Stroud that is looking at the possibility of launching a UBI scheme locally.

It currently has no funding, but is seeking backing from councils in Gloucestershire and private groups.

UBI works by paying everyone a set wage regardless of their financial position, and replaces the need for benefits.

It is then up to individuals whether they want to work to top up this income.

UBI Lab Stroud was formed in January and aims to roll out a scheme covering every resident in the district.

However, the founders know that is ambitious, and said perhaps a smaller trial targeted at a certain group – such as care leavers, or low income households – might be more realistic.

They will meet in June to discuss their next steps – including what the scheme might look like and how to approach funding.

The group said radical economic changes were needed to tackle poverty and social inequality.

“The fact is we are now facing the biggest drop in living standards that we’ve seen since the Second World War,” Ms Kernahan said.

“We haven’t seen levels of deprivation and deep poverty across our communities like this in decades.

“What came out of the Second World War was the NHS, and we had this sense, which maybe we’ve slightly forgotten now, that we sink or swim together.

“And I think that UBI could be this generation’s NHS.”

The Welsh Government is trialling a UBI scheme for care leavers, who receive £1,600 per month.

The three-year pilot was launched in the summer and costs £20m.

Emma Phipps-Magill is the operations director of the charity Voices From Care Cymru, and worked on the roll out.

‘Opportunities to thrive’

She said young people on the scheme were using the money in a number of ways, such as saving for university, paying for driving lessons and travelling.

“Having this kind of income allows decisions to be made,” she said.

“It’s about that sense of identity and the ability to be able to make a choice, have control over their lives and having opportunities to thrive and aspire.

“I think what we may see from this [pilot] is more young people entering into employment and more young people feeling like they’re part of the community and the same level as everyone else,” she said.

The large-scale reform which would be needed to benefits and taxation means it is unlikely there will be a full UBI within the UK in the near future.

Dr Joe Chrisp is a research associate at the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Bath. He said financial costs were the biggest barrier to UBI schemes.

“The most obvious problem is with the gross cost, how much it costs to give everybody a fixed income unconditionally,” he said.

“There’s lots of different ways that people have come up with for thinking about how to fund it.

“The most credible is through income tax system, so that the lower income people are net recipients of a basic income and higher income payers are net contributors to a basic income,” he added.

‘Pretty unlikely’

Dr Chrisp said he thought targeted schemes would be more feasible.

“I think a full UBI is pretty unlikely, at the moment I think trials are going to be the maximum that people can hope for,” he said.

“Maybe we’ll see some limited schemes targeted at particular groups, maybe a reinstatement of the universal child benefit, or care leavers could get extra support.

“There are all sorts of groups that an unconditional payment could help,” he added.

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