Opinion

Groups calling for basic income experiments spread across the UK

Groups across the UK are calling for pilots of a radical alternative to the current welfare system.

A Universal Basic Income (UBI) would see all citizens given a guaranteed income regardless of their eligibility for benefits or their employment status.

Finland, Kenya, India, and cities across the United States have recently piloted the revolutionary idea.

Supporters of a basic income, such as the University of London’s Professor Guy Standing, believe that it would guarantee minimum living standards and basic economic security across the UK.

The movement started in South Yorkshire with the founding of UBI Lab Sheffield in 2017. This is a grassroots group formed of researchers and activists exploring the potential impact of a basic income through calling for pilots in local areas.

In recent months, UBI Labs have launched in Liverpool, Leeds, Kirklees and the North East.

UBI Lab Liverpool was founded by Councillor Patrick Hurley, who introduced a motion supporting a UBI pilot at Liverpool City Council.

Artist Toby P Lloyd, whose work explores the liberating potential of a basic income, is leading UBI Lab Newcastle.

There are also ongoing discussions with groups interested in launching UBI Labs in Belfast, Hull, Birmingham, Derry/Londonderry, Exeter, Lancaster, Portsmouth, Manchester, Norwich, and West Sussex.

The UBI Lab network allows groups to share resources, promotional materials, advice, and experience.

In May, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell announced that a Labour government would pilot basic income in Sheffield, Liverpool, and the Midlands.

Pilots in Canada, Namibia, and Finland have shown significant health benefits. Researchers found that a basic income reduced stresses associated with economic insecurity.

The pilot proposal produced by UBI Lab Sheffield is designed to measure the impacts on health and wellbeing as a key outcome of any basic income trial.

Members of the UBI Lab network have started conversations about basic income with council leaders, councillors and directly-elected mayors across the country.

The network wants to encourage more local authorities to lobby Westminster for a basic income pilot in their area and people interested in setting up new groups across the UK.

A recent Gallup poll found that 77% of UK adults favour the introduction of a basic income as a way to support workers who lose their jobs to automation.

In Spring 2020, the UBI Lab Network will host the second edition of UBI North in Sheffield. This will be the biggest conference on basic income in the UK.

 

Tchiyiwe Chihana of UBI Lab Sheffield said:

“Piloting a Universal Basic Income is an essential aspect of exploring potentially viable responses to the urgency of ever-expanding social and economic disparities. Consultative in approach, UBI Lab Sheffield ensures that multiple options reflecting the needs and experiences of people at micro and macro levels can be factored into a pilot while being adaptable. This also means that as many people as possible also have insight into the development of a potential UBI pilot in the city. Collectively, the raw data being developed has added to the resources of our city and has contributed to a sustainable knowledge pot for future use. The networking and the spin-off discussions that have developed out of UBI Lab Sheffield cannot be overstated.”

 

Cllr Erin Hill of UBI Lab Kirklees said:

“At a time when society seems very divided, the one thing most of us can agree on is that the current system isn’t working for anyone. Universal Basic Income – a regular payment made to everyone regardless of income or behaviour – isn’t a magic solution to all our problems, but it is a vital part of creating the better society we so clearly need. UBI doesn’t leave anyone behind. It provides basic security and opportunity for all citizens; protection for working people; a lifeline for those with caring responsibilities; better health and life chances for our children and grandchildren; support for marginalised groups, and so much more.

Right now, we have local people doing six or seven zero-hour contract jobs and still having to claim benefits; nurses and teaching assistants relying on food banks; people caring for relatives and being financially punished for it, and most people in poverty also being in work. Something has got to change. Across the world we have seen UBI transform lives and communities – I want us to be part of that transformation too.

Here in Kirklees we have a rich history of ordinary people standing up and demanding change for themselves, their families, and their communities – from women’s fight for the vote to the recent campaign to save our local hospital. I’m really proud that UBI Lab Kirklees has made a commitment to engage with local people, to make your voices central to the debate about what kind of society we want to be.”

 

Cllr Patrick Hurley of UBI Lab Liverpool said:

“The Basic Income is an idea whose time has come. Paying a wealth dividend to each citizen in order to help them make the best of their lives could be transformational for our country. People who want to take a chance on a change of career, or want to care for family members, or need a helping hand to smooth out life’s rough edges, would all benefit massively from something like this. At UBI Lab Liverpool, we think a series of demonstrations and pilots across the country could show the benefits to the wider population with limited downsides. That’s why we’re working with colleagues from across the city and across the country to promote Basic Income and see how best to implement it at a national level.”

 

Toby P Lloyd of UBI Lab Newcastle said:

“Critics of Basic Income say that it would make people lazy and they would all stop working. This argument has a very narrow view of ‘work’, defining it only as paid employment. Society relies on a huge amount of unpaid ‘work’ for it to function, most of this is done by women. Basic Income would not solve this, but it would be a first step in rewarding this unpaid labour and recognising its value. Basic Income would also be a way of investing in people, giving them more control over their lives and how they use their time, enabling them to reach their full potential. This is not possible for many people under the current system, because they are trapped in exploitative jobs which leave them with no time or energy to do anything else.”

 

Notes for editors:

 

– UBI Lab Sheffield is a collaboration between multiple organisations and individuals, seeking to explore the potential of a Universal Basic Income and the possibility of a pilot in the city. Organisations involved include Opus Independents, Sheffield Equality Group, The Centre for Welfare Reform and the University of Sheffield. https://www.ubilabsheffield.org/

– A feasibility study launched by the Scottish Government and supported by NHS Scotland is currently looking at the practicalities of a pilot in Scotland.

– Press assets and images are available at: https://www.ubilabsheffield.org/press

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5 comments

  • Joyce Ireson

    Why the endless debating of ubi for certain areas surely the only positive way to find out one way or the other is to give it to all & not just the few.

  • First of all, whilst generally supportive of the article, I would like to correct an inaccuracy. The organisation of the basic income movement did not start in Yorkshire in 2017 – it started in Scotland in 2016, with the formation of Citizens Basic Income Network Scotland (CBINS). Advocates such as myself had been pushing the concept on a more informal and solo basis since late 2014, I believe I first heard of the concept when it was raised as a way for Scotland to diverge from the UK economy, during the Scottish independence campaign in 2013/2014.

    Also in response to Joyce Ireson, your apparent frustration is not without foundation. That said, we need to be realistic of the fact that we have a Tory government in place in Westminster, that is, if anything, hostile to the concept of the better off potentially paying more in tax to help with the initial (at least) funding of a basic income programme. As until it is up and running, and hopefully positively impacts the budgets of things such as health, policing and justice, increasing the tax take of the better off is probably the best and most progressive way of funding any possible difference in the cost of implementation against the administrative savings of simplifying the welfare system.

    To get a trial going, let alone a national programme, requires the co-operation of the DWP and HMRC (and therefore national government), as well as local authorities. Then you need to work out what areas your trial is in, who is going to be involved in the trial (which will almost certainly require the consent of the people involved), how much they are to receive and how they receive it.

    Now do you start to see the complexity? This takes substantial, time-consuming, and tedious planning and detail. And that is once you get past differences in opinion of those wanting to trial it, as to how much you pay, how you fund it, how often you pay it, etc. There is no consensus on any of this, yet. I have my point of view on these things, but it is exactly that – my point of view.

    But this is happening, or at least is starting to happen, in Scotland. Local authorities (LAs) have been identified, had core funding to look into feasability, communication between LAs, HMRC & DWP is starting, and things may be progressing from there towards the finer details of things.

    The biggest thing that people can do to help move things along right now would be to remove the Tory government from office via the ballot box. A basic income trial is far more likely to get approval & support from any other government than a Conservative one.

  • Kate

    Time rich, money poo!

  • Maurice Ward

    Hello Joyce,

    I share your frustration that this no brainer is something we cannot just get on with.

    However, it is politically contentious and probably, through ignorance, does not have strong public support yet.

    It is easier to get pilots happening and their existence helps spread the word. It also makes the case for UBI stronger, so opponents will have to address the positive results. The RSA wants further testing of some aspects.

    Governments when faced with an unexpected crisis do not know what to do. If there is a ready solution they will grab it. If there is a crisis caused either by unemployment increasing as a result of new technology, the wealth inequality becoming unacceptable to the majority of voters, or a perceived breakdown in social services provision, then UBI may be in a strong position as a solution. Particularly with the evidence provided by the pilots.

    Personally, I believe that every citizen has a right to a share of the “commons”, so all these arguments about the pros and cons are just diversions.

  • james

    Its time for universal basic income. I am 32 unemployed. getting a job is about 1 in 500 chance. In the year 2019 a job has become a lottery prize something that you win instead of something that is needed to help pay for food , water, a roof, Most people in countries around the world are poor or close to it. Some people can not even get welfare for whatever reason. The people in work are unhappy, high debt, and their job is not ever secure. There working hours are to high and everything has become to stressful. In the past companies wanted workers to do a task and get paid for it. Today employers want superstars , the brightest , the best and all this does it put potential employees off from applying. University is to expensive and a waste of time. To do any job in the world , you train for it not pay thousands for a certificate with your name on it. In the future these problems will be corrected as today is just a joke not away of living at all. In some ways maybe it would be easier to abolish money altogether then we could all do what we would like to do. There are geniuses in this world that are not being given the chance to help improve this world, instead they are undermined, suppressed by the controllers of this planet. What world do these controllers want.
    No World of mine.

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