Can a basic income revolutionise social security?

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A new report explores ways Scotland can learn from international pilot programmes exploring how to provide a basic income for all citizens

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31st January 2019 by Susan Smith 2 Comments

A plan to revolutionise social security in Scotland and reduce poverty is a step closer following the publication of a new report..

The Scottish Basic Income Steering Group report highlights learning from basic income pilots underway or in planning in Finland, Ontario and the Netherlands, compiled from discussions with representatives at the Basic Income Earth Network 2018 World Congress.

It is the first major step in a Scottish Government funded feasibility study into the creation of a basic income pilot in Scotland. It explores key questions to be addressed in order to create a pilot.

A basic income is the concept of regular, unconditional payments made to all citizens, regardless of whether they are employed or seeking work.

Its supporters believe basic income would provide a safety net and reduce poverty; minimise social security bureaucracy; and allow people greater freedom to choose to work, learn, train, volunteer, care, or start a business.

There has been an upsurge of interest in basic income globally. In 2017, the local authorities in Edinburgh, Fife, Glasgow and North Ayrshire formed a Scottish Basic Income Steering Group to advance their shared interest in piloting basic income as a means of tackling poverty and inequality.

The Scottish Government has funded the Carnegie UK Trust to explore the feasibility of introducing it in Scotland, and the public policy body funded the production of this report.  

Its review of international pilots concludes that there is no one size fits all approach to piloting basic income. It makes a series of recommendations around pilot framing, design, implementation, evaluation and communication in order for a pilot to be delivered successfully within Scotland’s specific political and institutional context.  

Martyn Evans, chief executive of the Carnegie UK Trust, said: “The work of the Basic Income Steering Group places Scotland in the forefront of countries giving serious consideration to whether basic income is a viable and feasible means of combatting poverty and inequality. Basic income is largely untested, and very different from how the UK has developed social protection and social security for over 70 years.

“Basic income also confounds many of the current social and policy expectations around benefit conditionality, particularly related to the availability for work. It is critical that any basic income pilot is thoughtfully designed and evaluated so both its potential positive and any negative impacts can be properly examined.”

Wendy Hearty, project manager for the Scottish Citizens Basic Income Feasibility Study Steering Group, added: “We welcome the timely publication of this report as we continue to work to establish the feasibility of a meaningful and ethical citizens’ basic income pilot in Scotland.

“We are aware that the policy is untested and whilst we are taking into account evidence from previous pilots of basic income type schemes, we are keen to learn from contemporary trials worldwide.”

31st January 2019 by Ruchir Shah

Basic income does indeed confound benefit conditionality. Is that not a good thing?

2nd February 2019 by Chaz

I read an article in Business Insider in 2017 about a Basic Income trial in a village in Kenya, where it made a positive impact on villagers' lives. Contrary to popular (cynical) belief, there was no uptick in people giving up work, gambling, or drug and alcohol abuse, as most people used the extra money to pay for tuition for their children, to buy medicines, repair their homes, or to expand their businesses. I recall thinking it was an excellent idea that should be implemented in the UK.I would challenge the idea of giving it to everyone, as people earning six figures have no need of government handouts. That's what tax shelters are for(!) But it should be automatically given to job seekers, the disabled, and low income families to eradicate the need for food banks and bring an end to homelessness. I imagine it would be far cheaper than the current system, which is a complete shambles. And if we can do it in an independent Scotland, all the better.