ourEconomy: Opinion

We want to give everyone in Britain £400 a month – no strings attached

A Resilience Universal Basic Income would guarantee economic security for every household in the UK as we recover from COVID-19

Patrick Brown
8 October 2021, 12.00am
The UBi Lab Network wants to give every working-age adult (16-64) resident in the UK £400 a month for a year
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NJphoto / Alamy Stock Photo

The end of the £20 uplift to Universal Credit this week represents the biggest overnight cut to the basic rate of social security since the Second World War – at a time when the effects of the pandemic are still being felt.

This, combined with the end of the furlough scheme, will plunge millions of families into poverty over the next few months. Politicians, activists and civil society leaders agree there is still an urgent need to provide economic support that protects everybody.

Welcome as the furlough scheme and the uplift to Universal Credit were, their targeted design meant that many fell through the cracks, and the government spent much of last summer rushing through loans, grants and add-on schemes to catch those who didn't qualify for one reason or another.

A crisis that affects everyone needs a response that protects everyone.

That's why, at the UBI Lab Network, we're proposing that the government put in place what we call a Resilience Universal Basic Income (UBI). This is a new and fully costed proposal that we're proud to launch today in openDemocracy.

We want to give every working-age adult (16-64) resident in the UK £400 a month for a year – no strings attached.

We also want to give all children and pensioners £200 a month. This would be without any changes to existing benefits or the State Pension.

Unlike the small mountain of paperwork generated by the furlough scheme and Universal Credit, receiving the payments (which we're calling a COVID Dividend) would be straightforward. All you would have to do is show that you're a permanent resident of the UK to claim your money. Everyone would receive the COVID Dividend, regardless of income, wealth or work.

The Resilience UBI would initially last for a year, but it could be extended depending on the circumstances of the pandemic. In our full proposal paper, we've also outlined how it could be transitioned into a permanent Universal Basic Income for everyone.

Our Resilience UBI would guarantee economic security for every household in the UK, and would give citizens the crucial spending power needed to revive our struggling communities and high streets. It would build up resilience, both in individual households and the economy as a whole, to protect against future shocks like COVID.

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The Resilience UBI is affordable. We estimate the overall cost would be £261bn over 12 months. This is around half what the UK spent on bailing out the banks after the 2008 financial crash, and a fraction of what the US government has put into their own temporary UBI – the Stimulus Checks.

Instead of tax rises, we would fund the Resilience UBI through People's Quantitative Easing – government money creation, in other words – which would reinject some of the money that working families have lost during lockdown back into the economy.

Quantitative Easing is how the government funded the bank bailout as well as most of the COVID support schemes, including furlough. The difference is that the money from those two interventions went to banks and big business – our Resilience UBI would give money directly to citizens and to communities.

We've teamed up with PolicyEngine UK, which models the effect of proposed policy changes on the economy, to crunch the numbers. Its modelling of our Resilience UBI shows that overall poverty would fall by 80%, and child poverty by 85%. It also found that the lowest earners would be the biggest winners. It’s even created a tool so that you can see the effect the Resilience UBI would have on your own household.

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We've also considered the inflationary risk of our proposals. We argue that the one-year Resilience UBI would only have a transitory effect on inflation, whereas any full UBI in the future would have a minimal effect as it would significantly offset inflationary risk through additional taxation on the wealthiest.

Politicians from Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Alliance Party and the Green Party have welcomed our Resilience UBI proposal as an important contribution to the debate around ongoing economic support after the end of the furlough scheme.

Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon said in May last year that Universal Basic Income was an idea “that's time has come”, while Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham recently called for the introduction of the policy at the Labour Party conference. Most significantly, in Wales, first minister Mark Drakeford recently announced his government's intention to launch a major pilot of UBI after a successful election campaign by the UBI Lab Network.

Our fully costed Resilience UBI is an innovative response to an unprecedented crisis. The economic interventions the Conservative government has made in the past 12 months – unthinkable before 2008 – have shown that the government can act big to protect households and the economy. It's just a matter of political will.

A Resilience UBI would protect everybody, and would be the first step towards a society free of poverty and insecurity, and protected against future shocks like COVID. We can turn our patchy safety net into a safety floor that no one can fall below. If not now, then when?

Empower and protect, don’t prohibit: a better approach to child work

Bans on child labour don’t work because they ignore why children work in the first place. That is why the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour will fail.

If we truly care about working children, we need to start trying to keep them safe in work rather than insisting that they end work entirely. Our panelists, all advocates for child workers, offer us a new way forward.

Join us for this free live event at 5pm UK time on Thursday 28 October.

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