England is set to conduct its first trial of universal basic income (UBI), with 30 individuals receiving £1,600 per month without any conditions. The trial aims to explore the potential benefits and drawbacks of implementing UBI as a means to simplify the welfare system and address poverty.
Universal basic income is a guaranteed income provided to all individuals in society, designed to cover basic needs and establish a minimum income floor. It is paid directly to individuals rather than households and is issued at regular intervals. There is no means testing or eligibility criteria, and it is paid in cash rather than vouchers or in-kind services.
The trial will take place in two areas: central Jarrow in the North East and East Finchley in north London. Participants will receive £1,600 per month, and the think tank Autonomy will monitor the effects of the income on their lives. A control group will also be established to compare the experiences of those receiving UBI with those who are not.
Proponents of UBI argue that it could alleviate poverty and boost wellbeing, as well as remove the stress and stigma associated with means-tested support. It could also help protect against future disruptions to society, such as climate change, artificial intelligence, and automation.
However, critics claim that UBI is costly and would require significant changes to the tax and social security systems. They also argue that it could discourage people from working and direct funds to those who do not need it, diverting resources from the most vulnerable.
Other countries have experimented with UBI. In Wales, a pilot programme provides £1,600 per month to 18-year-olds leaving the care system for two years after they turn 18. The Welsh government chose this focus due to the challenges care leavers face in transitioning to adulthood. Around 500 individuals are eligible for the scheme, which will cost approximately £20 million over three years.
The Scottish government conducted a feasibility study on UBI and is working on plans to offer a Minimum Income Guarantee by 2030, ensuring no one falls below a set income threshold. Finland also conducted a two-year trial, providing 2,000 individuals with a monthly stipend of €560 (£490). However, the Finnish government decided not to extend the trial to all citizens and discontinued it after its conclusion.
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