A groundbreaking trial of a universal basic income (UBI) in England could see 30 individuals receiving £1,600 per month without any obligations. Think tank Autonomy is currently seeking financial support for a two-year pilot program aimed at examining the impact of UBI on the participants’ lives. Advocates argue that such schemes can simplify the welfare system and address poverty effectively.
The trial will involve participants from two locations: central Jarrow in northeast England and East Finchley in north London. The concept of UBI involves the government providing a fixed salary to all individuals, regardless of their financial situation.
Critics of UBI raise concerns about its high cost, the potential diversion of funds from public services, and its uncertain impact on poverty reduction. However, Autonomy hopes that its proposed pilot program will provide evidence supporting the implementation of a national basic income and pave the way for more comprehensive trials to explore the full potential of UBI in the UK.
Cleo Goodman, co-founder of Basic Income Conversation, a program run by a work-focused think tank, emphasised the importance of eradicating poverty in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, stating, “No one should ever face poverty or have to choose between heating and eating.”
Will Stronge, director of research at Autonomy, stressed the potential benefits of UBI, stating, “All the evidence shows that [UBI] would directly alleviate poverty and boost millions of people’s wellbeing: the potential benefits are just too large to ignore.”
The trial is receiving support from charity Big Local and Northumbria University. Extensive community consultations have taken place in central Jarrow and East Finchley over a period of two years. Individuals from these areas can volunteer to participate in the trial, and anonymity will be ensured. While participants will be randomly selected, the organisers aim for a representative group, with 20% of the participants having disabilities.
In addition to the £1.15 million budget allocated for basic income payments over two years, there will be additional costs of approximately £500,000 for project evaluation activities, administration, and community support teams. Autonomy anticipates that funding for income payments will most likely come from private philanthropic sources or local and combined authorities.
Calls for UBI have gained momentum, particularly in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, as a means to alleviate financial hardships. In a similar vein, the Welsh Labour government initiated a £20 million experiment last year, offering UBI to young people leaving care. The ongoing scheme provides £1,600 per month before tax to 500 care leavers. The Welsh government plans to thoroughly evaluate the results of this experiment.
The UBI trial in England holds the promise of shedding light on the potential benefits and challenges associated with implementing a national basic income. By examining its effects on individuals’ lives, it may contribute to shaping future policies that combat poverty and enhance well-being in the UK.