New report reveals Universal Basic Income in Wales would cut poverty in half
Poverty in Wales would be halved if Welsh Government commits to a progressive Universal Basic Income (UBI), according to a major study commissioned by the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, Sophie Howe.
The feasibility study, run by leading think tank Autonomy, finds a UBI would decrease overall poverty rates in Wales by 50% and child poverty would decrease by 64%, bringing it to a rate of under 10% in Wales. It is currently at 28% – the worst in the UK.
It also found that almost three quarters of people in Wales, 69%, support piloting a UBI – which has been described as ‘this generation’s NHS’.
Universal Basic Income is a government programme where every citizen receives a set amount of money on a regular basis, regardless of their employment status. It is a basic, minimum payment, designed to meet basic needs, paid to everyone individually, without condition.
According to the World Health Organisation, poverty is the single largest determinant of health, and ill health is an obstacle to social and economic development. This means poorer people live shorter lives and have poorer health than affluent people.
Earlier this year, Welsh Government announced its ambition to pilot a UBI pilot in Wales. UBI Lab Wales, the Future Generations Commissioner and over 1,000 petitioners have called on the First Minister to ensure the pilot includes children, the employed, the unemployed and pensioners, as well as care leavers in a demographically representative pilot.
Ms Howe, whose role is to protect the interests of future generations under Wales’ Well-being of Future Generations Act, will today (Monday 29th) give evidence to the Welsh Parliament’s Petitions Committee calling on Welsh Government to pilot a geographically-based Universal Basic Income (UBI) scheme that includes children, the employed, the unemployed and pensioners, as well as care leavers.
A trial in Wales of 2,500 people, the report finds, could cost around £50m, with adults being paid from £60 per week.
A pilot in Finland found participants were happier, had greater trust in others and higher levels of confidence in the future. They also worked slightly more than those on unemployment benefits and reported better cognitive functioning.
Those who were already living in poor health, poverty or in marginalised communities have been the hardest hit by the pandemic. It has highlighted the inequalities we knew existed in our society long before the pandemic arose – and these have been further compounded as a result of both the direct and indirect harms from the pandemic. Rising living costs, combined with the end of the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme (furlough) in addition to cuts to welfare benefits like universal credit amount to a “perfect storm” or “tsunami”, according to respondents to a Senedd Committee inquiryi into debt and the pandemic.
Ms Howe said UBI could form part of a preventative-based National Wellness System, addressing income security – one of the social determinants of health – taking pressure off the health service and removing the barriers to long-term good health.
Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, said:
“The introduction of a universal basic income could completely transform society by delivering a more equal, prosperous Wales.
“Piloting a UBI trial here in Wales gives us a chance to increase the prosperity of every single person, giving more people a life jacket when they need to keep their head above the water – which has the potential to create a healthier, more equal population.”
“The Well-being of Future Generations Act puts a duty on Welsh Government to take bold decisions to change systems that aren’t working and to prevent crises from worsening.
“The findings in this report should excite leaders who say they want a true green and just recovery that makes life fairer for everyone.”
Will Stronge, co-director of Autonomy, said:
“There is a strong appetite amongst the Welsh public for trying out basic income and this comprehensive study sets out the roadmap for getting there.
“The COVID-19 pandemic necessitates radical and bold changes to support people through future economic shocks. As the economy and labour market struggles to find its feet, it’s clear that guaranteeing an income floor for all is the most progressive way of securing livelihoods.”
My story: Katherine Adams
When Katherine Adams fell seriously ill following the birth of her only son, her young family were spun into what felt like “a desperate never-ending black hole of poverty and insecurity.”
The 38 year old from Rhyd Y Foel, Conwy, is currently a full time student studying social policy and lives with her husband Danny and her six-year-old little boy.
She said: “We had not long moved to Wales. My husband had just started working as a gardener. What we hoped would be our first family home turned out to be damp, mouldy, impossible to heat and poorly maintained.
“When my little boy was born I was very ill and in and out of intensive care for months – I had to have lots of operations. My husband could not go to work for most of that time because we had a new-born baby that he had to single-handedly look after and he lost his job.
“The consequences of that have lasted for years. It gave us debts to pay off because the benefits system didn’t respond quickly enough to the situation we suddenly found ourselves in. Something like Universal Basic Income would have prevented that kind of crisis from being so long-lasting.”
Katherine and her family thankfully find themselves in slightly better times, and she is quick to praise her current landlord who she says has been very kind and flexible during the pandemic. Despite this, they still face insecurity.
She said: “My husband’s work is insecure. We receive Universal Credit and it feels unstable because it’s so conditional and subject to change. Sometimes you don’t find out about changes until the consequences have already hit like finding out you’ve been overpaid historically and then suddenly having to pay it back.”
Katherine believes this would change if Universal Basic income was introduced.
“What it would mean for us is a level of certainty that we haven’t had since we’ve become parents. Not even necessarily because it’s enough to live on but because it would be something that was a guarantee on which we could base long term decisions.
“My husband’s work is obviously physically hard. I don’t know how long he is going to be able to carry on at the pace that he is working at now. Also he would like to re-train, go back to university and do a postgraduate or teaching qualification but that feels like a massive gamble. It’s a very high-anxiety existence and it would be nice to have some certainty to make decisions on.”
A Universal Basic Income would allow Katherine to plan for the future, something that at the moment is simply not possible.
“We would be able to sign my little my little boy up for swimming or gymnastics knowing that is something we could always afford rather than having to make a decision month by month and worrying about promising him things that we couldn’t deliver.
“We would do things like buy a reliable family car rather than buy a cheap run-around that is probably going to die in a year and need to be replaced.
“We would think about being able to save money so that we could afford to buy a house and not pay more than we would pay in a mortgage on rent to have no assets or capital or anything to show for it. I think we would feel less like we are being punished for things that have happened that are beyond our control.”
“The way universal credit operates is punitive and that eats away at you over time. It also makes you feel guilty and worth less than other people and like you’re not trying hard enough when I don’t think those things are true.
“A Universal Basic Income would not be money for nothing that would be squandered. It would be a stake in a system that will allow people to make better decisions.
“Even people who don’t need that money would put that money back into the local economy and that benefits someone else. Trusting people and seeing the best in people goes a long way. Universal Basic Income is an investment in people’s potential rather than punishment for their poverty.”
Notes to Editor
 Welsh Parliament Equality and Social Justice Committee Report: Debt and the Pandemic https://senedd.wales/senedd-now/news/debt-and-the-pandemic-equality-and-social-justice-report-news-story/
For further information please contact Matt Aplin at firstname.lastname@example.org / 07557 682 938