Op Ed - The compelling case for a national Universal Basic Income trial

Originally in Lib Dem Voice

Coronavirus has lifted the lid on the prevalence of financial insecurity in this UK. For many, there is no safety net in place for times of crisis. So, now more than ever, we need progressive, forward-thinking solutions to help people cope.

That’s why I, along with a group of cross-party MPs, have been calling on the Chancellor to implement an Emergency Universal Basic Income. Before the crisis, I advocated for the launch of local pilots to explore the idea. Now, I realise that we to act nationally to protect our most economically vulnerable.

Low-paid workers, such as those in the gig economy, often rely solely on their monthly wage. Many freelancers, as well as those with part-time jobs or on zero-hours contracts, live hand to mouth, without back-up provisions should they suddenly not be able to work.

Implementing a regular, unconditional income to everyone in the UK is a hand up to the most hard-working and economically vulnerable in society. It is a message to all our citizens that says loud and clear: we appreciate your hard work we will help you and your family in this time of crisis.

A set income, that would act as a safeguard for many is the most efficient and compassionate way for this Government to put millions of minds at rest instantly.

Anxiety around where your next meal is coming from should be the least of people’s worries. When we as a nation are undergoing such a crisis, no-one should have to face a choice between isolating to protect their health and putting food on the table for their children.

The Government have tried to build a patchwork of support provisions for people in various different situations. But under their approach, some will have to wait for universal credit applications, others must wait until June for a different payment. Too many people will fall through the net and get no support at all.

A Universal Basic Income is surely a better, catch-all safety net – and it’s not too late to introduce it. The Spanish Government has just become the first country in Europe to announce a rollout of a Universal Basic Income. As the Coronavirus crisis deepens here and looks as though it will go on into the year, it is becoming clear that we should try the same.

I will continue to urge the Government to leave ideology at the door and take this radical, progressive action. To not is to risk the livelihoods and safety of vulnerable people who are desperately looking to our welfare system to shelter them from hardship.


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