Plans for first universal basic income trial in England

Thirty people will receive £1,600 per month if England’s first universal basic income trial gets the go-ahead.

Researchers from the independent think tank Autonomy are seeking funding for a two-year pilot programme, said BBC News, “to see how it would change the lives of the group”. 

The trial, supported by Northumbria University and the Big Local charity initiative, would select 30 participants “at random from a pool of volunteers” in Jarrow, South Tyneside, and East Finchley in north London, said The Independent, with 20% of places reserved for people with disabilities.

Each person in the group would receive £1,600 a month “without any conditions, while researchers monitor what effects the cash has on their lives”, reported the Daily Mail. A control group would also be monitored, without being paid.

The scheme would cost about £1.6 million, with £1.15 million for the payments and about £500,000 for evaluation, admin and support. 

Critics of universal basic income (UBI) say it would divert resources from public services without alleviating poverty, while supporters say it would simplify the existing welfare system.

“All the evidence shows that [a UBI] would directly alleviate poverty and boost millions of people’s wellbeing,” Will Stronge, director of research at Autonomy, told BBC News. “The potential benefits are just too large to ignore.”

He told The Guardian that “we want to see what effect this unconditional lump sum has on people’s mental and physical health, whether they choose to work or not”.

The scheme would be the first of its kind in England, but similar pilots are underway in the US and elsewhere. Last year, the Welsh government launched a £20 million two-year trial offering £1,600 a month before tax to 500 young care leavers.

In 2020, calls from more than 170 MPs and peers for a basic income during the pandemic were rejected by the then chancellor, Rishi Sunak.

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