The principle behind a basic income is simple but transformative: at its root, the idea that everyone has value. That’s why Caroline Lucas has long campaigned for it, and was one of over 100 MPs who wrote to the Chancellor to urge him to introduce a Recovery Universal Basic Income in response to the coronavirus crisis. Public support for UBI is growing too – with polls consistently reporting a majority of people in favour.
Hollowed out by a decade of politically motivated austerity, our social security system was already failing far too many. For people who didn’t have enough to live on before the pandemic, their situation is now even worse. Too many people are excluded from the schemes the Government introduced and Universal Credit falls far short of a living wage. The current social security system is too cumbersome and inefficient for what is a fast moving and unpredictable reality. A guaranteed minimum income would provide desperately needed security, especially at this moment of crisis.
The most robust study of UBI to date concluded that it boosts recipients’ mental and financial well-being, as well as modestly improving employment. There are other benefits, too: people have more time to care for family or neighbours, much like the vital work of mutual aid groups across the country in response to Covid-19.
The full economic consequences of coronavirus are still ahead of us, so now is the time to put in place the mechanism that can deliver the security we all need. A minimum guaranteed income should go hand in hand with a genuine living wage – a social security system that lifts us all up, together.