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Cymru needs to explore paying everyone a basic income, says open letter to First Minister

Bank notes.

Cymru should explore paying everyone a basic income to "study how it could improve lives for generations in the future", the First Minister is being urged.

UBI advocates including the Future Generations Commissioner Sophie Howe, UBI Lab Cymru, Women’s Equality Network (WEN) Wales, and Chwarae Teg, have written to the First Minister asking him to expand plans for testing the benefits of supporting people with enough money for their basic needs.

A universal basic income (UBI) is an unconditional payment where a government pays every individual a set salary, regardless of their means. Payments are made automatically, without procedures like queuing and regular form-filling.

Earlier this year, Mr Drakeford announced that he would pilot a basic income. The Welsh Government later said it was interested in developing a small pilot, potentially involving people leaving care.

Yet signatories of the open letter say that while care leavers need more support, they are concerned that confining the pilot in this way won’t provide the evidence needed to understand the impacts of a basic income for all.

Instead, they want Welsh Government to run a wide-ranging ‘Care Leavers Plus’ pilot, to include children, the employed, the unemployed and pensioners, as well as care leavers.

The signatories say that a wider pilot could "collect evidence on how the policy would impact Cymru as a whole, by testing the effect on educational attainment, for example". Cymru has the highest rate of child poverty in the UK.

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.

A poll on behalf of the Future Generations Commissioner found that 69% of people in Cymru think we should trial a basic income and 25 Members of the Senedd have signed UBI Lab Wales’ Pledge for UBI.

Sophie Howe, the Future Generations Commissioner, said that furlough ending this September, along with an end to the Universal Credit pandemic top-up of £20 a week, were "yet more signs that the current systems of welfare and work aren’t fit for purpose".

Ms Howe said that she wants MSs to "talk to people in their communities this summer about how a basic income could better support them long-term and for Mr Drakeford to implement a geographically-based UBI pilot as part of his new programme for government".

She said: “It’s time to accept the system is broken and without a stronger safety net, generations to come will be left with a legacy of deprivation.

“UBI could protect not just those hit hard by Covid but every one of us from other shocks to come – like the climate emergency that’s going to cause more devastation via extreme weather like heatwaves and floods.

“Keeping people well means doing new things to tackle poverty, and Welsh Government has to take this chance now to use the Well-being of Future Generations Act to properly test how a UBI can change lives.”

Jonathan Williams, founder, UBI Lab Cymru, said: “It’s of great importance that we get this pilot design right. If we’re to truly understand what impact the policy could have on society, we must include all demographics. The results of a wide-ranging pilot could be a game-changer in terms of bringing on board people who are still unconvinced about the merits of a basic income for all.

“The Welsh Government have taken a huge step in the right direction by being brave enough to announce they will run a trial. Now they must make the case to the UK Government that a substantive pilot is what the Welsh public want.”

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