Why UBI?

 Sunday and I awoke to the lawn, that stretches along in front of my window, covered white with frost, thankfully I had bought four meters of fleece at the garden centre yesterday and covered over the beds as best I could, a timely intervention.

The first time I heard of universal basic income (UBI) was a project carried out in Finland over 2017 and 2018. the study paid 2000 random selected unemployed people around £500.00 per month with no obligation to seek employment and no reduction in the payment if they found a job. Participants in the project were found to experience less stress, less depression, less sadness and less loneliness. They also did better in other measurements of well-being such as confidence, sense of independence, feeling of security……………

Today I read an article by Dr Steve McCabe on UBI and from his article it seems that the idea of UBI has been around for over a century.

Coronavirus has pushed UDI once more to the top of the list for discussion at government level, for it is a proven fact that the richest in our society will always fair better than the poorest when it comes to fighting off diseases, such as coronavirus. However it doesn’t take a pandemic to tell us that, poverty and poor health along with low education standards, make good bedfellows.

The Spanish government announced in 2020 that they intend to roll out a basic income to a million of the poorest households in Spain. Likewise, The First Minister of Scotland floated the idea of a basic income, around the same time as Spain. But still only being talked about not acted upon,

UBI has always been talked about in economic terms, however, the real benefit of UBI is to public health and well-being in our society.

In Canada, an experiment in UDI began in Dauphin near Winnipeg. One thousand families, about 30% of the population were given a monthly income designed to keep them above the poverty line. This income was named ‘mincome’ Four years later a new conservative government in Canada stopped it. The data collected during the experiment was put away in a box and there it lay for the next 30 years. Evelyn Forget, a professor at the University of Manitoba found the contents of the box and analysed their data. What she found was quite astonishing in terms of public health. Hospital admissions in the ‘mincome’ group fell by 8%. This amount in terms of the healthcare budget alone amounted to a substantial financial saving opening up the possibility that UBI may actually pay for itself through its health benefits.

Much like prison reform, rather than building more prisons, prison reform, is the road out of a revolving door of reoffending. But having turned prisons into private industry for the likes of G4S, a money-making business, funded by the taxpayer, there will be little movement in that direction from Westminster. The reoffending rate in the UK is the highest in Europe and most of the developed world, and not surprisingly much of it can be traced back to poverty and poor housing, dysfunctional families, children growing up in the streets where drugs and prostitution are a way of survival, and where such children will know at least one household in the street where a mum or dad is in or had been released from prison. But I’m off on a tangent once more.

The good news did not stop there. Mental health, something that is talked a lot about at present, also improved, along with a reduction in violence. In short ‘mincome’ improved public health.

Last August (2020), when UDI was brought before the House at Westminster, it was dismissed out of hand by the Tory government. The Under-Secretary of State for Work and pensions, Will Quince, Conservative MP, described UDI as “a costly mess” that “would disincentive work in key industries and leave the country’s finances ruined….. The government have no plans to introduce this policy”.

This, even although studies have shown the opposite is true that rather than recipients becoming work-shy and lazy. There was no significant reduction in working hours and some participants actually found work or increased their existing working hours.

The system at present in the UK is a disincentive to find work or better yourself, for every penny you make over the limit is taken from you and if you rise above a certain threshold you lose out on, housing benefit, free dental care, free glasses, free night school tuition, yes, taking even a part-time job to help your family eke out a living and you crash out of the system – applying to return into the system means five weeks without any financial help at all, but there are always ‘Food Banks’ that are becoming more and more part of the welfare system in this country, and fast becoming like prisons, a growth industry, being funded by government grants, (taxpayer funded).

I would like to see UDI rolled out across Scotland, tomorrow, if possible, but it will never happen so long as we have Tories such as Will Quince able to dismiss UDI out of hand without even looking at the data. If it has already been proven that UDI can improve our countries health, mentally and physically, and greatly improve the well-being of all our citizens, whilst at the same time paying for itself in savings to our NHS – why are we still only talking about it a hundred years on from its conception.

With all my wee jobs in the garden taken care off, and with the skies clear, and the sun out, to hell with the housework, the open road and a life awheel beckons me on.

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