Sheffield to consider £500-a-month Universal Basic Income trial

A Universal Basic Income, where everyone receives £500 a month whether they are in work or not, could be piloted in Sheffield.

By Robert Cumber
Thursday, 14 February, 2019, 09:57

The city would become the first in England to adopt the concept, which advocates claim is a simpler and fairer alternative to the benefits system, should a trial be approved.

Universal Basic Income would replace traditional means-tested benefits with an unconditional flat rate payment to all citizens, regardless of their circumstances.

Universal Basic Income would mean a flat rate of payment for everyone, whether in work or not

A recent trial in Finland suggested it had the potential to improve people’s health and happiness without significantly affecting how likely unemployed recipients were to find work, according to analysis by the University of Bath.

Sheffield has taken note, and a meeting and series of workshops are due to be held next month about the prospect of making such a scheme a reality in the city.

A draft proposal will be launched at the same time by UBI LAB: Sheffield, a collaboration of organisations and individuals within the city which are intrigued by the prospect.

Jason Leman, who chairs the group, said: “What the trial in Finland has shown us is that a Universal Basic Income works to improve health and wellbeing, which means people are less of a burden on health services and more likely to be able to contribute.

“But the Finnish experiment just looked at people who were long-term unemployed. We want to see what the effects would be on everyone. Whilst there are trials being proposed in Scotland, our proposal is the most detailed yet launched for England.”

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He described the existing tax and benefits system as a ‘maze of paperwork and bureaucracy’, and claimed changing the way things work could really benefit the lowest paid, including people on zero-hours contracts.

UBI LAB: Sheffield, whose members include Opus Independents, Centre for Welfare Reform, and University of Sheffield is considering three different models for a trial.

One would simply remove the need for people receiving disability benefits to keep undergoing assessments; another would provide a monthly £130 top-up for all; and a third would entitle everyone to a full basic income of £500 a month, to be funded by increasing income tax.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell last year said the Labour Party was considering including plans for a Universal Basic Income in its next manifesto.

The Star has contacted Sheffield Council, which declined to comment on the proposals.

‘Basic Income: How do we get there?’ is due to take place at the University of Sheffield’s Diamond building on Leavygreave Road on Saturday, March 9, from 11am-4pm.

The event, which will be chaired by Dr Simon Duffy, of Citizens Network, is jointly sponsored by Basic Income UK, Citizens Basic Income Network Scotland, UBI LAB: Sheffield, and the University of Sheffield.