Coronavirus and a temporary UBI: RSA statement

Press release

Anthony Painter of the RSA comments

Commenting on the calls for a temporary Universal Basic Income, Anthony Painter, chief research and impact officer at the RSA, said:

“Coronavirus is demonstrating why having such a complex, conditional and punitive system of cash support is fundamentally flawed.

“The primary issue in the very short-term is to help those who are precarious and that means, for better or worse, using the existing tax and benefits system as a delivery mechanism. Statutory sick pay should be at least doubled and made available to all workers, and we support the moves taken to make it more accessible. We must shift away from conditionality in Universal Credit payments, and these should be processed as rapidly as possible with advanced payments made otherwise. We welcome the government exploration of employment subsidies with business and the unions.

“Over the coming weeks, as more people risk falling through the income floor, we will need to look at a temporary Universal Basic Income. This could be done by turning income tax and national insurance allowances into a universal cash payment for all workers and backdating payments three months so there could be cheques hitting bank accounts immediately. This will help provide peace of mind and ensure that workers look after their health and that of their families first.

“Ultimately shifting from Universal Credit to a Universal Basic Income for all is the best path to underpinning economic security in the longer-term, and has a role to play in 'winning the peace' and helping secure a recovery very different that after the financial crisis. That’s an important conversation, but we must ‘win the war’ first.”

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