Could a Citizen’s Basic Income be one a way to #ChallengePoverty?

Posted on 15 Mar 2021

Today is the start of #ChallengePovertyWeek which aims to draw attention to the injustice of poverty and showcase potential solutions.

It is estimated that 20% of people in Scotland are living in poverty (Scottish Government, 2019).  Poverty has substantial and lasting impacts on people’s health, wellbeing, access to opportunities and ability to participate in society. Worryingly, 240,000 children in Scotland live in poverty, of which 65% are from working households (Scottish Government, 2019). We need to explore bold and innovative policies if we are to tackle poverty. Could a citizen’s basic income (CBI) be one of them?

Across all partners involved in the Citizen’s Basic Income (CBI) Feasibility Study, there is a strong desire to consider policy options which might reduce poverty, thereby improving the lives of people in Scotland.  Proponents describe basic income as an innovative, bold policy which has the potential to reduce poverty and provide everyone with the opportunity to earn, learn, study or start a business but this remains to be tested in a Scottish and UK context.  Different forms of basic income pilots have taken place across the world, and we highlighted some of this in our International Learning Report for Carnegie UK Trust.

Detailed research by the Scottish CBI Feasibility Study Steering Group began in May 2018 and since then the team have been working hard across a number of areas.  One key area of development has been the design of specific basic income models in conjunction with an evaluation strategy.  The purpose of adopting this approach ensures that outcomes of interest can be robustly tested and evaluated within the context of a pilot.  We agreed on three primary outcomes against which to evaluate the effectiveness of basic income:  a reduction in poverty, child poverty and unemployment.   We are also interested in secondary short-term outcomes including improved health and wellbeing, community level social and economic effects and improved experience of the social security system.

Earlier this year, the Steering Group commissioned research from the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland to consider options for interaction between a basic income pilot and current social security arrangements.  The work also explored potential consequences for those taking part in a study of basic income if current social security entitlements were to change within a pilot.  The report is being used to inform the feasibility work and highlights the complexities of the current social security systems and the challenges involved in designing a basic income pilot.

The Group has also commissioned research to model the potential fiscal and economic impacts of a basic income if it was rolled out nationally across Scotland.  Reporting in January 2020, the research is being led by the Fraser of Allander Institute at the University of Strathclyde in collaboration with IPPR Scotland and the University of Manchester.

On the 4th of November 2019, the steering group will publish a report on the interim feasibility study findings.  At this stage the work is provisional and is intended to garner feedback from Scottish Government and other key stakeholders which can be taken into consideration before the final report is produced.  We welcome thoughts from all interested parties on the Interim Report.

Much work remains to be done before the conclusion of the feasibility work in March 2020 including further work to establish the legal options for piloting basic income and pursuing further negotiations with DWP and HMRC to establish whether and how a CBI could be facilitated.  The group will continue to work closely with commissioned researchers to complete the economic modelling work to estimate the potential impacts on the economy of introducing a basic income nationwide and we look forward to sharing our full findings next year.

The Interim Feasibility Report will be available on on 4th November 2019.

The full and final findings of the Scottish Basic Income Feasibility Study will be submitted to Scottish Government in March 2020.

For more information on #ChallengePoverty week see