Supporters of a Universal Basic Income (UBI) scheme in Wales have called on the government to expand its plans for a pilot scheme.

UBI is a type of welfare scheme that normally means everybody living in a specific area – be it a city, county or entire nation – is paid by the government a regular, fixed amount of income, even if they are in employment, to cover basic needs.

Mark Drakeford has committed to trialling some form of UBI in Wales, but so far it has been suggested the pilot scheme will only focus on specific groups of people, rather than a truly 'universal' approach. There have been suggestions that UBI will be trialled in Wales with care-leavers.

In a new letter to the first minister, the nation's future generations commission, Sophie Howe, is joined by other UBI supportes in calling for a more wide-ranging UBI trial that will more more rigorously test the success of the scheme. The 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.

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

“It’s of great importance that we get this pilot design right," said Jonathan Williams, the founder of UBI Lab Cymru. "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 gamechanger 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.”

Future generations commissioner Howe wants Senedd members to talk to people in their communities this summer about how a basic income could better support them in the long term.

The National Wales: Sophie Howe, the future generations commissioner for Wales.Sophie Howe, the future generations commissioner for Wales.

“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," she said. 

“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 the 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.” 

'Uncertainty puts pressure on your mental health'

Phillip Easton from Penrhiwceiber in Rhondda Cynon Taf said UBI would be ‘life-changing’ for people in his area. 

During lockdowns, the 41-year-old's business, Pip’s Real Hot Chocolate, could no longer supply to events or cafés and Phillip, who didn’t qualify for Universal Credit, struggled to buy food or pay his mortgage.

He suffered a stroke six years ago which left him with brain damage meaning he finds paperwork difficult and says an automatic, guaranteed payment would make a huge difference during economic uncertainty. 

“Because the funding changes, you don’t know if you’re going to get support,” said Phillip. 

“It’s hard to plan and that uncertainty puts a pressure on your mental health," he said. "It’s a very testing time. Now is my quiet season, after having been unable to sell during the busy winter period, but I have no idea if I’m going to get any more help.” 

The National Wales: Business owner Phillip Easton, who supports a Universal Basic Income scheme in Wales. Picture: Yusuf IsmailBusiness owner Phillip Easton, who supports a Universal Basic Income scheme in Wales. Picture: Yusuf Ismail

He added: "If my area was chosen for the pilot, then those children who live in the worst poverty in Wales would have money in their families that they never dreamed of.  

“We have pride. We don’t want charity. But some things that can be taken for granted aren’t a priority.

“UBI isn't about giving people money, it’s about giving them opportunities. Opportunities for a better home life, better mental health, more time to do the things that make somewhere a place people want to live in.”  

The Welsh Government has been contacted for comment.

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