Soon after being re-elected as First Minister, Mark Drakeford announced he wanted to run a basic income trial in Wales.

As a long-time advocate of basic income, I am very excited by this and think everyone in Wales should be excited too. It is about time political leaders had the courage to put forward new and innovative ideas to transform the lives of our citizens.

Wales faces a number of decades-long and deep-seated problems. It is the poorest nation in the UK . A quarter of the population of Wales (700,000 people) lives in poverty.

It has one of the highest in-work poverty rates in the UK (14%), meaning even people who are working, often full time, find it hard to escape poverty.

31% of Welsh children live in poverty. This is the highest rate of child poverty in the UK and this number has not budged in the last 20 years.

The benefits system is also failing to alleviate poverty: of the children living in poverty, over seven in 10 live in a family in receipt of income-related benefits.

Poverty, although it may sound obvious to say it, is fundamentally a lack of money. The above statistics show in too many cases neither work nor benefits can solve the problem of poverty.

READ MORE: UBI, a solution to Wales' problems of tomorrow?

Those statistics also show, starkly, that over decades, countless government programmes and initiatives costing billions of pounds have failed to make even the smallest amount of difference to the lives of a third of the poorest children in Wales. It is time to try something different.

Basic income seeks to solve the problem of poverty by giving people cash. It is as simple as that: pay every individual in Wales an amount of money, regularly and unconditionally, from the moment they are born to the moment they die.

A basic income has five core characteristics: It’s paid in cash, so it’s money you can spend on whatever you want. It’s paid regularly, so you know the next payment is coming. It’s for individuals, with each person getting their own basic income, paid to the individual not the household. It’s unconditional, so you don’t have to work or make any promises to get it. It’s universal, so everyone gets it.

Basic income is, at its core, about financial stability and dignity for all. Such a radical proposal naturally generates many questions about affordability, work incentives and many others. There are answers to all of these questions and I will be addressing these as I travel around Wales making the case for a basic income trial in our country that is as broad and as ambitious as possible.

A trial is a good idea, although there is already plenty of evidence that these sorts of  unconditional cash transfer programmes have incredibly positive impacts on the wellbeing of communities and individuals.

READ MORE: Calls for wider scope on UBI trial

A four-year experiment in Canada in the 1970s found giving people a basic income made everyone nearly 10% less likely to end up in hospital. It also concluded, contrary to most popular beliefs, that giving people a bit of money does not have a measurable impact on their willingness to work. 

More recently, a smaller basic income study among a cohort of unemployed people in Finland also concluded that their health outcomes were better and their inclination to work unaffected. 

Basic income has genuine cross-party support in Wales. Nearly half of all current Senedd members signed a pledge to support basic income trials during May’s election campaign. The Liberal Democrats made support for basic income an official party policy at our 2020 party conference.

As with the creation of the NHS in the 1940s, big problems require big, bold ideas. Universal basic income is our generation’s NHS. I will continue to campaign to make basic income a reality for all Welsh and British citizens.

*Jane Dodds is leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats.

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