‘Universal basic income could be our generation’s NHS

‘Universal basic income could be our generation’s NHS
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We are living in unprecedented times.

The problems we face now are ones which demand very different, and potentially more far reaching, solutions than anything the country has experienced since the end of the second world war.

But that moment is the one from which, I believe, we should be taking our inspiration.

Now more than ever we are all seeing clearly how easily any of us could find ourselves needing support.

And finding none.

Sadly we are learning that the welfare state which has served us so well for seven decades is not equipped for our new reality.

Over the past few months I have spoken to too many people for whom the many Government schemes offering furlough, business grants, support for the self-employed simply do not provide.

This destructive coronavirus makes no exceptions in who it attacks, and yet our Government has been unable to say the same about who it supports.

I know that is a mammoth task but we have to find a way.

We cannot lose sight of the question so many people face of how do they feed their family, keep a roof above their heads when they are simply told: “You do not qualify.”

When even the welfare state, which generations in this country have worked hard to maintain, can offer nothing.

What has been abundantly clear is that what has been missing in this crisis has been a crucial element of universal protection. Something perhaps none of us realised that the welfare state would not be able to provide.

‘What has been missing in this crisis has been a crucial element of universal protection’

Beveridge’s 1942 vision is undoubtedly one of those iconic British institutions of which we are all rightly proud.

But perhaps the time has come to realise that a new vision is needed to equip it for the 21st Century.

The concept of a universal basic income, something to which we are all entitled, particularly in a crisis like this one, is an idea that has been around for a while.

With every passing day, and every phone call from someone frantically searching for a financial lifeboat which doesn’t exist, I become more convinced that UBI might be the solution.

Nobody should be left behind in this.

I believe that, moving forward after this pandemic, unemployment and financial insecurity will be major challenges for any government.

William Beveridge, who helped create the welfare state

A basic income will be the best, fairest and simplest way to safeguard the most vulnerable in society and care for those who need it.

At the time of the creation of the NHS, doubters opposed the idea at every turn, yet now we treasure it.

Through this crisis, our pride in the institution and in the principles which created it have been palpable.

That post-war generation’s achievement has been the salvation of so many in this one.

Providing a fixed universal income to everyone with no stigma attached has the potential to be our generation’s National Health Service.

We need the states role to be helping people out of poverty and creating the equality of opportunity that leads to a prosperous life.

We must free people from the insecurity and anxiety that this virus has created and will be with us long after we have beaten it, and instead empower them to live their lives with security, dignity and freedom.

We’ve seen some countries achieve positive results, an American presidential candidate put it on the centre stage and Spain beginning to favour it too. 

Now it’s our turn.

I am hoping that this weekend’s Liberal Democrat conference will be the beginning.

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