The coronavirus lockdown is worsening an economic crisis that was already happening. And the economic consequences of lockdown are not being felt evenly by all.
Anyone working on a zero hour contract has found out how brutally insecure zero hour contracts are.
Anyone getting minimum wage is now at risk of being furloughed on 80% of minimum wage.
Many across Greenwich and Bexley are struggling to make ends meet.
The unemployment rate has jumped rapidly. Bustling high streets across our boroughs have fallen quiet. Employers both large and small have been forced to close, make job cuts or furlough their staff.
This has meant people turning to Universal Credit, but the limitations of that system are many.
What is Universal Credit?
The Job Retention Scheme and Universal Credit are the government’s main support systems for people who have been furloughed or become unemployed.
However, few understand before they encounter the benefits system that there is a 5-week wait for the first money to arrive after having an application accepted.
The delay in applications being accepted are increasing, since there has been a dramatic spike in claims just as the number of staff available to process them is decreasing.
And applying for Universal Credit is a lengthy and bureaucratic process. The complexity of application means that it is easy for people to make mistakes and to end up without getting the support that they are entitled to.
Why is Universal Basic Income a better idea?
Universal Credit is a bad system and it should be replaced with Universal Basic Income (UBI).
With Universal Basic Income, every UK adult resident would be given an unconditional payment by the government every month. Since it is paid to everyone, whether they are employed or not, it is much more efficient at ensuring that the proceeds of our economy are distributed to all.
The Green Party 2019 manifesto has costed a proposal for a minimum of £89 per week. Single parents and those with disabilities that stop them working could receive more.
Universal Basic Income would replace Universal Credit, but other benefits will continue to be paid as normal.
It is the extra support that has always been needed for those in precarious work or who would like to work a little less in order to fulfil their care responsibilities.
No 5-week waits for payments to arrive.
No humiliating applications for help.
No invasive means-testing.
Just regular, reliable income which is redistributed from the wealthiest in our country for the benefit of all.
We don’t know exactly what the UK economy is going to look like after coronavirus but UBI would provide vital support to local people and the businesses of Greenwich and Bexley.
Where has UBI been tried?
Universal Basic Income is a policy whose time has come and we can see proposals being rolled out worldwide.
In Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon is looking at the possibility of UBI and says the argument in favour of it has been “strengthened immeasurably” by coronavirus.
Spain is currently working on its own form of UBI to help people get back on their feet after coronavirus.
In Japan, the government has committed to a universal payment of 100,000 yen (~£850).
And in the USA, the $1,200 ‘stimulus cheque’ sent to millions of citizens is a form of universal income.
Major changes to the economy caused by the global coronavirus outbreak call for major solutions like Universal Basic Income.
We urge Greenwich and Bexley residents to write to your representatives and have them lobby the government to introduce Universal Basic Income along the lines of the Green Party 2019 Manifesto urgently.
If not now, when?