Basic Income Pilots, Designing a Basic Income, Feasibility studies

Feasibility Study: Can basic income gain the necessary political support for a pilot?

In this second instalment of our feasibility study series we examine a key question the study needs to answer: will there be political support for a pilot?

Dr Benjamin Simmons, Citizen’s Basic Income Network Scotland Trustee @vforfive

Last week we gave an overview of the feasibility studies and what they are trying to achieve. One of the key objectives for the feasibility study is to determine whether a pilot scheme is politically feasible. So what are the major political parties saying about basic income? Happily, there is broad support for basic income, which we will recap here.

It was a politically diverse Fife Council that first expressed an interest in piloting basic income here in Scotland. Chairman of Fife Conservatives Dave Dempsey even wrote a blog for us ahead of our Kelty event in January 2017, and participated in our panel discussion for which we continue to be grateful.

It was at our Govan event in November 2016 that Scottish Labour Councillor Matt Kerr led the calls for basic income which brought Glasgow Council into the fold, and John McDonnell has recently proposed to include basic income in the next Labour manifesto. The Greens have long had basic income as a policy objective, and of course the SNP are funding the feasibility study. The Lib Dems are keeping a low profile publicly but there is interest from Lib Dem activists in seeing a policy position taken.

Despite the initial positive take on basic income, the Scottish Conservatives have been frustratingly inconsistent with their views. In February 2016 Adam Tomkins, Conservative MSP for Glasgow and the Shadow Social Security Secretary, described it as “where the Greens and the libertarian Right can find common ground”, even writing an article for the Daily Record in January 2017 calling for “Scotland to lead the way in giving the idea serious consideration”.

Yet when the SNP announced in September 2017 that they were going to fund a feasibility study the following month Adam Tomkins seemingly made an about turn, saying “It simply shows the lengths that this First Minister will go to appease the extreme left of the pro-independence movement”. That the same policy can be described as for the ‘extreme left’ while previously common ground for the ‘libertarian right’ suggests a public stance based on political posturing and power play, rather than on the welfare of society. As long as politicians put their desire for power above all else we will struggle for discussion of basic income in good faith, let alone consensus of opinion.

Logically, even if the Scottish Conservatives believe a basic income is the worst of all possible ideas they should support a relatively inexpensive basic income feasibility study simply to have themselves vindicated that it is not feasible. Fundamentally then, the ability for basic income to become a line of attack for the Scottish Conservatives is an issue the team leading the feasibility study must contend with. We should all be interested in evidence-based policy making, and frankly, by seeking to prevent an answer to the question I believe the Tories are acting in bad faith.

On a more hopeful note, this is not a problem unique to Scotland and has proven surmountable elsewhere. The Finnish trials needed cross-party support and this was eventually won through diplomacy on the part of the social security agency and through emphasising the pilots as a practice in evidence-based policy making. Hopefully a similar approach will work here. Additionally, if the Tories see positive public attitudes to the pilots perhaps they will change their minds.

Next we’ll ask: will the public support the pilots?

 

Basic Income Pilots, Designing a Basic Income, Feasibility studies, Volunteer with CBINS

What is the Government doing right now around basic income?

The proposed basic income pilots in Scotland are receiving a lot of attention in the media but it isn’t always clear what exactly is going on, and what progress is being made towards a pilot being launched. Right now the team behind the pilots are conducting a ‘feasibility study’ which will determine if a pilot can be carried out. In this short series we explain what those studies are, and what’s needed from them to be successful.

Dr Benjamin Simmons, Citizen’s Basic Income Network Scotland Trustee @vforfive

One of the biggest challenges facing the basic income movement in Scotland is message control. Too often it is reported that Scotland is running pilots, or is going to run pilots, when in fact we are still in the process of deciding if a pilot is possible. The work underway is called a feasibility study, and it means examining what kind of pilots could be possible and what we could find out from them. Based on the outcome of the feasibility study the Scottish Government may decide to fund one or many pilots in Scotland, but this outcome is by no means certain. If you would like to learn what a pilot scheme is you can read our blog on the subject.

Who is carrying out the feasibility study?

The work is being carried out through a Steering Group comprised of representatives from the four local authorities (Fife, North Ayrshire, Edinburgh and Glasgow) and NHS Health Scotland. The Improvement Service will provide support to the group including the recruitment of staff and the commissioning of research.

What is a feasibility study?

A feasibility study is how you decide if the thing you want to do is possible. The Scottish Government will need to make a decision on whether to release a very large sum of money to fund a basic income pilot, and they need a specific set of questions answered before they have the information they need to make that decision. The feasibility study needs to either answer those questions, or assure the government that a pilot would provide them with the information they need to decide if a basic income is a good idea.

For example, the Government may decide that for them to support a basic income they need to know for sure that it has a positive impact on health. If a basic income pilot cannot provide an answer to that question then the Government is not going to spend the money running a pilot. The feasibility study in this case would need to demonstrate that it is possible to run a pilot that would measure the impact on health.

What questions does a feasibility study need to answer?

The feasibility study needs to show that there is public demand for a basic income pilot, that political support for the pilots can be achieved, that a pilot will answer some or all of the key questions people are asking about the impact of a basic income, and whether there is support from key UK institutions such as HMRC, the DWP, and the Treasury to permit a pilot to take place and to fund it.

So what now?

The simple answer is to watch and wait for the outcomes of the feasibility study. The team delivering the feasibility studies have their work cut out for them. The best thing we can do as a society is to educate ourselves about the reality of the feasibility study, any possible pilots, and the arguments for and against basic income.

There will be opportunities to engage with politicians and the team behind it to make your views and concerns heard, and CBINS will be doing everything we can to create as many of these opportunities as possible, as well as communicate your views to policy makers through our participation in the cross-party working group and similar forums. Speak to us, help us organise an event in your area, and make your voice heard. The more we are able to engage with different communities the better we can represent you when we’re talking to power.

We’re excited to see what the feasibility study holds for basic income in Scotland. To stay in the loop you can follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for our mailing list. Hopefully we’ll see you at an event near you soon, and if there isn’t one – help us put one on!

Next we’ll ask: Can basic income gain the necessary political support for a pilot?

Basic Income News, Basic Income Pilots, Broken Welfare System

Tories’ Attack on Basic Income Pilots is Based on Fear of Results

The Scottish Conservatives’ Social Security Spokeswoman, Michelle Ballantyne has recently called the basic income pilots across Scotland an “SNP vanity project” and suggests that “the scheme should be dropped now”. At a time when universal credit is shown to be failing, the Conservatives should not be misrepresenting evidence to attack research into an alternative. 

Dr Benjamin Simmons, Citizen’s Basic Income Network Scotland Trustee @vforfive

The Scottish Conservatives’ recent attack on the Scottish Government’s proposal for a series of basic income pilots is disproportionate and hypocritical. The claim is that the cost of the project has trebled, however, their position inflates the total expenditure by including the time staff spent on the project as if it were extra hours or new employees. In reality the project will be supported by staff in existing roles. They are acting in bad faith in a bid to score political points.

Basic income is a simple system which throws the complex means-tested system into sharp relief, and not to the benefit of the party driving austerity. The opposition to a relatively small investment in a scientific examination of the system speaks volumes about their fear of the results. If they truly believed basic income was unfeasible or ineffective they would support a pilot scheme to prove their point, yet they don’t.

Four councils in Scotland (Glasgow, Edinburgh, Fife and North Ayrshire) have been given the green light by the Scottish government to undertake research into the best way that a pilot scheme or schemes could be implemented. £250,000 has been set aside to fund the project, including two new full-time posts, and the project is expected to run for almost two years before recommendations are made. NHS Scotland is providing research design and evaluation support in exploring feasibility of local pilots of basic income in Scotland.

Jamie Cooke, Head of RSA Scotland commented “Rather than shortsighted, the Scottish Government and Local Authorities should be commended for taking a hard look at the state of social security and support in Scotland. When the National Audit Office has recently savaged the multiple failings of the Universal Credit system, we would have hoped that the Scottish Conservatives would be looking at a way to improve the lives of people across the country, rather than clinging to an obviously failing system for attempts at partisan point scoring.

Basic income is being explored as a potential idea for Scotland to rise to the challenges and opportunities of the world we are in – it is therefore reassuring that the Scottish Government and Local Authorities are fully supporting the work that is underway. We look forward to contributing to taking this timely idea forward, in partnership with countries across the world, and hope that all of Scotland’s political parties will choose to engage constructively, whether critical or supportive, rather than retreating into dead-ends of partisanship. The door will be open at the RSA for them to take part in that dialogue.”

The Tory opposition to basic income comes not from concern for the vulnerable but from a desire to score political points. The pilot research project is not over budget and is not predicted to go over budget. Research into a better social security system, especially in light of Universal Credit’s failings, should be a priority for all parties.

To hear more from Ben and Jamie come along to our event What is Basic Income? on Wed 11 July

Improved working conditions, Work

The Changing World Of Work

The way we work is changing. From flexible working to the gig economy, many people choose not to work a standard working week or a decades-long career. After attending the “Brain Bar” conference, happiness architect Alyona Rogozhkina details how a Basic Income would better reflect current working patterns than the current system.

Alyona Rogozhkina, Happiness architect and Founder of the happiness at work project Sonas.

I felt inspired after visiting an event called “Brain Bar” on 1-2 June in Budapest. “Brain Bar” is a new, provocative conference supported by Wired Magazine, where scientists, policy leaders and businesses get together to discuss the future. The atmosphere is usually casual with a buzz of energy, debates and innovative ideas. Since my passion is happiness at work, I aimed to attend the talks about the future of jobs, productivity, AI, and circular economy to see how these areas might change.

One of the interesting debates was called “the productivity trap”, with panellists including Melanie Seymour (the Head of BlackRock Budapest) and Andrew Taggart, a Practical Philosopher. The most fascinating topic that the panellists discussed was the outdated idea that everyone should have a job. Taggart suggested that although this principle is rooted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR),  the right to work for all would only be feasible if workers were “relatively unskilled”, and if the work was “labour-intensive” and of “short duration”.  The picture he painted was one reminiscent of the United States’ use of public programmes as a means of escaping the economic downturn of the Great Depression.

But the society we live in has moved on from the 1930s. Latest trends, like the rise of the gig economy, demonstrate that innovative workers tend to work outside of established companies. Seymour pointed out that BlackRock’s high performers are driven by incentives that are not purely financial. This, she said, is reflected in the newly implemented flexible time-off, including an allowance to go somewhere to travel for up to 3-4 weeks and get work done remotely. The reason for that, I think, is that talented individuals do not want to feel burned out or put under pressure by the often claustrophobic and stale corporate culture. The concept of stepping into an uncertain but attractive freelance career path is predicted to grow rapidly within the younger generations across the world.

Within this concept, the discussion touched Basic Income as a promising concept for future focus. Taggart provided an example of successful communities of ecovillages as a means of illustrating that living collectively can occur through an emphasis on internal economies.”  The following talk by Shamus Rae, the head of Digital Disruption at KPMG in the UK, emphasised the rising significance of Basic Income. Rae suggested that the rise of AI is transforming work from being career-focused to a relationship that is ‘connecting to work but not fully committing’. Interestingly, Rae made a point that many politicians understand the importance of implementing Basic Income but do not yet feel empowered enough to make that meaningful change happen.

Overall, I was glad to see that decision-makers from a range of industries were open-minded enough to discuss the important issues that we are all about to face in the near future. The main themes highlighted were that individuals’ needs are going to focus more on the value of work on personal development, its impact on society, and the need to seek out collaborative environments in which to work. In order to make the most of these changes, we must question how our basic needs can be better met while ensuring our intellectual curiosity is not destroyed in meaningless, monotonous or precarious work. 

If you would like to write us a blog about your experience and why you want to see a Basic Income in Scotland get in touch team@cbin.scot

CBINS News, Events

New Basic Income Event Series in Edinburgh

If a basic income is to become a reality for Scotland we need everyone to understand how it could affect their lives. As part of our work to inform the public we have recently launched a series of events to provide information about basic income, generate discussion about the issues it would transform and to empower members of the public to join the conversation.

On Wednesday 11 July at our first meet up event in Edinburgh we will ask What is a Basic Income? Our mission is to open up the conversation about Basic Income in Scotland. We believe everyone’s contribution is valuable. These events are a chance to learn about basic income, meet other engaged local people and to have your say. How could it benefit you?

A basic income would revolutionise the way we think about issues that impact everyone in Scotland. Each event in this series will explore a theme and how it would be affected by a basic income. Keep an eye out, we will soon be announcing details of the next two meet ups: “Basic Income and Entrepreneurism” and “Parenting and Basic Income”.

This first event will look at basic income through a wide lens. No prior knowledge is required; we will give a brief introduction to the past, present and future of the concept. All events in the series are free to attend. Each week a guest speaker will provide insight into an aspect of modern life that could be improved by a basic income, such as poverty, our broken welfare system, work, well-being or unpaid work. We aim to provide a platform for all kinds of speakers, not just experts in basic income. This means we want to hear your personal stories and motivations for advocating for a basic income, after all, basic income would affect all of us in a unique way. If you are interested in providing your perspective as a speaker at one of our events, or if you have a suggestion for a theme please get in touch via team@cbin.scot.

The Scottish Government is currently exploring how we could introduce Basic Income in four areas across Scotland; Edinburgh, Glasgow, North Ayrshire and Fife. Now is the time to join the discussion and shape the future of Basic Income in Scotland.

Book your ticket for our first event What is Basic Income? on Wed 11 Jul here

Basic Income Pilots, Designing a Basic Income

Basic Income Pilots – What are they and what do you need to know?

If a basic income pilot is implemented in Scotland the public will need to be kept up to date on the details, the motivation, and the results of the study. Here are some things to consider when you’re deciding whether you support a basic income pilot in principle, and whether you think it has been a success.

Dr Benjamin Simmons, Citizen’s Basic Income Network Scotland Trustee @vforfive

I have been pleasantly surprised that the recent coverage of the decision of the Finnish Government to allow the basic income pilot to come to an end at the time agreed at the outset of the project has generally been accurately reported, though it would have been nice to avoid misleading headlines about ‘scrapping’ the pilot or the government having ‘given up’. For many people this may lead them to believe that the basic income pilot has been a failure, and with four local authorities in Scotland at an early stage of discussing what a pilot here might look like it is important that we’re realistic about the limitations of the Finnish project and any implications for a Scottish pilot.

Before we go any further it is worth pointing out that as far back as June 2017 the Finnish team leading the project were describing the implementation of the project as a ‘nightmare’ and politicians ‘blowing hot and cold’, so it isn’t really shocking to see that additional funding has not been forthcoming. Nor has the decision been evidence-based, as the decision was taken at the outset of the project not to investigate the impact on the lives of the people in the pilot until 2019.

Research design in the social sciences is tricky enough in an academic environment, so it is easy to understand how implementing an expensive pilot in the real world with very real impacts on the lived reality of individuals is as ambitious as it is difficult. Add to that a frequently partisan media on all sides and the potential for the story of a single individual’s experience to be framed as representative of all recipients and it becomes clear that it is going to require a monumental sustained effort to both kick off a pilot and sail into the media wind until it is completed.

So if a basic income pilot is implemented in Scotland the public will need to be kept up to date on the details, the motivation, and the results of the study. This means being honest about the constraints of a pilot scheme and encouraging people to make up their own mind. Here are some things to consider when you’re deciding whether you support a basic income pilot in principle, and whether you think it has been a success:

What does success look like?

Determining the success or failure of an initiative means deciding up front what you hope the project will achieve. It sounds obvious but a good example of this is that I am frequently asked whether a basic income would save money overall. One of the many potential benefits of a basic income is a reduction of what is called ‘failure demand’. For example, by saving money by reducing welfare payments you create endemic health problems which are expensive for the NHS to treat. A comparable example is the research in Australia showing it is cheaper to house the homeless than to treat the consequences of homelessness in demand for government services.

With that in mind it is no surprise that NHS Health Scotland is playing a key role in developing an evaluation framework for a possible pilot scheme in Scotland. We can confidently predict that alleviating a major cause (poverty) of contemporary social problems (health, crime, educational attainment) will lead to a reduction in the occurrence of those problems and therefore the costs associated with them. Could there be a net saving? Of course. But it could also cost more, and you need to decide for yourself whether it is acceptable to spend more overall to make a massive impact on the quality of life for the 940,000 people living in poverty in Scotland. That is without counting the benefit to society of shorter NHS waiting times or reduced crime generally, or the difficult-to-financially-quantify value of increased gender equality and reduced financial abuse of women in Scotland, or ability of young people from low-income families to pursue further education. For example, I’ve previously written about why we might want to see a rise in divorce, which was reportedly a source of anxiety for the Nixon administration when they were considering basic income.

The Finnish experiment focused only on a specific group, the unemployed, on the basis of the centre-right government’s desire to reduce the unemployment rate. Since we don’t know the results yet we don’t know what the impact here has been, but since the most common objection to the idea of a basic income is that it would encourage laziness it isn’t surprising that this was where the conservative government chose to focus. Of course, the causes of unemployment are complex and different for each individual, and with a major focus on the possibility for people to use a basic income to retrain and return to education the impact of a basic income on someone in unemployment is likely to be significant over a longer period of time rather than causing all job-seekers to take up zero-hours work in a supermarket (it is worth discussing whether this is even desirable). It is thinking like this which is behind the RSA’s recent proposals for a ‘Basic Opportunity Fund’. If the Finnish government really wanted to know the impact of a basic income on work they could also have given it to people currently in work to see if it causes people to drop out of the labour market. If the premise that people don’t work without the threat of poverty is true, surely this would be the best way to test it?

If your criterion for deciding if you are in favour of a basic income pilot is whether it has saved money, then for you the pilot has already failed. Why? Because…

Pilot schemes are not reality

A basic income is such a fundamental restructuring of the welfare state that it is impossible to simulate perfectly how it would function in a reinvented national model by providing a small group of people with some additional income whilst changing nothing else. For example, it would be unfair and harmful to simulate a basic income in a town by increasing taxes on the wealthiest to simulate a higher tax rate. At the same time, someone receiving a basic income in a pilot would possibly pay tax on their earnings at a lower rate (i.e. current rates) than if the programme was implemented nationally and tax restructured accordingly. Consider also how the effects on a community’s economy would be different if they were the only town in the county to receive a basic income, than if a basic income was nationally implemented. Of course businesses are going to choose to set up in a town where people now have more disposable income, but the impact on an individual town will be greater when they have this advantage over the towns around them, which would not be the case in a national model. These are just a couple of examples of the many ways pilots do not represent reality.

A basic income pilot would be an investigation into how a basic income affects the lives and choices of recipients and will necessarily be more expensive in the short term than not doing a pilot, since it would simulate greater welfare spending without increasing taxation elsewhere to fund it. So let’s make that clear from the outset (and be prepared to articulate that to a sceptical press).

But that’s not to say pilots are not useful. An abundance of useful data on individual and group outcomes will be gathered, and things like health outcome improvements can be used to predict future trends, however, we must acknowledge when evaluating a pilot that…

The data does not stop when the pilot ends

The impact on an individual of receiving a basic income will echo throughout their life, even if the payments were to stop. For example, being able to leave an abusive relationship because you are no longer financially dependent on your partner will have an enormous impact on your life outcomes, which will not be fully realised when the pilot finishes, whenever it finishes. Choices we make about our education when we don’t need to worry about needing to work alongside our studies or we are confident about receiving a basic income throughout our lives will impact our careers in an extremely meaningful way.

How can we fully measure the impact of a basic income after two years on someone two years into a four-year degree they would not have been able to take on otherwise? How can we fully measure the savings to the NHS of someone not having a heart attack in 20 years because they were able to change their life for the better when receiving a basic income for a couple of years in their forties? Some problems take longer than a pilot period to solve so we may have no indications of an effect which would only manifest decades down the line. Which leads us to ask an uncomfortable question:

What if the pilot ‘fails’?

By now I hope it’s clear that the results of a pilot must be taken in the context of the limitations of the pilot but it is worth pointing out that if we knew exactly what a basic income would do, and exactly how to implement one, then we wouldn’t need a pilot at all. Any pilot outcome is a good outcome because it provides us an opportunity to learn how to make a better one. The small scale of a pilot means it will be targeted at a particular group, either by a common social situation, geography, or another factor (unless provided by lottery on a national basis). An ideal approach might be to run several different types of pilots side by side to try to get the widest variety of findings. Some may have better results than others.

Thinking back to the first point about deciding up front what success might look like, we must also think about what it means for the idea if results don’t go our way. For example, if I wanted to eliminate poverty by giving everyone £1/day I could conclude at the end of my pilot that giving people money didn’t achieve anything, and therefore we shouldn’t give any money at all, when instead I should realise that I didn’t do enough to make a measurable impact.

I don’t expect it to be an easy journey to clarify the expected outcomes of a basic income pilot in Scotland, and how they might be tested, but I hope that if we can manage the expectations of the public around the scope, aims, and outcomes of a basic income pilot we can make the most of the opportunity it offers to create a fairer and more secure society for all of us.

Stay informed as proposals for pilots in Scotland are developed by joining the Citizen’s Basic Income Network Scotland mailing list

CBINS News, Volunteer with CBINS

Volunteer Social Media Coordinator

Citizen’s Basic Income Network Scotland is a charity campaigning for a basic income in Scotland. We support a network of basic income advocates – providing training and a platform for discussion. We lend our expertise to government and share the stories of people who would benefit from a basic income.

We are an entirely volunteer-run organisation, all united behind the goal of bringing a basic income to Scotland. We are currently looking for a social media volunteer to join our team

The Volunteer Social Media Coordinator role is a brand new position within our growing team. One of our key strategic aims moving forward is to increase our online presence and ensure we are always at the heart of the online discussion surrounding a basic income in Scotland.

Our social media strategy is based on the following areas:

  • Promotion of key CBINS organisational messages. These include the following: encouraging volunteers to join the network; encouraging people to sign up to a CBINS mailing list and write for the blog; and promotion of CBINS events when they occur.
  • Sharing new and existing articles from the CBINS blog.
  • Sharing news stories and other articles published on other websites that are relevant to the Basic Income movement in Scotland.

Our social media coordinator will be responsible for engaging with CBINS’ friends and followers online, while providing online message consistency for the organisation.

This role is ideal for anyone looking to gain experience in contributing to and delivering a social media campaign. You will receive support and training from other CBINS team members who have professional experience of marketing. You will learn about developing social media marketing strategies and content.

Role and responsibilities:

  • Construct social media posts with guidance from other CBINS team members. This may include sharing relevant articles and ideas from other organisations and promoting CBINS events and workshops.
  • Monitor the CBINS Facebook and Twitter accounts in order to respond effectively to followers, influencers and trends. This may include sharing relevant content, replying to comments or feeding back breaking news and trending topics to the rest of the team.  
  • Support CBINS fundraising through the promotion of effective Calls-to-Action on social media.
  • Provide brand and message consistency across all social media platforms.
  • Use Hootsuite to schedule important messages in advance of their publication.
  • Ensure all social media posts are visually appealing with relevant and legally-sourced photos or designed graphics.
  • Coordinate with the website editor to ensure all blog articles are promoted effectively.
  • Live tweet CBINS workshops and events.

Skills and knowledge:

  • Self-motivated with the ability to act on own initiative.
  • A team player who can work with others to achieve common goals.
  • An interest in basic income and joining the CBINS team of volunteers, aiming to bring a basic income to Scotland
  • An understanding of social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter.
  • Knowledge of Hootsuite or other social media scheduling tools an advantage.
  • An understanding of the importance of promoting basic income in a way that corresponds with the mission and ideals of CBINS.

Without volunteer contributions CBINS would not exist. In exchange for volunteers’ time we provide opportunities for professional development. Let us know what you hope to gain from this role and we will do our best to help you achieve it.

If you are interested in becoming the Volunteer Social Media Coordinator for CBINS email us on team@cbin.scot with a bit of information about yourself. 

CBINS News, Volunteer with CBINS

Volunteer Event Coordinator

Citizen’s Basic Income Network Scotland is a charity campaigning for a basic income in Scotland. We support a network of basic income advocates – providing training and a platform for discussion. We lend our expertise to government and share the stories of people who would benefit from a basic income.

We are an entirely volunteer-run organisation, united behind the goal of bringing a basic income to Scotland. We are currently looking for a volunteer event coordinator to join our team.

The event coordinator role is a brand new position within our expanding volunteer team. You will help us deliver one of our key strategic aims: designing, coordinating and running an ongoing series of meet-up events. There may well end up being a team of volunteer event coordinators that help deliver these events – if you are interested in some parts of the role and not others, please still get in touch.

These meet-up events will help us increase our profile, engage with the general public and educate attendees about basic income and its benefits. The events will be fun, social and interesting to everyone, even those with no knowledge of basic income. Each event will have a theme and a guest speaker. There will be a focus on fundraising, capturing people’s opinions and gauging people’s level of understanding of basic income.

To start with these events will be run in Edinburgh, as this is where most of our team is based. In the long term we hope to produce a “How To” guide that we can pass on to basic income advocates around Scotland so they can host their own events.

This role is ideal for anyone looking to gain experience in designing, coordinating and running events. You will receive support and training from other CBINS team members who have professional experience of event coordination. You will be central to the development of this event series

Role and responsibilities:

  • Seek out and liaise with venues suitable for these events.
  • Support the design of the events, including: contributing to decisions over themes; finding speakers; and designing engagement and fundraising activities.
  • Supporting the promotion of the events, including: producing content for social media; designing creative and effective ways of attracting event attendees; flyering and putting posters in local businesses.
  • Support the delivery of the events, including some or all of the following: welcoming attendees; stimulating discussion about basic income; liaising with speakers; liaising with the venue; encouraging donations; promoting CBINS; distributing surveys; facilitating ice breakers and engagement activities; speaking.
  • Support the development of a process for delivering a meet-up that can be replicated by other teams in different areas.

Skills and knowledge:

  • Self-motivated with the ability to act on own initiative.
  • A team player who can work with others to achieve common goals.
  • Good people skills, able to make attendees feel welcome, engaged and comfortable.
  • An interest in event coordination, promotion and/or design.
  • Organised, systematic with good attention to detail.
  • Comfortable speaking in front of others.
  • Experience of community building an advantage.
  • Experience of event facilitation an advantage.
  • Experience of event coordination an advantage.
  • An understanding of the importance of promoting basic income in a way that corresponds with the mission and ideals of CBINS.
  • An interest in basic income and joining the CBINS team of volunteers aiming to bring a basic income to Scotland. This doesn’t mean you need to have a deep economic or academic understanding of the topic, just that you have an awareness of and interest in the concept. You will learn a lot about basic income very quickly.

Without volunteer contributions CBINS would not exist. In exchange for volunteers’ time, we provide opportunities for professional development. Let us know what you hope to gain from this role and we will do our best to help you achieve it.

If you are interested in becoming the Volunteer Event Coordinator for CBINS email us on team@cbin.scot with a bit of information about yourself. 

Child Poverty, Poverty

Bairns Come First

In this guest blog, Rhona from Fife Gingerbread looks at how a basic income could transform the issues surrounding child poverty. Fife Gingerbread supports lone parent, vulnerable and disadvantaged families across Fife.

Rhona Cunningham, Fife Gingerbread #BairnsComeFirst

Child poverty is finally getting attention from the Scottish Government, but what do people think of when they hear the word ‘poverty’ in a Scottish context? I would hazard a guess that they’ll imagine a lone parent or couple who are unemployed, and in most instances this will be the case. However, there are many families with parents who are employed but experience in-work poverty.

Even working full time on the National Living Wage, families are falling short when it comes to being able to afford to raise a child, by 12% for a couple with two children and 18% for a lone parent with one child. When you consider it costs on average (according to Centre for Economics and Business Research, 2016) £231,000 to raise a child to the age of 21 in the UK, that 12% – 18% shortfall is a serious amount of money.

Something that isn’t really coming up in the child poverty conversation is something that would help alleviate that shortfall for lone parents; child maintenance. Relationship breakdown and separation have both emotional and financial implications, often resulting in reduced household income, changes to housing circumstances, and employment. Women are more likely to take on caring responsibilities for children[1] and are more likely than men to experience a reduction in income as a result of relationship breakdown. Child maintenance has a vital contribution to make to households, particularly for costs that may be less visible such as childcare to help a parent maintain employment.

Photo credit: Katie Brand for Fife Gingerbread (#bairnscomefirst)

In Scandinavia, payments are guaranteed through the welfare system, while in the UK child maintenance is treated as a private matter, with families encouraged to reach a family-based arrangement with or without statutory support. Arrears owing to children from non-resident parents under the previous Child Support Agency stand at over £257million for Scotland (as at September 2016): an average of £4.3million per UK Parliamentary Constituency in Scotland. According to a recent consultation, it is likely that much of this debt will be written off, with a generation of children never seeing the money that should have been there to help meet a child’s everyday living costs.

While the old system was inefficient – costing 50p to administer for every £1 collected – the new Child Maintenance Service is not without its own problems. There is now a £20 fee to access the Child Maintenance Service, payable by the parent with care, disproportionately affecting women. If using the CMS’ Collect and Pay system, there are charges for the parent without care (20%) and deductions from what is paid to the parent with care (4%), which reduces the amount of child maintenance that a family receives while generating substantial annual revenue income for HM Treasury.

The reality is that two thirds of lone parents receive no child maintenance payments. Many families are facing hardship as a result of non-payments, with low income families being particularly affected by non-payment of child maintenance. Even where there are arrangements in place, levels of child maintenance are not viewed as adequate for a child’s needs.

Shielding children from issues arising from child maintenance arrangements can be difficult. Child maintenance can be used as a form of coercive control, and a way to have a continuing hold over a former partner and child. Irregular payments and inconsistency in the amount paid can make it difficult to budget for child and household needs effectively, creating financial hardship and stress. In cases where there is a successful child maintenance arrangement in place, parents often redistribute money across the household in order to meet the needs of all the children which can create tension within the household and affect children’s emotional wellbeing.

Imagine the difference that a basic income would make for children and families. As well as being universal and unconditional, a basic income would be paid to individuals, including children. The primary care giving parent would administer a child’s basic income on their behalf. This would provide a regular and reliable payment that households could use to provide for their children and to plan for their future, radically changing the context for conversations around child poverty, the value of caring, and making work pay.

[1] 95% of parents with care are female

This blog draws on Poverty Alliance research into Child Maintenance in Fife find out more here

Broken Welfare System

Inside the DWP – Debt and UCD372

A current employee of the Department of Work and Pensions approached us wanting to share insight into the distressing treatment of people currently dependent on the benefits system. They stressed the need for a dramatic change in our welfare system and advocated for a move to a basic income.

Anonymous Employee of the Department of Work and Pensions

A UCD372 suggests some hellish sort of missile, and for some it is just as devastating. A UCD372 is the debt letter sent out by the Department of Work and Pensions to ‘claimants’, as the government would like them to be called, but are called ‘customers’ by those who care a little more. The letter has no colour to speak of, it’s comprised of serious greys, bold blacks and stark whites and looks very ominous. The language is just as frightening, as ‘claimants’ are warned ‘You are now in a minority of people who have received money they’re not entitled to.’ – due to the inefficiencies of the Universal Credit system hundreds of these letters are sent out every single day, but the recipient is ignorant to these and will no doubt feel as if the whole weight of the DWP is coming down on them and a select few others.

This, and many other examples, bang several nails in the coffin of Universal Credit that claims to be efficient and better for the ‘claimant’. It is entirely possible, and all too common, for citizens to be in receipt of two overlapping benefits without truly understanding that they are. The confusion of legacy benefits, as the six older benefits that comprise Universal Credit are called, and the new Universal Credit itself is difficult enough for the DWP to handle, let alone a single individual traversing the benefit minefield.

This single scenario shows the inherent wickedness in our current benefit system and the welfare state. Even the language is sneering. ‘Claimant’, it rings of someone who is having to stake a claim, a right for the pittance that the state pays out. Claims can be challenged and denounced and the DWP often does. When debts mount up then the DWP will recoup them from one’s Universal Credit. Up to 16% of one’s total benefits can be claimed, with ease, to repay arrears of all kinds. When someone is trying to live on a meagre Universal Credit this is no small amount. The almost Orwellian language is just as wicked, ‘You are now in a minority’, it’s difficult to think of something more horrible to utter. In a world in which any government of the day spouts language about inclusion and cohesion in society, it must be horrid for the government to say that there are minorities and you’re one of them. These scare tactics would be denounced if employed by a debt collector who knocked on your door, but when the government use them all is well.

This common scenario alone shows the struggle that basic income advocates ahead have. The culture of the Department of Work and Pensions is not geared to providing for all. It is about conquering and dividing. It is about sanctions, threats and bullying. Yet, it should be a weapon in the basic income armoury. When we see the realities of the system currently employed and what it does to citizens it is difficult to justify treating a person in such a way. It becomes easier to advocate a basic income. A world in which people are not ‘claimants’ or ‘customers’, but citizens and their right to a monthly cash transfer is enshrined in that citizenship alone. A right that cannot be challenged, sanctioned or taken away. Where debts cannot mount up and frightening letters don’t arrive in peoples lives. Where poverty is not compounded not due to the individual but by failings of the state. When given these two examples, which are fundamentally about human decency and how one should be treated, not benefits, it is hard to stick with the system we have.

If you would like to write us a blog about your experience and why you want to see a basic income in Scotland get in touch team@cbin.scot