Four in 10 Brits would back benefit experiments in a bid to ditch the “failing” Universal Credit scheme, polling has revealed.
A survey for the charity RSA found that just 19 percent of UK adults believe the current benefits system is working and that there is therefore no need to experiment with universal basic income (UBI).
Meanwhile, 45 percent of the 2,070 people questioned by Populus said that a UBI scheme – which would see all citizens given a standard amount of money to cover vital living costs – would do a better job at ensuring security.
The results come two days after shadow chancellor John McDonnell revealed Labour could introduce a basic income policy into its next election manifesto.
Anthony Painter, director of the RSA’s action and research centre, said the roll-out of Universal Credit – which will see the six main benefits replaced with one single monthly payment – is “failing on its own terms”, adding that the wider welfare state is “riddled with complexities and underpinned by draconian sanctions”.
“By contrast, our poll shows that in an era of widespread economic insecurity, policy-makers have the public’s support to start exploring innovative alternatives to today’s failing and unpopular welfare,” he added.
UBI is “no magic bullet”, Painter said, but it is “increasingly seen as one plausible response to modern economic insecurity”.
The survey showed that more than half (56 percent) of the public believe a new UBI system would encourage more people to work by removing disincentives in the welfare system, while 49 percent of respondents agreed it would reduce the stigma around receiving benefits.
Basic income pilots are already underway in Finland and Kenya, while four areas in Scotland are considering the practicalities of such an experiment.
More than a third of people (39 percent) polled said if such a trial were to be introduced in England, it should be funded by raising progressive income tax for the richest.
The survey follows a series of controversies linked to the Universal Credit scheme.
In a report published on Wednesday, MPs criticised the system for handing power to abusive partners, with benefits typically paid to one bank account per household.
A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said UBI “would not work for those who need more support, such as disabled people and those with caring responsibilities”.
“We currently spend £90 billion a year on welfare support tailored to the needs of individuals, which means more help is getting to the people who need it most,” they said.
“It’s reasonable for people to meet certain requirements to receive their Universal Credit payment and these are agreed with people in advance – sanctions are only used in the minority of cases when someone doesn’t meet these requirements without a good reason.”