Weekly Poll – Basic Income (Week Beginning 19 April 2021)
Each week Disability Equality Scotland send out a poll question to our members on a topical issue. For the week beginning 19 April 2021, we asked a question about Basic Income.
Do you think disabled people in Scotland would benefit from the introduction of a Basic Income?
- YES – 92% (377 respondents)
- NO – 8% (31 respondents)
We provide verbatim comments where appropriate to illustrate strength of feeling or personal experience.
A significant majority of respondents (92%) believed disabled people in Scotland will benefit from the introduction of a Basic Income. The Citizen’s Income Trust define Basic Income as “an unconditional, non-withdrawable income for every individual as a right of citizenship”. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation state that during the period 2016-19, around a million people in Scotland were in poverty – 230,000 children, 640,000 working-age adults and 150,000 pensioners. Families with at least one disabled member are more likely than families without a disabled member to live in relative poverty after housing costs. Respondents to the poll question posed by Disability Equality Scotland reflected on their own experiences of struggling to make ends meet.
“I would like to see this introduced as the money that we get at the moment is not enough. I cannot work because of my disability and I am living in poverty. I don’t even have any carpets in my home and there is not enough financial support in place to help.”
“I have spent an extra £4,000 on heating oil this past year. I usually go without but having kids at home I couldn’t have them cold when doing work. My disabled son has Raynaud’s, so feels the cold more. My house still never gets over 16 degrees. This as well as the extra costs for food and electricity means I now owe £9,500 on my credit cards with no way to pay.”
“The right to food and shelter is a basic human right. People on low incomes can’t always afford either.”
Proponents of Basic Income believe it could help to reduce the levels of poverty in Scotland, by providing a degree of financial security and freedom for people who know that they have money coming in on a regular basis.
“Most disabled people are in poverty or on the brink of it, and it is the one minority group that you can fall into at any given moment and yet are treated as lower than nothing. A Basic Income is the start of common decency.”
“As a society, we are supposed to be improving people’s quality of life and I see no good reason that people should have to grind themselves into the ground just to cover the basics.”
“A Basic Income system has been trialled elsewhere and contrary to what gainsayers claim, it has been shown to work comparatively well. It removes the fear of being without enough money for the basics for comfortable living.”
“I wouldn’t feel pressured applying for handouts that make me feel less human. I would have peace of mind that if I can’t work, I would still eat.”
“If it is going to be done then it can’t just be a top up of Universal Credit, it should be done properly and provide legitimate support to people and allow them to escape poverty.”
“I am fully in favour of a Basic Income because I think it would make things fairer and more manageable for disabled people, who are less in employment than non-disabled people.”
“I agree with Basic Income, because If we need to go to a doctor or hospital the income would help us to get there instead of having to choose between food on the table and miss an appointment”.
Extra Costs for Disabled People
There are different models of Basic Income, which differ in terms of amount of income that is paid and how this is applied across different age groups. The amount would need to be enough to cover the basics of life for someone to live independently. A large proportion of respondents highlighted that disabled people often incur additional costs associated with living with a disability.
“Disabled people are not being greedy or saying that they deserve or are entitled to more, but it is a fact that we have more costs. I am not talking about the staple costs; food, heating, clothes and other items, if it was that there wouldn’t be a problem, but I’m talking about using more utilities, transportation and paying for assistance. If everyone is going to be given, as an example: £150 a week, then very quickly disabled people will run out of money before they have even had a chance to buy food or heat their homes.”
“Everyone would benefit from Basic Income, but I think there would be a bigger impact for disabled people, many of whom are unable to work and most of us have a higher cost of living whether that is related to aids, care packages, ongoing expenses like taxis or charging wheelchairs, etc.”
“It has to be set at the right level to prove enough financial assistance. Disabled people have so many additional costs due to their disability.”
“It depends on the amount. It also depends on what the government thinks is a good Basic Income. For example, the current UK government thinks the amount people get for benefits is enough, when really it is hand to mouth with no scope of saving any money, let alone invest in something for long term gain, maybe like an addition to your state pension.”
“One issue with Basic Income is that disabled people have higher costs than those without – about £500 per month on average. If disability benefits are removed, then there is a risk that due to these extra costs that disabled people will be pushed into worse poverty than they are today.”
Existing Benefit Payments
A proportion of respondents raised questions about how a Basic Income would be implemented alongside existing social security benefits. Some respondents were concerned that existing benefits could be cut if a Basic Income was introduced.
“Basic Income would be of great benefit to disabled people as long as disability benefits were not affected. Governments can’t be allowed to see Basic Income and Disability Benefits “in the round” they are for separate purposes and any legislation for Basic Income must include this as a guiding principle. No Government should be able to cut disability benefits because of a rise in the level of Basic Income or vice versa.”
“A Basic Income needs to supplement Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and not exclude people from free personal care and self-direct support payments.”
“There is danger that disability benefits could be cut if Basic Income was introduced”
“A great idea as long as they still have the Disabled Adult/Senior/Children’s Payment and increase it to replace the elements of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) that are more than Jobseekers Allowance. Also, no means testing, including not having to limit savings, especially when “savings” consist of any money you have, including money that is part of your budget put aside for something or for an emergency, like your car needing replaced, instead of getting a loan and paying more in the long run.”
“PIP needs to be protected and paid as well as Basic Income. Disabled People have numerous additional costs every month just to try and regain some independence and prevent loneliness and social isolation.”
Employment and Support
There was recognition from some respondents that in addition to a Basic Income there must also be continued support for disabled people and employers to help reduce the disability employment gap. Some people may also need support in managing their outgoings.
“I believe that disabled people should be helped and encouraged to uptake jobs within their abilities, allowing them to get the best out of life. Giving people free money and leaving them isn’t helpful in making people as functional as possible societally. I’d opt for supporting disabled people in getting into the workplace where possible by providing courses and helping with CVs and developing skills. Those who are unable do anything can continue receiving their PIP/Universal Credit etc.”
“The concern I have about a Basic Income is that it shouldn’t be seen as an alternative to giving disabled people the support they need to work in employment. Employers need to be diverse too – organisations in all sectors of the economy need to have disabled people and other groups in them. In turn, society benefits from a diverse workforce.”
“The only problem is with those who have addictions, they are likely to misspend the money and still end in poverty. This is a problem that will need to be addressed, perhaps by removing cash altogether and requiring card payments with a maximum limit for alcoholic products.”
There was overwhelming support from respondents (92%) who believe that disabled people in Scotland would benefit from the introduction of a Basic Income as a means to reduce poverty. However, for a Basic Income to be beneficial to disabled people, there must be recognition of the additional costs that are associated with living with a disability. Concerns were raised about how a Basic Income would be implemented alongside existing benefits, such as Personal Independence Payment (PIP). Respondents also highlighted the importance of providing support to disabled people and employers to reduce the disability employment gap.