FOLLOWING engagement with several experts, stakeholders and care leavers, the Welsh Government has outlined plans to extend support for care leavers through a Basic Income pilot in Wales.  

The pilot will enhance the support available to young people as they leave care and assess the impact that has on them.  It will provide a test for the stated benefits of basic income, such as addressing poverty and unemployment and improving health and financial wellbeing. 

All young people leaving care who turn 18 during a 12-month period, across all local authority areas, will be offered the opportunity to take part in this pilot.  The pilot will begin during the next financial year, and we anticipate over 500 young people will be eligible to join the scheme.

The pilot will run for a minimum of three years with each member of the cohort receiving a basic income payment of £1600 per month for a duration of 24 months from the month after their 18th birthday. 

The Welsh Government involved care leavers directly in the development of the pilot as well as working with professionals in Local Authorities and have also established a Technical Advisory Group, chaired by Professor Sir Michael Marmot, bringing together experts in basic income and support for care leavers to inform the development and evaluation of the pilot.

Outlining the reasoning behind the pilot, Minister for Social Justice Jane Hutt said: “Our Basic Income announcement today complements the Welsh Government’s ambition to ensure the most vulnerable in our society are supported. We know we’re in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis and we’re determined to continually look at how best to support individuals in Wales who live in poverty.

Care leavers have a right to be properly supported as they develop into independent young adults. It’s also important to note that this policy is underpinned by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), emphasising our commitment to strengthening the rights of children and young people in Wales.

Yet too many young people leaving care continue to face significant barriers to achieving a successful transition into adulthood. Our Basic Income pilot is an exciting project to deliver financial stability for a generation of young people that need it most.

The pilot will build on the existing support offered to look after children in Wales and ensure young people who take part in this pilot get all the support they need to give them the best possible chance to make their way in life and the transition out of care better, easier and more positive.

We are fully committed to supporting those living in poverty, ensuring they receive adequate financial support so that everyone in Wales can live happy and healthy lives.”

Emphasising the importance of the pilot to care leavers, Catriona Williams OBE, Chair of Voices from Care Cymru said

“We are grateful to the Minister for the time she spent with young people from across Wales on Saturday to listen to their views about the Pilot. It is critical for it to succeed that the voices of care experienced children and young people are heard on decisions like this that directly affect their lives. We look forward to working with the Welsh Government to help ensure that the Pilot is successful and delivers the best possible outcomes for care experienced young people in Wales so they can thrive. ” 

 The Welsh Government’s Technical Advisory Group on Basic Income, chaired by Professor Sir Michael Marmot said: “The Technical Advisory Group for the Welsh Basic Income Pilot want to put on record our support for this policy.  Whilst we may have differing opinions on how a basic income can work on a wider scale, we can all agree that any scheme aimed at helping a particularly vulnerable group should be welcomed and intend to provide Welsh Government with the support it needs in making this a success.”

Finally, outlining the importance of measuring the results and ensuring the continued support for care leavers in Wales, the Minister stated: “The pilot is specifically being designed to enable participants to receive more than just a basic transfer of cash; support will also be offered that is designed to build up their confidence to negotiate the world outside of care.

This extra support will include, for instance, financial well-being training and signposting to all available support provided by Welsh Government and other partner organisations.

I want to thank all the stakeholders, experts and partner organisations that have made this a reality. We’re committed to delivering for the people of Wales and ensuring we support the most vulnerable in our society. Our basic income pilot delivers for young people leaving care in Wales and emphasises our commitment to tackling the scourge of poverty.”

The Welsh Conservatives have said that Labour is not living in the real world, and that the scheme, if rolled out would cost billions -whist the NHS is struggling.

Shadow Minister for Social Partnership, Joel James MS, said: “Whilst I wholeheartedly support helping the poorest and most vulnerable in our country, the Labour Government is not even close to living in reality with this trial.

“Countless trials from across the globe have found Basic Income does not have the expected outcomes as it fails to incentivise work and proves time after time to be a waste of public money.

“If rolled-out across the board with every adult in Wales receiving £1,600 a month it would cost nearly £50 billion a year, and at the same time reward the wealthiest in society rather than helping those who need it most.

“Our NHS is at breaking point and our economy is in a fragile state, but instead of tackling those issues head-on, Labour are more interested in Basic Income – which will cost the country an absolute fortune.”

Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds, who has campaigned strongly in favour of the introduction of UBI trials, said: “Although I would have liked to see a wider pilot, today’s announcement is a significant step in the right direction and will be one of the most generous trials we’ve seen globally.

“However, I’d also like to see the Welsh Government outline how they intend to promote uptake of the scheme. We know that unfortunately care leavers have very low uptake of existing Government assistance schemes, so we have to ensure this opportunity is effectively promoted to those who qualify.”

Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds, who has campaigned strongly in favour of the introduction of UBI trials, said: “Although I would have liked to see a wider pilot, today’s announcement is a significant step in the right direction and will be one of the most generous trials we’ve seen globally.

“However, I’d also like to see the Welsh Government outline how they intend to promote uptake of the scheme. We know that unfortunately care leavers have very low uptake of existing Government assistance schemes, so we have to ensure this opportunity is effectively promoted to those who qualify.”

At the height of the pandemic, the leader of Plaid Cymru has called on the Welsh Government to introduce a universal basic income.

Speaking in 2020, Adam Price said the temporary universal basic income for the next month would help provide adequate support for the self-employed during the crisis.

The proposed emergency payment would give the self-employed security for a limited period ahead of any further announcement of support from the UK Government.

“The Coronavirus isn’t just a health crisis – it’s an economic crisis,” he said.

“Millions of people – particularly the self-employed, freelancers, sole traders, and those working in the gig economy or on zero hours contracts are facing a catastrophic loss of income due to the crisis which will now be exacerbated by the lockdown.

“What’s lacking is what people urgently need – certainty. Certainty that they can pay their bills, certainty that they will be able to put food on the table and certainty that they will get through this.

“That’s why we’re calling on the Welsh Government to provide an emergency Universal Basic Income for a month as the quickest, simplest, and surest way of providing much needed certainty for the self-employed, freelancers and those on zero hours contracts until the UK Government finally step up to the plate.

CONTROL OF TAX AND WELFARE

Plaid Cymru is saying that Wales needs control of tax and welfare powers to run a “comprehensive” Universal Basic Income (UBI) pilot.

Luke Fletcher MS, Plaid’s spokesperson for the economy, has welcomed yesterdays announcement of a basic income pilot, but has warned that the Welsh Government will have to “curb” its “ambition” if it wants to go further.

The Welsh Government has outlined plans for a £1600 a month basic income pilot for care leavers in Wales, in which  young people leaving care who turn 18 during a 12 month period, across all local authority areas, will be offered the opportunity to take part in the pilot.

Luke Fletcher said: “This pilot is a step in the right direction for the Welsh Government, but it’s really important that it has the structure around it to enable it to meet the ambition of addressing poverty and unemployment, as well as improving health and financial wellbeing.

“Poverty is as multidimensional as it is widespread, and there’s no reason that this pilot cannot be expanded to a wider population from the start.

“To fully support these steps, Welsh Government must call for more powers over welfare and tax, and not let their previous reluctance to do so curb this new ambition.

“These additional powers are needed urgently, not just to run a comprehensive pilot, but to tackle rising poverty in our communities and to start planning a future Welsh Tax and Benefits system, with UBI (Universal Basic Income) at its core.”