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£10,000 government cash to adapt to a changing world

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A discussion paper proposes radical plans for universal benefits to help people adapt to economic, technological and care challenges in the 2020s.

The paper, ‘Addressing Economic Security’ from the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (the RSA), said a new social contract is needed to help people embrace the new environment and promote economic security.

At the centre of its proposals is a £5,000 annual payment for every family member for up to two years. This would enable people to retrain, try a new business idea, assume caring responsibilities or try a new career. Its research shows that 30% of workers face chronic or acute precariousness, with a further 40% facing uncertain futures.

To fund this ‘Universal Basic Opportunity Fund’ the government would finance an endowment to cover the fund for 14 years from a public debt issue. This fund could be invested in public infrastructure, housing or digital innovation.

Proposals for universal basic income schemes of this kind have been controversial, with many suggesting they would discourage people from working. However, Antony Painter, one of the authors of the report, said: “Unconditional, universal cash payments do not reduce employment at all, while other research has shown they increase well-being on a whole series of measures…a carefully implemented Universal Basic Income would support good work – in the widest sense of the word – rather than usher in a post-work future.”

The RSA said that good and careful implementation was key, which was why it supported trials in Finland and Canada. It added: “Faced with mounting evidence of complete system failure in the UK benefits system, the UK government will also support trials of alternative approaches involving UBI across the UK.”

The group believes that the conditionality of the current system does more harm than good. “Far from an engine of mobility, conditionality creates human misery, insecurity and locks people in sub-par work or poverty.”

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