By Michael Kane
Derry City and Strabane District Council have backed the proposal of conducting a Universal Basic Income trial in the Council area. The trial, brought forward by Basic Income Northern Ireland (BINI), would test a minimum of 1000 participants over a period of two years.
The hope would be to see positive results in alleviating poverty, strengthening social bonds, improving mental health, and building a strong local economy for its participants. Another key part outlined by BINI would be to see the impact on legacy issues, specifically those relating to the Troubles.
Councillor Michael Cooper said: ““Those who are living in poverty, who aren’t progressing educationally, who aren’t moving into employment, all become, essentially, a drain on the welfare system because they haven’t been given the opportunity to progress themselves.
“There isn’t a one-size-fits-all model we can apply to this, but the principle of it absolutely makes sense. You put the trust in people by providing that basic income to them and putting the trust in them that they’ll use it to progress.”
The payment would be unconditional, regular, and given to every individual participant. Everyone would receive it regardless of their financial circumstances or status. For those working, this would be paid in addition to their wages.
It would represent a fundamental change of the tax and welfare system, intended to lift the vast majority of people out of poverty and give many the means to flourish.
Councillor Martin Reilly said: “The existing system we have is fraught with errors and people are not getting their entitlements, but there are also payments being made out in error. A universal system like this would address some of those points.
“It takes away the stigma that is associated with people applying for benefits, especially for older people.
“If there is to be a pilot in Northern Ireland, I’d certainly advocate that our council area is considered for that.”