The Green Party is first to reveal its manifesto for the General Election. An important part is the proposal to introduce a Universal Basic Income, offering £89 a week to every adult, supplements for disability, single parents, lone pensioners and means-tested allowances for families with children. Housing Benefit (or the housing element of Universal Credit) will be retained only for existing claimants.
I’m sure that advocates of Basic Income will welcome the direction of movement, but there are problems with the specific proposals. First is the distributive effect. If other benefits are stopped, the financial gains to better-off households far outstrip any benefit to people on lower incomes. This scheme is highly regressive. Secondly, there are the supplements. Disability benefits will require a test; supplements for lone parents will require a cohabitation rule; means-testing for families will inevitably be complex. Third, there is the proposal to freeze Housing Benefit. That means, bluntly, that new claimants (mainly younger people) will not be able to afford housing; and that social housing providers will not be able to provide it. Overall, this scheme will leave many poor people worse off.