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17 February 2020
Disabled people could be disadvantaged by Universal Basic Income, Inclusion Scotland warns


Disabled people could be disadvantaged by Universal Basic Income, Inclusion Scotland warns

Disabled people could be disadvantaged with the introduction of Universal Basic Income (UBI) in Scotland, a leading disabled persons organisation has warned.

Inclusion Scotland said that disabled people are not being adequately included in the debate over the way UBI takes shape.

The charity fears that the scheme, while sounding “utopian”, does not take into consideration the costs associated with living with a disability and might not work alongside the current system of disability benefits.

UBI is a scheme that could soon be trialled by the Scottish Government that would see small monthly cash payments given to everyone without means-testing.

It is meant to act as a “floor” to income to stop people living in poverty.

Four councils in Scotland are currently planning to trial UBI.

In a discussion paper on the scheme, the charity argues that disabled people should be entitled to a larger amount of UBI to help cover the costs that come with living with a disability.

But the charity says that disabled peoples’ needs are being treated as matters of “additional complexity” rather than realities that should be taken into consideration from the outset.

Susie Fitton, Policy Officer for Inclusion Scotland said: “Disabled people in Scotland have been hardest hit by austerity measures and welfare reforms through cuts to the inter-related social security payments and public services they depend upon.

“In this context, a utopian vision where poverty is eliminated by a UBI, where everyone has a secure income, and unpaid work such as caring responsibilities are valued on a par with paid work is potentially very attractive to disabled Scots. 

“However, we find that discussions about UBI often fail to involve disabled people, and therefore to address key issues, such as how a UBI would meet extra costs related to disability.

“Disabled people are currently subjected to a never-ending series of intrusive, inadequate, inaccurate, and degrading assessments to receive disability benefits and would love to see these scrapped.

“However, the argument that a UBI would remove the need for assessments may be illusory.

“If a UBI in Scotland is not set at a level which would cover the extra costs of disability, a system of disability benefits will still be needed alongside it and would almost certainly mean a system of assessments for eligibility.

“Should we not simply focus our minds on improving the system of assessments for the new devolved disability benefits?

“We have seen with the roll-out of Universal Credit how what can be presented as progressive ideas can in practice affect widespread harm to disabled people.

“The same could be true of UBI if there is a similar lack of consideration of disabled people’s needs, particularly their extra costs.”

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