An open letter to the First Minister and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland

The Covid-19 crisis has shown why we need to trial a Universal Basic Income (UBI) in Northern Ireland.

The recent Covid-19 outbreak has brought home just how vulnerable many of us are in a crisis like this.

This includes hundreds of thousands of working families who find it hard to cover their bills without going into debt and the growing numbers of workers who are self-employed, part of the gig economy or on zero-hours contracts. Many are worried about getting sick and what that would mean for their ability to pay the bills and feed their families.

Unless we take action to safeguard households’ financial security, Covid-19 will put millions more at risk of not being able to cover the bills or provide food for their families. Businesses and our high streets will suffer too. Such insecurity is also likely to have a serious impact on the mental health of our community.

That’s why we (the undersigned) are calling on you to trial a Universal Basic Income (UBI) in Northern Ireland.

We also urge you to support and encourage colleagues in Westminster to support Early Day Motion #302 ‘Temporary Basic Income’ tabled on 16th March, which if heard and passed would be a positive step in the right direction towards a permanent basic income.

A UBI would provide every working age adult with a fixed, regular and unconditional income. It would relieve some of the financial pressures facing Northern Irish households, provide everyone with an income floor and keep our economy going through shocks like this.

The amount paid would be substantial enough to keep people above the poverty line and would replace work-related benefits. Similar proposals are currently being developed by the US Treasury, realising that the best way to keep the economy going is to stimulate demand by making direct payments to individuals. We believe this would be a better approach than solely relying on industry-specific or targeted financial packages.

Introducing a permanent, substantial UBI in the face of this crisis would also achieve the following:

1. Provide economic security for every person in the face of this unprecedented crisis
2. Help the economy and society recover more quickly from the impact of this pandemic
3. Protect us all from the impact of any future crises

We offer our help and support on this and hope you take up our offer. We keenly await your response.

Kind regards,

Basic Income Northern Ireland (BINI)

Advice NI

Positive Money

Copy also sent to:

Northern Ireland’s 18 Members of Parliament

Northern Ireland’s 90 Members of the Legislative Assembly

Minister for Communities Deirdre Hargey MLA

Minister of Finance Conor Murphy MLA

Minister for Economy Dianne Dodds MLA