City experiment with minimum “basic” income trial improves well-being but financial insecurities remain

Date: 26 February 2020

  • No strong evidence that ‘citizen income’ improves routes to employability but improvements in material security, mental health and wellbeing, and child welfare reported by participants 
  • Qualitative study puts lived experience of trial in the spotlight, with implications for the design and implementation of future experiments and policies
  • Communities think-tank calls for pause following outcomes of Barcelona research
  • Findings launched as pilots planned for Sheffield, Leeds, Scotland (and recently cancelled in Hull) attract attention.

Wednesday, 26 February 2020 – London, UK – The results of a two-year research study released by The Young Foundation today casts a shadow on the potential of a temporary minimum income — similar to a “universal basic” or “citizen” income — as a mechanism to tackle economic and social inequality and reduce poverty.

The Voices of Basic Minimum Income report presents a unique insight into what it feels like to receive a minimum income as part of a trial with key implications and recommendations for policymakers and practitioners involved in the research, design and implementation of similar experiments worldwide. Started in December 2017, B-MINCOME was implemented in Barcelona by the city council to help tackle urban poverty and social exclusion in some of its poorest districts. Each household involved received an average of around €500 per month, depending on their previous income, with some participants offered access to a range of social programmes to support employability, social enterprise and community participation.

Building on a long history of ethnographic research, The Young Foundation studied the lived experiences of around 200 participating households, across three of the 10 neighbourhoods that were involved in the trial. Key takeaways from the research launched today include:

  • No strong evidence trial provided a route to employment: At a time of increased job precarity and automation, structural barriers to employment — like job availability, education, skill level, language ability, immigration, status and age — remain broadly unmitigated by the two-year experiment. However, some B-MINCOME participants report feeling that they are in a better position to get a job, due to the extra time, resource and ‘mental bandwidth’ for job searching and training/education which the income provided.
  • Boost to financial and material well-being for most participants: While the vast majority of participants enjoyed an improved sense of financial and material well-being as a result of the trial, some still had to make difficult choices or compromise on essential outgoings especially when there were fluctuations or changes in the administration of the minimum income.
  • Rent alleviation and household bills: Improved ability to pay rent marked a significant change for a large number of families, most of whom had struggled to meet rent payments prior to the trial.
  • Income used to improve children’s lives: As well as being able to better meet children’s food, clothing and housing needs, we heard stories of children being able to enjoy activities they hadn’t been able to before, such as extra-curricular opportunities and family outings.
  • Improved social and community connections: Basic income appears to have strengthened many family relationships, by reducing stress and allowing families to spend more quality time together, while programme activities connected people who otherwise would not have socialised or interacted.
  • Elements of the design and implementation of the trail limited impact: Fluctuations in minimum income payments, difficulties accessing the income as cash and the requirement to document all expenditure, undermined benefit to participants.
  • Ethical questions raised: Researchers involved question how programmes that randomly provide people in or at the edge of poverty with money on a temporary basis can be done ethically and responsibly, calling for safeguards and design consideration.

Helen Goulden, CEO of The Young Foundation said: “Though the results of the B-MINCOME trial do not offer a ringing endorsement of the idea of a guaranteed minimum income helping to increase the chances of people moving into work, they are hugely valuable. It’s clear from the stories that the money had a direct impact on peoples’ sense of wellbeing and helped clear household debts. We’re calling on UK policymakers — and basic income advocates and detractors alike — to pause and pay close attention to the design of future minimum income trials in a way which considers participant experiences as much as trial design.”

The Young Foundation is focussed on elevating the personal, lived-experiences of individuals in their communities and advocating for these real-world stories to have a more central place in policymaking today. The new report is therefore structured around the stories of people drawn from a diverse mix of backgrounds and circumstances to better explore the impact B-MINCOME trail had on their lives.

Some of the case studies featured include:

  1. 35-year-old Paula, a single mother of two children from Spain, who lost her job five months before the B-MINCOME trial
  2. 33-year-old Moroccan Haddi who relied on B-MINCOME in the midst of a difficult divorce
  3. 29-year-old Husnain from Pakistan who supplemented his low-wage grocery store  income with B-MINCOME
  4. 57-year-old Jose from Spain whose social isolation and mistrust of immigrant residents highlights the benefits of social community programmes to create opportunities for positive social interaction.

The report can be downloaded here.

Ends

Interviews are available by phone or by written comment with Helen Goulden, CEO of The Young Foundation — communities expert and former Executive Director of Nesta — who can speak to the outcomes of the research and what they mean for trials planned or proposed for parts of the UK. Please contact Ryan Boyce, Communications Manager via ryan.boyce@youngfoundation.org or by telephone (0)20 8980 6263

Notes to Editors

B-MINCOME is a collaborative project funded by the European Union through Urban Innovative Actions. The Young Foundation has worked in partnership with Barcelona City Council, as well as the other B-MINCOME project partners: The Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), the Institut Català d’Avaluació de Polítiques Públiques (Ivàlua), Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, BarcelonaTech (UPC), and the International Institute for Nonviolent Action (NOVACT).

About The Young Foundation

The Young Foundation is a charity based in London, focussed on developing better connected and stronger communities across the UK. We are a UKRI accredited research institute. We work nationally, regionally and locally in alliance with our many partners and funders. Since 1954, we have developed and created over 80 organisations to target unmet social needs, including: Which?, The Open University, Language Line, Social Innovation Exchange, School for Social Entrepreneurs, Uprising and Action for Happiness.