Could basic income help the emancipation of people with disabilities?

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Many people believe basic income – a system where everyone would get a secure unconditional income – would be good for everyone, including people with disabilities.

However some people disagree and fear that basic income might disadvantage people with disabilities. Dr Jim Elder-Woodward and Dr Simon Duffy have published a consultation paper on this topic and are interested in finding out what people think.

Basic income offers a radical and progressive reform of current systems of income security. However the position of people with disabilities, within basic income is often ambiguous and uncertain.

  • There is a fear that a more universal approach may lead to people with disabilities having a lower level of income than in the current system,
  • And if people with a disabilities are left out of a ‘universal’ system of basic income this might increase the ‘otherness’ of people with disabilities.

This consultation paper is the joint work of one of the leading members of the Independent Living Movement in Scotland, Dr Jim Elder-Woodward, and Dr Simon Duffy, an advocate of basic income and Director of the Centre for Welfare Reform.

The authors set out to show:
  1. The battle for disabled people’s human, social and civic rights is best understood as a movement for emancipation.
  2. Every citizen has the potential for personal growth, and this is the best framework for thinking about how a universal welfare system should operate.
  3. In today’s complex society we are all inter-dependent with each other and need a system that recognises that fact.
  4. The state has responsibility to help us promote and sustain each citizen’s potential and fulfilment, through policies of social inclusion, social justice and community support.
  5. Basic income’s true purpose is to facilitate and sustain the development of people in the way that they themselves feel is best.
  6. These ideas reflect deeper wisdom about the human condition, the nature of a just society of equal citizens.
  7. The challenge is to develop a universal emancipatory welfare system to develop individual and collective potential, not just for disabled people, but for everyone.
  8. The paper ends for a call to ensure that disabled people are at the heart of thinking and piloting new forms of welfare state and income security.

You can download and read their draft consultation paper (pdf) here.

The authors would welcome your comments or suggestions.

You can email Jim Elder-Woodward or Simon Duffy directly.

These ideas will also be discussed at the BIEN International Congress in Tampere in August 2018 and, in partnership with UBI Lab Sheffield and Disability Sheffield.