1. In recent years, the topic of basic income has piqued interest globally, with many discussions surrounding its potential benefits and challenges. Wales has taken a pioneering step in this direction, targeting a specific group: young care leavers. This is an overview of the project and why it might be significant.
The pilot at a glance
2. Launched just over a year ago, the basic income for care leavers in Wales aims to offer young people a financial stepping stone as they transition into adulthood.1‘Basic Income Pilot for Care Leavers | GOV.WALES’ (24 August 2022) , accessed 25 October 2023 These are individuals who, upon turning 18 between July 2022 and June 2023, are eligible to receive a monthly income of £1,600 for two years (which amounts to £1,280 after tax).
3. The pilot saw an overwhelming response, with 635 young care leavers joining, representing about 97% of those eligible. This uptake rate surpasses other basic income schemes around the world, suggesting a high level of trust and optimism in the initiative.
Direct payment to landlords
4. 164 recipients (26 per cent) have elected to have payments made directly to landlords.2‘Basic Income for Care Leavers in Wales Pilot Statistics: August 2022 to July 2023 | GOV.WALES’ (19 September 2023) , accessed 25 October 2023
5. The Welsh Government says that:3‘Basic Income Pilot Scheme Supports Care Leaver towards Her Ambition of Becoming a Paramedic | GOV.WALES’ (19 September 2023), accessed 25 October 2023
The ability to choose payment frequency and to make payments directly to landlords are two features unique to this pilot compared to other basic income schemes and were introduced as a result of the extensive engagement undertaken during the policy development.
6. The core principle of the basic income scheme is that it’s unconditional. Hence, individuals are empowered to decide how to use their funds. While direct payment to landlords is an option, it’s essential that it is the recipient’s explicit choice to opt for this. They need to be aware that, after the pilot ends, they will need to handle rent payments themselves.4‘Basic Income Pilot for Care Leavers: Overview of the Scheme | GOV.WALES’ (15 February 2023), accessed 25 October 2023
7. Those in supported accommodation might face challenges since the costs associated with such living arrangements are typically high. Depending on an individual’s supported housing costs and how participating in the pilot impacts their entitlement to other UK Government-led benefits, joining the pilot might not be financially advantageous for them.5‘Basic Income Pilot for Care Leavers: Overview of the Scheme | GOV.WALES’ (15 February 2023), accessed 25 October 2023
8. The guidance emphasises that if someone would not benefit financially from participating in the pilot, especially if existing support provisions offer a better financial outcome, they should not join the pilot. To assist in decision-making, case studies and scenarios are provided in the delivery guidance to highlight the choices available to those considering participation.
9. The pilot has involved a collaborative effort from various groups, including local authority teams, Voices from Care Cymru, Citizens Advice Cymru, carers, families, and many other advocacy groups.6‘Statement by the Minister for Social Justice and Chief Whip: Basic Income for Care Leavers in Wales Pilot’, accessed 25 October 2023
10. The minister responsible has met with participants across Wales, collecting feedback and understanding their experiences firsthand.7‘Statement by the Minister for Social Justice and Chief Whip: Basic Income for Care Leavers in Wales Pilot’, accessed 25 October 2023 The results are reported as overwhelmingly positive. From saving for their future to supporting current expenses and funding further education, this income is said to be making tangible differences in participants’ lives.8‘Statement by the Minister for Social Justice and Chief Whip: Basic Income for Care Leavers in Wales Pilot’, accessed 25 October 2023
Evaluating for the future
11. The evaluation of the pilot is to be carried out by the Children’s Social Care Research and Development Centre (CASCADE) at Cardiff University.9‘The Welsh Basic Income Evaluation – CASCADE’ , accessed 25 October 2023 They will consider various aspects, from individual experiences to the broader societal costs and benefits. There are a series of reports in the pipeline. The first comprehensive review is expected in early 2024.
Beyond the Pilot
12. It’s not just about providing support now; it’s also about ensuring the transition out of the pilot is smooth. As the first cohort will see their payments ending in July 2024, there are plans in place to provide guidance, with an emphasis on a person-centred, individualised approach, considering the diverse needs of participants.
13. The basic income pilot for care leavers in Wales is a bold approach to policy-making. It enables investigation of the potential of basic income as a tool for positive societal change as well as highlighting the significance of community collaboration.
14. As the pilot progresses and its impacts become more apparent, it might set a precedent for similar initiatives elsewhere in the United Kingdom.
Martin Ward: 25 October 2023
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