The Scottish Women's Convention discusses Universal Basic Income and its potential transformational benefits for women.
If there is one thing that has changed for the better over the past year, it is the recognition of our health and social care system: the workers, the pressures, and the prospects for the future. This delicate ecosystem has taken centre stage in the fight against COVID-19 for a year now. It has shone a light on the dangerous risks and the relentless pressure our frontline workers face and the often-tragic consequences of profit over person in social care for some of our most vulnerable.
We can find hope in how we as a society are focused on rebuilding and insulating this delicate system for the future. Engagement with women from across Scotland throughout the past year has illustrated hope. We are seeing a move towards a belief in a system that is preventative rather than reactive and which places dignity and equality of citizens health at the centre. Nowhere has this hope been more focused than on discussions around a Citizen’s Basic Income and the benefits this could have for Scotland.
But what exactly would such a seemingly radical policy initiative mean for health and social care? Women have noted that a guaranteed non-means tested income could give the ability to improve wellbeing by eradicating the stigmatisation of poverty. It could promote health equalities by giving people the resources to obtain items that improve their quality of life. It could reduce the extensive inequalities in our living standards. It may even assist carers whose working hours are strictly dictated by the criteria for Carer’s Allowance and other forms of assistance. What could a citizen’s income mean for our mental health if the distress and anxiety caused by the unpredictability of the benefits system was no longer there?
As one woman pointed out: “Haven’t we been given the exact opportunity to do something different, rather than settling for what we had before when inequality was just so normal?”
This is not to say that women believe such a policy is a panacea for the significant difficulties and inequalities within our society. It should not take away from discussions regarding the funding of our health and social care system or how to remedy those stubbornly entrenched inequalities. These discussions from women across Scotland have shown it could be a start.
What we have seen in the past year is that fundamentally, women want change for the better. They want a system that works to support the most vulnerable and that encourages fairness and equality for all. Discussions around a Citizen’s Basic Income are now coming directly to the forefront and Scotland would be remiss to let this opportunity pass us by without seeking further answers. Given our current circumstances and what is likely to be a steep uphill climb for at least the next few years with those at the bottom set to face the worst. Surely any system that seeks to help equality is worth exploring?
This Opinion is commissioned by the ALLIANCE’s Academy programme which explores key themes related to the Five Provocations for the Future of Health and Social Care. For more information on Citizen’s Basic Income take a look at the Academy’s insight paper Health and Social Care Academy: Emphasising Humanity and Human Rights: Citizen’s Basic Income