Trialling a universal social dividend (basic income) with those who are current recipients of forms of conditional income management models (As a stage 1 trial)
Policy status: New but adapting current trial policies
(Also see proposed policy "Universal Basic Income: renamed Universal Social Dividend Payment. To replace a range of payments")
Portfolio: Minister for Social Services, The Hon. Paul Fletcher MP. Minister for Indigenous Affairs, The Hon. Senator Nigel Scullion.
Brief description of the proposed policy trials
Income management (IM) (All NT plus other sites) and Cashless Debit Card (CDC) (three existing sites covers approximately 25,000 current recipients, of which 80% are Indigenous. These various trials have been running from 2-10 years to test a range of income controls via debit cards. Their existence offers a unique opportunity to test validly the effects of these current highly conditional models versus a UBI, paid to the same recipients as unconditional payments.
The trial could either randomly sample the existing recipients or offer it to all, with their consent. There are extensive existing data records and evaluations that would provide a range of appropriate comparisons at little cost with the effects of a trial. The trial needs to be established for a minimum of three years to provide statistically reliable and valid conclusions and comparisons.
The existing IM and CDC trials cover a range of communities and target groups. With the same participants’ new trial findings, comparative results on the different delivery models will provide meaningful data and insights into people’s attitudes, activities, as well as impacts on communities across a substantial range.
Why are these changes are needed?
Evaluations of these trials have all failed to show valid evidence of benefits to participants across a range of statistical measures as well as surveys and interviews. Yet there are no plans to reduce the various schemes, despite the high administrative costs, and instead, there are signs the model will be extended to mainstream areas. Despite the lack of local or internationally reliable evidence, the welfare system is more broadly looking at more conditional and targeted services.
Australia has the unique opportunity to use existing extensive trials as the base for a long term experiment/trial of both conditional payments and the a UBI. As the recipients’ payments are already funded, and much administration and monitoring is already in place, the extra costs would be negligible.
Who benefits/gains from the policy proposal?
Current participants, who would hopefully find the less conditional payments more positive and affirming. In turn, they could benefit by having the self esteem/agency to develop more skills and useful activities and reduced stigma.
Who may lose from the policy proposal?
The various business groups benefitting from their provision of monitoring services and controls over the current system. Some welfare agencies benefitting from related grants. A very small number of recipients with caretaking needs who may need alternate income support via case management.
Does your policy have either major party’s support?
Universal payments have not achieved either major party's support yet.
Other groups and categories of people supportive of your proposal
There are range of groups, local and national that oppose the various welfare cards, many local Indigenous communities, wider Indigenous policy groups, unemployed people’s groups and welfare groups, as well as academics interested in more equitable policies.
Groups and categories that would oppose it? If so, why?
Politicians and parties that believe they can gain votes by being tough on welfare payments or believe that the poor are incompetent and unable to manage their finances. Conservative believers that see the non-employed as needing to be managed.
Will extra costs be incurred?
See above. Existing administration costs are very high because the processes of control are complex. There may even be savings. As few move off payments, the universality will not be a problem.
Timeline for the proposal to be implemented
Six to 12 months maximum as most of the needs are already in the system.
Keywords/search terms for identifying the policy:
Welfare benefits, social security, unemployment payments, sole parents, dole, welfare payments, income support.