Rise of Foodbank Use Linked to Universal Credit

I’ve just spent some time reading Early Warnings, Universal Credit and Foodbanks. In it, the Trussell Trust reveals the rise of foodbanks linked to the roll-out of Universal Credit.

The statistics are sobering. From April 2017 to March 2018, the Trussell Trust’s foodbank network supplied 1,332,952 three-day emergency food supplies. This was a 13% increase from the year before. Of these, 484,026 supplies went to children.

I will pause and let you process that.

Our families are so hard up, not being given enough money to live on, that almost half a million children have been found in need of emergency food supplies.

The main reasons for being referred to a food bank were:

  1. low income (on benefits, not earning)
  2. benefit delay
  3. benefit change
  4. debt

I have argued before that a universal basic income would remove the first three reasons – if everyone in the country gets enough to live on, you eradicate the lowest level of poverty instantly. UBI does not need to be high – £4500 has been shown to be a workable figure which keeps food on the table for families, removing children from extreme poverty.

The Trussell Trust shows the figures going back to 2012-13, when the number of 3-day emergency supply packs given out was 346,992. Almost four times as many packs are being given out now.

Universal Credit is not providing enough for the essentials of daily life. The Trussell Trust’s network, which covers two-thirds of all foodbanks, found that, and I quote:

  1. “Foodbanks in areas of full Universal Credit rollout have seen a 16.85% average increase in referrals for emergency food, more than double the national average of 6.64%.
  2. The effect of a six-plus week waiting period for a first Universal Credit payment can be serious, leading to foodbank referrals, debt, mental health issues, rent arrears and eviction. These effects can last even after people receive their Universal Credit payments, as bills and debts pile up.
  3. People in insecure or seasonal work are particularly affected, suggesting the work incentives in Universal Credit are not yet helping everyone.
  4. Navigating the online system can be difficult for people struggling with computers or unable to afford telephone helplines. In some cases, the system does not register people’s claims correctly, invalidating it.
  5. Foodbanks are working hard to stop people going hungry in areas of rollout, by providing food and support for more than two visits to the foodbank and working closely with other charities to provide holistic support. However, foodbanks have concerns about the extra pressure this puts on food donation stocks and volunteers’ time and emotional welfare.”

In their recommendations, the Trussell Trust asks for a reduction of the six-week waiting period for Universal Credit; more support for people trying to apply for UC online; more support for getting people into work and helping them stay in work; and “continued monitoring [of] the impact of conditionality, in particular in-work conditionality, which has been linked to increased foodbank use.”

We know our benefits system is not working. It needs sorting, putting people and families first, with the emphasis being compassion and support, not making people live on as little as possible. The massive increase in the use of foodbanks is shaming to us as a society. We are not looking after each other.

The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. [Preamble to Lib Dem Constitution]

The evidence is that people are enslaved by poverty. What are we going to do about it?

* Kirsten Johnson is an Oxfordshire County Councillor and Day Editor for Lib Dem Voice. She stood as the Parliamentary Candidate for Oxford East in the 2017 General Election.

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55 Comments

  • The rise in food banks has nothing to do with Universal Credit; the rise in crime has nothing to do with reduced police numbers and although there were ‘targets’ in the Home office they didn’t affect the way vulnerable people were processed..

    With every such PM, and government ministerial, announcement I’m reminded of the song we sang at school…
    “And this the truth I will maintain
    Unto my Dying Day, Sir.
    That whatsoever King may reign,
    I will be the Vicar of Bray, Sir!”

  • OnceALibDem 26th Apr '18 - 7:52pm

    A slightly differing view from that taken by LIb Dem commentators and indeed editors in the past.
    https://www.libdemvoice.org/are-there-more-hungry-people-than-a-decade-ago-37754.html (arguing for a more critical analysis of Trusell Trust claims)
    https://www.libdemvoice.org/yes-food-poverty-is-real-but-the-situation-is-complex-and-solutions-are-not-straightforward-38289.html “The only real conclusion I think can be reached from the evidence we have is that the reasons underlying the increase in their use are multifaceted and complex: it is not simply a case of increasing food poverty driving demand.” – very similar views to those put forward by Theresa May at the general election.

    What was different in 2014 I wonder?

  • As a Liberal member since 1961, and chair of a food bank in an area where Universal Credit was introduced in January 2017, I can confirm that we issued more emergency food parcels in the first quarter of this year (a third to children) than the Liberal Democrats got in votes in the constituency last year.

    The two facts are connected. It’s no good pretending that the Liberal Democrats opposed the introduction of UC. They trooped through the lobbies to support it.

    At the very least apologies are required.

  • Mick Taylor 26th Apr '18 - 8:28pm

    No David Raw. There’s nothing wrong with the concept of universal credit, it’s the way it’s been implemented by this Tory Government. It’s just no use blaming the coalition for everything and demanding endless apologies.
    If universal credit was run right with no waiting time and decent levels of benefit most of the problems we are facing would evaporate. It’s the Tories’ attitude to the poor and unemployed that is the problem here and we have to attack them for messing up a good idea with idealogical prejudice.

  • Peter Watson 26th Apr '18 - 8:40pm

    “The Trussell Trust shows the figures going back to 2012-13, when the number of 3-day emergency supply packs given out was 346,992. Almost four times as many packs are being given out now.”
    That is a somewhat selective presentation of the statistics.
    Selecting differently, those same figures show that by 2014-2015 the number of 3-day emergency supply packs being given out was 1,084,604, more than three times as many as two years earlier. The “massive increase in the use of foodbanks [that] is shaming to us as a society” started on the Lib Dems’ watch and as others have pointed out, acknowledging that is an important step if the party’s concerns are to be taken seriously.

  • “It’s no good pretending the Lib Dems didn’t support UC….apologise.”

    UC is not a bad idea in itself, it just seems to be proving unworkable (at least in the initial roll out) and damaging because of it. Part of the issue though was that cuts were made to UC to reverse cuts made to other benefits (believe it was tax credits) and celebrated by Labour as a victory. Too much short sighted thinking by Labour and Lib Dems, too much focus on cuts to welfare state/support services for Tories and we end up with too many relying on foodbanks.

  • Katharine Pindar 26th Apr '18 - 9:05pm

    I am glad that you have taken this up, Kirsten, because there is no denying that providers on the ground have found that the roll-out of Universal Credit has increased the use of food banks. Six-week waits for payments are just not possible for people on the breadline to cope with: they don’t have enough money for food or to pay the rent. With ill-paid short-term or part-time jobs, even if you have more than one of them and work all hours you are unlikely to have any savings, much more likely to run up debts.

    Whatever the initial approval of Universal Credit, it should be applied with more understanding of ordinary people’s lives. The inadequacy of current benefit provision together with the unsatisfactory nature of the boasted near full employment as felt by many people should be a focus of the national campaigning message we send out this year. This Government is blind or indifferent to the callousness of its policies in application – witness the Windrush scandal – and the Labour Party is only interested in the big picture and what may bring them to power. We need to speak up for the individuals, for ordinary people, working families and children who are having an increasingly hard time.

    One small point, though, Kirsten: I don’t think we should talk about ‘nearly half a million children’ – 484,026 food packs can’t be equated with numbers of children if they each receive two packs or more. But the 13% increase in the number handed out is sobering.

  • Mick Taylor 26th Apr ’18 – 8:28pm…..No David Raw. There’s nothing wrong with the concept of universal credit, it’s the way it’s been implemented by this Tory Government. It’s just no use blaming the coalition for everything and demanding endless apologies.
    If universal credit was run right with no waiting time and decent levels of benefit most of the problems we are facing would evaporate. It’s the Tories’ attitude to the poor and unemployed that is the problem here and we have to attack them for messing up a good idea with idealogical prejudice…..

    So the UC problems are all down to the Tories? Is it the same with our support for the the costly NHS top down changes, the cuts to welfare, the bedroom tax, etc?

    I am amazed that there are still those who cry, “It wasn’t me, sir.”” A big boy did it and ran away”

  • Come off it, Mick. Universal credit is just one more example of a whole series of welfare cuts implemented by the Coalition and it’s no coincidence that my Food bank was started in 2013.

  • The point is it was implemented wrongly, not that the idea of uniting a whole series of benefits is wrong. I agree the way it’s worked out is appalling, but that wasn’t, I think, what our colleagues voted for.
    I really do get tired of the constant denigrating of everything the coalition did, when some of it was exceedingly good and Liberal.

  • Yes, expats. I don’t shy away from responsibility, but you and many like you refuse to see that the coalition did many good things as well as making big mistakes. When you start taking a realistic approach and recognising the differences, then you may be entitled to lecture me.
    And yes, the position of UC has been down to the Tories since 2015 and it has not developed as those of our MPs who voted for it had hoped. Not learning from trials is typical Tory behaviour because they want to run the poor into the ground. Even in the harshest view of our party’s behaviour during the coalition are you seriously suggesting that that is what our MPs wanted to do?

  • Your tolerance of the competence and perceptiveness of so many of our now absent friends is admirable, Mick.

    Sadly it’s not widely shared in the area of my Food Bank where the Lib Dem vote dropped from 24.8% to 2.6%. Are you saying all those folk are less perceptive and discerning than your good self ?

  • Peter Martin 27th Apr '18 - 5:09am

    Once again the panacea of a UBI is offered. But if any who wants a job (on a living wage) has access to one why would they need a UBI?

    Politicians wouldn’t be afraid, at one time to use the term full employment? Why are we scared of it now? Full employment would give us extra teachers, extra nursery workers, extra everything we are told we currently ‘cant afford.’

    If we run out of ideas for things to do we can have longer holidays.

    What’s the problem?

  • William Fowler 27th Apr '18 - 7:28am

    The idea behind universal benefit is that work always pays more than being on benefits but to achieve that you end up with a complex system that only really suits the government body in charge of it. UBI, set at £4500 with half that for kids and twice for pensioners (and based on residence requirements, say min five years for the 4.5k and 30 years for the pension uptick) would close down huge swathes of govn departments if run by the tax office and replace most of the tax allowances as well as the benefit system (to be affordable), needs to be sold as a way to give people freedom and getting the govn out of their lives. As everyone would be getting the same, it would then be up to people if they want to work hard or lounge around just above the poverty level, takes away all the simmering resentment on both sides.

    With food so cheap I am not sure why food banks are needed, most of what I buy seems to be the same price as in 2002 (as far as I can recall) but I only buy discounted stuff from a variable array of supermarkets rather than grabbing stuff out of the nearest co-op or spar shop, or buying often dreadful fast food. Quite easy to live on £20 a week for food!

  • “but I only buy from a varied list of supermarkets having taken time to find the best deals.”

    It sounds like you are rich in time, knowledge and perhaps a little determination/ambition/confidence (whatever you want to call it) too. I reckon most who use foodbanks (many just about managing also) lack in at least on of those criteria points, and support services are being cut every year.

  • Mick Taylor 26th Apr ’18 – 10:49pm……………………Yes, expats. I don’t shy away from responsibility, but you and many like you refuse to see that the coalition did many good things as well as making big mistakes. When you start taking a realistic approach and recognising the differences, then you may be entitled to lecture me.
    And yes, the position of UC has been down to the Tories since 2015 and it has not developed as those of our MPs who voted for it had hoped. Not learning from trials is typical Tory behaviour because they want to run the poor into the ground. Even in the harshest view of our party’s behaviour during the coalition are you seriously suggesting that that is what our MPs wanted to do?……………………..

    I don’t intend to lecture…However, the failure of UC implementation was obvious even before the first ‘pilot’. Senior staff charged with it’s implementation ‘walked away’ and junior staff protested over it’s failures. Only one ‘pilot’ went ahead on schedule and even that, aimed at ”easy target’ (single healthy new claimants), didn’t work as planned. The constant IT failures, changes of senior staff and even the Institute for Government arguing that the original timetable for implementation of Universal Credit was “hugely overambitious” should have been warning enough.
    Instead, Ian Duncan Smith pressed on with it; we held the balance of power and a simple ‘WAIT’ would have been enough.. On cost alone it has been a disaster; the implementation costs, initially forecast to be around £2 billion, have spiralled to over £12 billion.
    You condemn ” typical Tory behaviour because they want to run the poor into the ground. Even in the harshest view of our party’s behaviour during the coalition are you seriously suggesting that that is what our MPs wanted to do?”
    After listening to Danny Alexander’s umpteen media appearances, I really wonder. But, even being charitable, the old adage of, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing” certainly applies. And by doing nothing we are just as responsible as the Tories, if for different reasons.

  • Peter M >Once again the panacea of a UBI is offered. But if any who wants a job (on a living wage) has access to one why would they need a UBI?

    Because the real world isn’t that easy and that is a very big IF.

  • Ruth Bright 27th Apr '18 - 9:49am

    David Raw is absolutely right – it is something reminiscent of late East European communism that we are told we should not pick apart the recent history of “the party” because it is too awkward.

    UC has a fundamental flaw in looking at household budgets as a whole which is damaging to the independence of female welfare recipients.

    The Methodist, Baptist and United Reformed Churches issued a joint statement during the coalition warning the government about the corrosive effect of divisive language about welfare. No Tory forced our leader to talk about “Alarm Clock Britain”. He did that all by himself.

  • William Fowler 27th Apr '18 - 10:51am

    I believe it was Mrs Merkel who told Dave Cameron that the way to have a successful coalition was to take credit for all the good stuff and blame the minor party for all the bad bits so I think it was naivety by Clegg and Co more than anything else that messed things up for the LibDems. On a recent Question Time one of the left-wingers lamented that there was nowhere for the Left vote to go if they did not agree with Labour, LibDems having lost their soul during the coalition – Sir Vince sat there with a sickly smile on his face but did not have a chance to rebut it. At the moment the LibDems are looking like Labour with extra taxes, if Brexit is done by the time of the next election not sure where the appeal will be to the general electorate? The big gap is actually one of freedom for the people, at the moment have two parties offering alternative views of Big State govn, although that may change if Mrs May is toppled.

  • Mick Taylor, You ask “are you seriously suggesting that that is what our MPs wanted to do?” and I often do too. Did they want to be part of a government that rehabilitated the Conservative party while totally undermining Liberal Democracy? Did they really want to give the Conservatives exactly what they wanted early on in coalition and then find that the Conservatives chose not to give what we wanted later? Did they really want to “Say goodbye to broken promises” and then break the biggest one they ever made? Did they really want to lose all but eight of our MPs? Lose two thirds of our councillors? Destroy 50 years of hard work building a party that could take on the big two? Did they want to ignore the evidence of the voters who annihilated vast swathes of our councillors, MSPs, MEPs year after year rather than face up to their responsibilities?

    Did they really want to be good coalition partners in government now, so much that they were prepared to sacrifice the future of this party, this movement and this country for decades in exchange for their five years of personal glory?

    Sure there were good bits for a short period, but do you recognise the cost?

  • Peter Martin 27th Apr '18 - 11:22am

    @ Cassie,

    What’s so difficult about offering everyone a job on a living wage? Why is that more difficult than paying people to do nothing? Even if someone can’t do anything because they are suffering from a mental or physical disability we can’t, in a 21st century ‘liberal’ society, let them them die by paying less than is needed for their survival.

    But as the late Stephen Hawking proved, disability isn’t a reason, per se, for anyone to be involuntarily unemployed. Nearly everyone can make some contribution.

  • Peter Martin 27th Apr '18 - 11:33am

    @ William Fowler,

    “With food so cheap I am not sure why food banks are needed”

    You’re the one who’s priceless! Clueless would be another adjective that would fit. If you aren’t “sure” why people with families struggle to pay their bills and often don’t even have a few pounds to spare, can I suggest you get yourself down to the nearest food bank, lend a helping hand for a couple of days, talk to the people there and educate yourself!

  • William Fowler 27th Apr ’18 – 7:28am………………….With food so cheap I am not sure why food banks are needed, most of what I buy seems to be the same price as in 2002 (as far as I can recall) but I only buy discounted stuff from a variable array of supermarkets rather than grabbing stuff out of the nearest co-op or spar shop, or buying often dreadful fast food. Quite easy to live on £20 a week for food!………..

    My mother would walk a mile to save a penny; using tuppence worth of shoe leather in the process…
    Your visits to this variable array of supermarkets; does that entail driving? Do you have to take young children with you? Are ‘discounted’ foods always available?

    As for quite easy to live on £20 a week for food????????????????? A small battery raised chicken in Aldi would use a quarter of your allowance!

  • William Fowler 27th Apr '18 - 12:52pm

    Peter, probably hard for you to believe but I come from quite a poor background and am old enough to come from a time when benefits really were miserly and you often saw people wandering around who looked like they really were starving or surviving on a diet of gruel. I get the bit about having to wait five weeks for benefits which was dreamed up by someone who assumed that there would be a months final pay on offer for all claimants and needs to be dealt with but compared to daily living costs benefits are now quite high (and one of the most generous and expensive welfare systems in the world) and whilst reform/simplification would be welcome we have to get away from the child-like dependency that Brown/Blair tried to instill in a large segment of the populace so that they would be voted back into power.

  • William Fowler 27th Apr '18 - 1:01pm

    “My mother would walk a mile to save a penny; using tuppence worth of shoe leather in the process…
    Your visits to this variable array of supermarkets; does that entail driving? Do you have to take young children with you? Are ‘discounted’ foods always available?”

    Nope, don’t own a car, depending on which route I take (mostly very nice coastal walk) I have a choice of supermarkets and they are part of my exercise regime of walking 8-10 miles three times a week. I do order online when sent discount codes by the supermarkets (which are usually applied to discounted items to double up!). I have two main meals a day (chicken and veg, fish and salad), neither of which costs more than a quid, food all grilled and rather delicious if I say so myself… mostly frozen veg, chicken and fish so no wastage. Of course if you have no fridge or cooking means then you would have to completely rethink that, doable but not so healthy.

  • Malcolm Todd 27th Apr '18 - 1:17pm

    Peter Martin 27th Apr ’18 – 11:22am</b?
    "What’s so difficult about offering everyone a job on a living wage? Why is that more difficult than paying people to do nothing?"

    We've had this discussion before, but I'll take a leaf out of your own book and explain it again:
    UBI is not “paying people to do nothing” – that’s a more accurate description of Unemployment Benefit and Sickness/Incapacity Benefit (to use their older and more descriptive names). UBI is paying people whether they are working or not and it’s a far better incentive for people to go out and work to the extent they are able than any other welfare system yet devised.
    As for what’s wrong with offering everyone a job on a living wage: absolutely nothing wrong with it, and whilst it’s not quite as simple as you suggest, it’s not very difficult. The problem is there will always be people who can’t work, or can’t work reliably or very much; and people who turn up for work because they have to but don’t do anything useful when they’re there; and people who just can’t fit well enough into institutional employment for anyone to be happy; and there will always be people who exploit the necessary exemptions or the inability to be sacked (or who will hold the threat of sacking over you when you have no welfare to fall back on).
    You will always have to have some system of support for those for whom the job guarantee doesn’t work.
    You will always have to make decisions about who really deserves/needs that back-up support.
    You will always get some of those decisions wrong.

    UBI is not really a panacea, because there will still be extra needs which have to be met on a more individual, discretionary basis; but it reduces the scope for gaming, misuse and exploitation massively, whilst providing a far better incentive to work than the alternatives. The only real problem with it is affordability, which – as you will recognise better than most – is nothing to do with availability of money and everything to do with political will.

  • Malcolm Todd 27th Apr '18 - 1:25pm

    Oops – that was all rather bolder than it was meant to be!

  • William Fowler 27th Apr ’18 – 1:01pm………….., don’t own a car, depending on which route I take (mostly very nice coastal walk) I have a choice of supermarkets and they are part of my exercise regime of walking 8-10 miles three times a week…..

    Try that with three young kids in tow? Shopping three times a week is not practical for anyone with young children and a single visit carrying a week’s groceries is not on…

    Your remark about prices being the same as in 2002 is simply incorrect…An 800gm loaf has doubled in price (53p to 106p)
    Milk a 25% rise
    whitefish(2002 to 2015) a 55% rise
    chicken (2002 to 2015) a 48% rise

    You must give me the names of your supermarkets…

  • William Fowler, with the greatest respect what world are you in? Being Liberal Democrats we should be in touch with the real world and problems many poorer folk live in. Sadly we failed or worse were perceived to have failed to demonstrate that when in Government and paid the ultimate price despite all the evidence the public gave us, slaughtering of MPs, Euro MPs, Councillors and votes etc. I am beginning to fear that we will not come back and that another new alternative political force is required.

  • Peter Martin 27th Apr '18 - 4:26pm

    @ Malcolm Todd,

    Yes it was rather bold! Look, I understand the problem of a JG too. In the hands of a right wing government a JG could turn into little better than a kind of workfare. We need to be thinking about what sort of society we really want. And what quality of life we need to provide for everyone.

    This is often ignored in the current discussion. There are millions of people currently on benefits whose life is pretty miserable. Extending the idea of welfare to all under the guise of UBI, or even a badly administered JG, we are in danger of extending that misery. There are certainly many who would prefer to live poorly, as long as they do not have to get up in the morning and do any work. There also many who earn a living outside the system in criminal or semi criminal activities. To them UBI will be just some extra cash to spend on life’s luxuries.

    Most people need to feel valued and productive, to live meaningful lives, to support their families, and to be creative by developing their potential. For them a life of idleness on borderline poverty does not seem like a desirable future. Quality of life requires a new way of thinking about work, and also the rewards it brings.

    Unemployment gets worse the longer it lasts. After not too long the unemployed become the unemployable. So if you’re up with your neoliberal economic theory, and know what the NAIRU is, you’ll know that a pool of unemployed labour which has become a pool of unemployable labour is no longer serving its anti-inflationary purpose. Therefore there’ll need to be a continuous creation of newly unemployed to replace the unemployable.

    The top priority in any new policy iniative needs to be directed towards preventing unemployability and a slide into personal despair.

  • Katharine Pindar 27th Apr '18 - 11:37pm

    ‘There are certainly many who would prefer to live poorly, so long as they don’t have to get up in the morning and do any work.’ If that is your belief, Peter Martin, I think you are surprisingly nearly as far from Liberal Democrat thinking, with our belief in trusting ordinary people, as is William Fowler with his extraordinary idea that his leisured life-style is in any way comparable to that of people who struggle to the food banks because they will go hungry else. People go to food banks because they have to, and it is certainly a struggle in country areas, with or without three children in tow, even to get to the place during the times and days when the food bank is open.

    As for the Coalition, Mick Taylor and George Kendal are right, in my opinion, and thanks, George, for reminding us of Osborne’s making no concession on the rate of UC. Whatever the mistakes of our Ministers, whether naivety and inexperience or being a minority there or putting too great an emphasis on reducing the Deficit or all of them, it’s now been three years that we’ve been challenging this callous Tory Government and passing good policies and working our way back in local government. it’s time now to stand up and say we’re a lot better bet than either of these miserably divided big parties which shift and shape-change and WON’T DO WHAT THE COUNTRY NEEDS even though they understand well enough what IS needed.

    As to Universal Basic Income, when everyone who can work not only has work but a decent, lasting. reasonably-paid job, come the Millennium – oh but, I remember that’s passed! – we can perhaps forget about UBI. A bit sad to read though that Finland is going to halt its trial of basic income for the unemployed next year and explore alternative welfare schemes.

  • Kirsten, have you not read any of my articles on poverty? The last one was – https://www.libdemvoice.org/how-can-we-make-sure-families-have-enough-to-live-on-57022.html. I point out that according to the Joseph Rowntree Trust a couple needs £248 a week to live on and a couple with two children £401. They also state a single person needs £144. £4500 a year is only £86.54 a week which would not be adequate for a single person and if set at that rate for children as well as adults would still leave the four of them £54.84 short each week! Where did you get this figure of £86.54 a week from?

    With regard to Universal Credit I took part in the consultation exercise in 2010 and I was supportive of the idea but stated the earnings disregard had to be high enough at least £75 a week and the taper should be lower than 65% I was suggesting 43% and that travel expenses should be taken into account. I also suggesting increasing the Minimum Wage by 3% every year above inflation and suggested it could be £7.34 an hour back in 2010. We should remember that the earnings disregard was reduced in 2015 after the Coalition had ended and has now taken effect.

    There are other huge problems with Universal Credit – it being paid monthly and not every two weeks and having to apply for it online and the preference for interaction only via the internet. Also it should never have been seen as a way of saving money.

    @ Mick Taylor

    We didn’t “do many good things” when in government. We supported a lot of bad things while doing a few good things which either we don’t get credit for because they sound Conservative or which have now been reversed.

    @ William Fowler

    Please can you list what you purchase for £20 a week with the prices you pay?

    Please can you tell us approximately how old you are?

    I hadn’t got the impression you were over 68.

    Please can you tell us in which years you recall seeing people “wandering around who looked like they really were starving or surviving on a diet of gruel”?

    Benefits are not high compared to the past. They have been frozen for years and before that they were increased below the rate of inflation. Even in 2010 they were less in real terms than in 1978.

  • Peter Martin 28th Apr '18 - 7:04am

    @ Katharine,

    A belief in the goodness of human nature is generally valid but we can’t rely on it entirely. It can’t be absolute and I’m sure you aren’t saying that. I haven’t heard you argue that we don’t need the police or prisons etc.

    Anyone who has had three youngsters to guide through their teenage years probably knows the problems. They are quite likely to get themselves into trouble at school and even with the police. They’ll go to parties, drink far too much, smoke questionable substances, pop pills at raves, then roll back home in a dreadful state in the early morning just as you start to thinking you should be ringing around their friends or even the police.

    It’s not that they are bad people but that’s the way many teenagers are. At least mine were who, incidentally, have survived and are all doing well now in their adult careers,. We’ve all done that kind of thing and caused our parents to have sleepless nights. The last thing I would have wanted, though, would be for the State to have handed them several thousand pounds per year each, yes, (@ Malcolm Todd) for doing nothing! I know very well what it would have been spent on! Does saying that make me a Tory? I don’t think so!

    What is far better, for them and everyone concerned, is that they should be given some work and told they don’t have to pay any tax on the first £11k of their earnings . And credit where it’s due to the Lib Dems for pushing for a relatively high threshold.

  • George Kendall 28th Apr '18 - 9:21am

    I often disagree with Peter Martin, but not in this case.

    A universal basic income would either be incredibly expensive, or would mean savage cuts to those with far greater needs, such as families and the disabled.

    If expensive, it would mean we aren’t spending money on far greater priorities, such as early years education, and life-long learning.

    The country will face massive problems with the off-shoring of jobs, and AI replacing jobs.

    I believe to best solution to this is education and training. But it won’t be cheap. And every billion spent elsewhere will not be available to spend trying to help the population prepare for these challenges.

    Thankfully, Vince clearly understands this.

  • It’s incredibly depressing the Lib Dems are a party happy to have people like William Fowler having a say in deciding their policies.

    @PeterMartin. I don’t think anyone is arguing for a basic income to be paid to people who are at school. And the state did fund a whole generation of late teens to go to parties and take drugs with things called student grants.

    “They are quite likely to get themselves into trouble at school and even with the police”

    I think you are going to have to back up the ‘quite likely’ claim with some facts otherwise this is a deeply predudiced comment that wouldn’t be accepted against any other group.

    My comprehensive research (aka the first thing I found on DuckDuckGo!) suggests the numbers of under 18s ‘in trouble with the police’ is very low (about 3000 arrests per year on a youth population of c.200,000). http://www.kentonline.co.uk/maidstone/news/under-18s-arrested-for-crimes-159139/

    I’m happy to be contradicted if you can provide some alternative figures that meet any reasonable interpretation of the phrase ‘quite likely’

  • William Fowler 28th Apr '18 - 12:39pm

    “It’s incredibly depressing the Lib Dems are a party happy to have people like William Fowler having a say in deciding their policies.”
    I joined cos I wanted to stay in EU but as I said before at the moment LibDems are looking like Labour with taxes, a remarkable feat that appeals to the least possible number of people. Unfortunately, my most important bit of advice on solving the problem of low skilled immigration from EU into the UK has been ignored (as far as I know, anyway) and the rest is stuff I really can’t resist meddling in, such as turning us into Zimbabwe with the unrestrained govn spending suggested by many or pointing out how there really is no personal freedom for people by turning them into child-like dependents on the Big State. Or that we have one of the most generous and expensive welfare states in the world as emphasized by the price of food in relation to the amount of benefits received. Absolutely agree that its needs to be reformed, pay people weekly, pay rents directly as before, let people stay in hostels even when they find a job (at least for a transition period), etc, etc

    On UBI (disabled people excepted and housing benefit retained for a period) it is actually affordable if you dismember welfare, pensions and the hugely complex tax system (kids getting half the rate, pensioners twice the rate, £4500 the basic rate as suggested by someone else) and then have a single tax rate – say 30 percent (inc NI) applied to all income, capital gains, dividends and corporation tax (to avoid clever sods avoiding it, ie if you earn 100k you do actually pay 30k not 5k after putting it through a company)… could be standout policy for LibDems and give people real freedom and fairness in the tax system. A good case could probably be made for a 20 percent tax rate in that it will energize the populace into working harder and more innovatively, resulting in a higher tax take overall but I can see the Black Dog taking over the mind of OnceaLibDem at the very thought.

  • Peter Martin 28th Apr '18 - 1:29pm

    @OnceALibDem,

    I’m sure we’ve all been in trouble at school from time to time. In my case, with the police, just a couple of times in my younger days. Mainly in connection with my political activities at the time at demos and other protests. I also used to ride a motor bike and I’d regularly be stopped by the police. They’d check everything for usually some totally spurious reason . Lights, brakes, documentation, anything they could think of. Mostly I was OK, but there was one time……

    All I’m saying is that younger people are much more likely to have these kinds of minor brushes with the law. It’s a long time since I’ve been targetted unfairly in this way.

    I didn’t say under 18’s. That’s your interpretation. Many younger people hang around at home a lot longer now. Paying youngsters, who could still be in their 20s, and not at school, a UBI when they really need to be out at work isn’t doing them or their families any favours at all.

  • It is really nice to see George Kendall and Peter Martin agree on something. A Basic Universal Income is a very liberal idea because it can increase a person’s liberty and give them more life choices. It is for this reason that we should support its introduction. I advocate introducing it at the Income Tax Personal Allowance rate equivalent which is now £45.58 a week.

    @ Peter Martin

    I don’t think your 18 or 19 year old children would have decided to live on this as it is less than the under 24 age Jobseekers Allowance of £57.90 a week. However it might have helped finance their living costs if they went to university or if they did an apprenticeship (as the hourly rate for apprentices is only £3.70 per hour).

    @ George Kendall

    A Basic Universal Income at £45.58 a week would not be either “incredibly expensive, or would mean savage cuts to those with far greater needs, such as families and the disabled”. However, it would be given to people who currently receive nothing and this will need paying for. My suggestions for raising this money are to increase the National Insurance rate to 12% for those earning more than £46,356 a year, extend it to all forms of income and restrict tax relief on pension contributions to the basic rate (these will raise £26.1 billion).

    @ William Fowler

    Your figures do not add up, mine do. Also £4,500 is not enough for anyone to live above the poverty level. We should be advocating that no one in the UK lives in relative poverty.

    I am disappointed you haven’t answered any of my questions.

  • Peter Martin 28th Apr '18 - 4:51pm

    @ Michael BG,

    “It is really nice to see George Kendall and Peter Martin agree on something.”

    Thanks. But, even George can’t be wrong all the time! 🙂

    I’m not against paying apprentices, or university students or anyone else who actually does something useful . They can even go to parties ( @ Once a Lib Dem) and even drink too much occasionally providing they do enough work in-between those parties to not get fired or kicked off their course.

    It’s the U in UBI which I have a problem with. They shouldn’t be universal and they shouldn’t be unconditional.

  • Katharine Pindar 29th Apr '18 - 12:02am

    Once A Lib Dem, what makes you think our party is ‘happy to have people like William Fowler having a say in deciding our policies’? You can see the disbelief from other people writing here, and I am certain his expressed ideas wouldn’t be accepted at Conference. But freedom of speech is a great virtue, and even cuckoos have to be fed. (Sorry, William!)

    @ Peter Martin. I really am surprised, Peter, at the level of delinquency you take for granted in youngsters, based on your own and your children’s experience! ‘I’m sure we’ve all been in trouble at school from time to time’ sounds extraordinary to me. I went on political demos myself, though I wasn’t brave enough to allow myself to get arrested, and the young people I know around here may well try out drugs, but they are not getting into much trouble with the police, and are going on with college courses.

    Personal experiences set aside, I do agree with you that the ‘Universal’ bit of UBI may be questionable. The term Citizens’ Basic Income gives more leeway. However, I suggest it wouldn’t be as useful for young people as restoration of maintenance grants, which I believe is our policy, and perhaps as well Vince’s idea of Learning Accounts to give everyone from the age of 18 a sum to spend on further education or training or (I suppose) an apprenticeship, at a time of their choosing. Perhaps CBI should be available to everyone say after age 30, and Michael has shown how it could be paid for.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 29th Apr '18 - 12:45am

    Katharine, as ever adds much, and here William Fowler is a Liberal Democrat in much said, we should respect his comments as welcome, disagreeing and agreeing often.

  • @ Peter Martin

    I can understand that a member of the Labour Party might see it as being important that people work after all they do see themselves as the party of the working class. However, society in the past and maybe to some extent today finds it acceptable for a rich person not to work.

    According to the latest Labour Force Survey (https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/employmentandemployeetypes/bulletins/uklabourmarket/latest) 8.73 million people of working age are not economically active. I assume this includes students aged 16 and over which I estimate at about 3 million and those who have a health reason for being inactive about 2 million and about 1 million who have retired early. Of the rest about 2.25 million are looking after the family or home. Would you really want all these people to be in paid employment?

    We need to educate society that being in paid employment is not the only way a person can do something useful; that paid employment is not the only way for a person to be valued. This will become an issue of greater importance if we do get into a situation where there is less work for everyone because robots are doing most of the work.

    I really don’t understand the argument that paying everyone £45.58 a week will mean a huge number of people will give up on paid employment and getting the qualifications or training to be paid employment. Even if it was £124 a week I don’t think a huge number of people would choose not to work. If it was £200 a week then quite a few people would stop working – some of those couples who have paid off their mortgage and their children no longer need their financial support and some single people who have no children and have paid off their mortgage.

  • Ed Shepherd 29th Apr '18 - 8:17am

    Job Guarantee schemes are just another name for Workfare. Workfare is just another name for slavery or at least servitude. A job guarantee scheme would just be used as a way to get poor people to work long hours for little money in menial or even dangerous jobs with no chance of moving on in life. Anyone who complained about their working conditions, joined a union or asked for better wages would just be threatened with being thrown off the Job Guarantee scheme and reduced to vagrancy. I can understand arguments for a benefits system and I can understand arguments for basic income but workfare should be opposed.

  • OnceALibDem 29th Apr '18 - 9:45am

    Katherine – has anyone tried to get him thrown out? No. Either the Lib Dems are a LIberal party or they are a home for anyone anti-Brexit regardless of their other views. There is no reason why you can’t be the latter but it won’t be a Liberal party. And you also have Derek Laud (ex Monday Club member) and Rachel Johnson (who as well as her anti-trans comments recently wrote “But when women weaponise their voices it can have devastating consequences, and a nasty climate of ‘guilty until proven innocent’ prevailing.”) so it is a trend rather than one example.

    William’s views are those held by a huge swathe of decent people who were mainstream Tories in most of the Thatcher years or people like Major, Hurd, Patten et al. They aren’t bad people they just aren’t Liberals. A more common example would be Dominic Grieve – referred to here several times as someone who could join a ‘centrist’ pro-EU party. Yesterday he was giving a full-throated defence of Amber Rudd.

    Even in 2015 I was getting up at 5am to deliver leaflets for the Lib Dems. This year I haven’t voted for the first time ever. Maybe I am in a minority of one but at a time when the UK needs a radical and progressive Liberal party it is sleepwalking into losing it.

  • My only gripe with William Fowler is that, from his posts, he is self centred and blinkered..
    He seems to feel that, as his three times a week shopping is done with 8-10 mile walks, that should apply to all.
    He denigrates food banks because grocery prices haven’t risen since 2002 and, anyway, everyone should be able to live on £20 per week:”

    He may vote LibDem but ‘liberal’ he isn’t.

  • Peter Martin 29th Apr '18 - 11:02am

    @ Michael BG,

    “Would you really want all these people to be in paid employment?”

    A job guarantee would be completely voluntary. So there would be no need to change existing arrangements for carers and stay-at-home parents. That said, it’s possible we could move in the direction of recognising that carers and parents are workers too. There could be an allocation of JG hours to replace existing allowances.

    @ Ed Shepherd,

    “Job Guarantee schemes are just another name for Workfare”

    That would depend on the nature of the scheme. A job guarantee should, IMO, be an optional extra to the current JSA. It should be for the public purpose and not, for example, to give the supermarkets cheap shelf stacking labour. Union membership should be encouraged.

    I notice you didn’t say it was ‘illiberal’ The present system of deliberately suppressing the wages of working people using the threat of unemployment certain is ‘illberal’. At least in my view of what Liberalism should be about.

    The term NAIRU stands for Non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment. It’s not a term that politicians and the Governor of the Bank of England (he’s a politician too BTW) like to use when the TV cameras are about. But it does creep into the mainstream just occasionally. See the link below.

    Shorn of the economic jargon it means the Government deliberately targets a level of unemployment. Google the term for yourself if you need convincing.

    https://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/jun/29/bank-england-mpc-trigger-happy-interest-rates-uk-economy-flaky-concept

  • Peter Martin 29th Apr '18 - 11:47am

    @ Michael BG,

    “Even if it was £124 a week I don’t think a huge number of people would choose not to work.”

    It may not make much difference to you and I, but it probably would to an unemployed 20 year old who would rather play video games in his bedroom of the parental home.

    So we then get into a discussion about what age someone needs to be to qualify for a UBI. I think Katharine suggested 30 year olds should qualify. But that would disadvantage many younger people who don’t or can’t live at home.

    The best way to help everyone is to ensure that we don’t hand out money to anyone unconditionally. Except if they are of Royal birth maybe? But that’s another discussion!

  • I do not use terms such as liberal or illiberal because those words have been rendered almost meaningless. Yes deliberately high levels of unemployment and underemployment is used to keep wages down and impose bad working conditions. Workfare or JG would have the same effect and would just be used to supply cheap labour in poor working conditions. Employers would refuse to recognise unions and would victimise union members, as many of them.already do.

  • The logic of those who oppose UBI on the grounds that it turns young people into idle ganga smokers leads to the conclusion that all pensions should be stopped and the children of the wealthy should have their trust funds confiscated lest the elderly and the wealthy turn into idle weed smokers hooked on their Playstation. Not all time not spent in paid work is wasted. I suspect many of the great works of art and the great inventions we have were produced by people who had enough money not to have to stack shelves or shuffle paper from one in tray to another each day.

  • @ OnceALibDem

    There is no test for potential members to take to allow them to join and I don’t think there should be. We assume that a person would only join the party if they agreed with our policies. If a person stands for election as a party candidate we should expect them to agree with the preamble of our constitution and each Local Party should have a procedure to ensure this is the case. However, I am not sure our PPC approval process has this element. I think it is concerned with policy.

    Before you decide not to vote I think you should contact your local candidate to ascertain if they agree with our preamble or if they are just anti-Brexit.

    @ Peter Martin

    One of the reasons that a Basic Universal Income is a liberal policy is because it is unconditional. As soon as the government applies conditions it is imposing its will on the person and so is not acting in a liberal way. It is saying we know what is best for you; you should not have the freedom to decide this for yourself.

    Perhaps there are some young people who don’t see that any paid employment role would improve their life. Therefore it should be the government’s duty to ensure there are good prospects for everyone and no one is left behind. Perhaps there is an argument to have a reduced rate for under 25 year olds as there is for Jobseekers Allowance. So I might be persuaded that single people under 25 only receive 80% of the full amount. However if UBI was set at the relative poverty level then these young people would be living below the poverty line and I am not really happy with this.

    @ William Fowler

    How long does it take you to walk 10 miles and do some shopping while doing it?

  • @ Ed Shepherd

    I think the government should pursue economic policies to keep the unemployment rate below 3%. This would still leave about one million people unemployed and I think that is unacceptable. The only people who should be unemployed are those between jobs. Therefore if I was designing a “job guarantee” scheme the first element would be free training which leads to a proper job; the second a work experience programme to ensure that those who have been trained get some work because lack of experience can hold people back; and the third providing a job which is suitable for the person to ensure they don’t become unemployable. It would be completely voluntary and tailored to the needs of the person. All elements would be time limited, so a person wouldn’t be doing the same guaranteed job for years on end. I think the theory behind the idea of job guarantees states that the minimum wage should be paid which encourages all other wages to be higher than the minimum. It should not be seen as workfare and it should not consist of people doing jobs that are hard to get people to do. There would need to be controls so that employers don’t employ someone on a scheme and once the time has ended they replace them with a new person on the scheme rather that employing a person at the going rate for the job.

  • Peter Martin 29th Apr '18 - 8:34pm

    @ Michael BG,

    I see where you are coming from but it sounds far to idealistic even for my socialist ears!

    I don’t know about you, but if I want my lawn mowing I don’t just hand out £25 and say “Here you are. I’d like my lawn mowed but I’m giving you this money unconditionally. You can, if you prefer, go straight down to the pub and spend it as you like without cutting a single blade of grass”.

    Actually the bloke in question is a decent sort and wouldn’t think of taking the money without doing any work, but I’m not sure if I could trust everyone I deal with on this basis!

    @ Ed Shepherd,

    There’re several flaws in your argument.

    Firstly the children of the rich often don’t grow up into responsible adults. We shouldn’t generalise but at the same time we can’t fail to notice that the present Tory cabinet consists largely of such individuals.

    Secondly, paying anyone £50 p.w. isn’t going to make them rich. They aren’t likely to end up in a Tory cabinet. I’m not against paying them but it should be in the form of tax relief, maybe extra tax relief, on legitimate earned income. I don’t want $50 pw (or whatever) paid to drug dealers.

    Thirdly pensioners have paid their contributions and are entitled to their pensions according to the rules. If they want to spend what is essentially their own money on video games or even the occasional spliff then that’s their choice.

  • @ Peter Martin “Secondly, paying anyone £50 p.w. isn’t going to make them rich. They aren’t likely to end up in a Tory cabinet”.

    If it’s universal income you most certainly will be paying every single member of the Cabinet, including the Secretary of State for Health who was recently been shown to be benefiting from a multi million property development.

    Here’s a fancifuI Daily Mail headline to digest :

    “PM Sir Vincent Cable pays himself £ 50 per week and the same goes for his 90 plus House of Lords chums”..

  • Peter Martin 1st May '18 - 8:49am

    @David Raw,

    Yep I agree.

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