This article discusses domestic abuse. Click here for a link to a government page that can direct victims, or those who may feel uncomfortable reading this article, to organisations that may support them.
There is no shortage of Universal Basic Income (UBI)-centric discussion among Liberals. From Renaissance thinkers like Hobbes and Locke to contemporary political parties like the Liberal Democrats, Greens or Scottish National Party, UBI is generally supported. UBI is a social security scheme rivalling the existing Universal Credit, where all legal residents of a country get a set sum of money at regular intervals with no strings attached - regardless of demographics.
YouGov (2020) reported that 51% of the UK public supported a UBI. While their views may have been guided more by the onset of COVID than by an ideological backing of the scheme, the support makes sense.
Attractive arguments can be made with relative ease: obliteration of poverty, financial safety nets for all people, fairness across demographics, the simplification of social security. This begs the question of why UBI hasn’t been implemented yet – a question I won’t address in this article.
Instead, I will direct attention to how UBI can reduce domestic abuse. Dedicated organisations, health experts and victims have created troves of insightful and moving articles and reports on the topic. If you are comfortable doing so, I strongly recommend you read them. So instead of discussing domestic abuse in its vast and complex entirety, I will focus on one element - financial abuse.
Refuge published an Economic Abuse Report in 2020, estimating that 8.7 million were victims of economic abuse. Nota bene, economic abuse differs from financial abuse, as it is a larger umbrella term, covering material deprivation.
So what is the link to a UBI? As your intuition may suggest, a UBI would remove the financial reliance victims have on their abusers. Severing this link would mean that victims can financially support themselves in the short term, say, rent a hotel room for a few days, while sorting long-term accommodation. Individuals can then pay back debts, which the Refuge report cites as a mechanism to tie people to their abusers. Eventually, victims can begin to have financially sustainable lives and break free of the vicious cycle they live in.
Of course, it’s not as easy as giving everyone free money and expecting financial abuse to disappear. As many critics of UBI proclaim, it can be exploited, and indeed, it is intuitive that those willing to financially abuse others are similarly willing to exploit their partners’ UBI income.
Yet a system where any UBI recipient can walk into a bank or government agency to collect their UBI income would mean that, as long as victims can get to these points of contact, they can reliably gain access to UBI - with a law making it impossible to collect UBI on behalf of a spouses. In brief, there are tools we can use to make sure that exploitation doesn't occur.
Domestic abuse cases are on the rise, while charging rates for alleged perpetrators is decreasing. UBI would prove an innovative way to fight domestic abuse, and could transform lives for victims. A strong argument which should give momentum to the pro-UBI lobby.
As a UBI advocate, Ulysse enjoy discussions about the model, to promote awareness and navigate ways to improve its effectiveness. Want to learn more about #UBIwithUlysse? Contact him here.