Universal basic income and health – strong support and distinctive concerns from a deprived community in NE England

Jonathan Coates*, Neil Howard, Elliott Johnson, Anne Corrigan, Grace Gregory, Matthew Johnson

*Corresponding author for this work

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Background Universal Basic Income (UBI) has been proposed as an upstream intervention with pathways to health impact by reducing poverty and unpredictability. Microsimulation modelling has suggested significant impact on mental health, but there is also evidence to suggest prospective impact on physical health, especially in terms of ‘lifestyle’ conditions. With increased recognition of the need for prevention, and the Welsh trial of basic income for care leavers under way, there is need among public health policymakers to understand community understanding of prospective impacts and social feasibility of UBI.

Methods The NIHR has funded a series of citizen engagement workshops within Jarrow, Tyneside, in the North East of England. Jarrow sits within the 19th most deprived local authority, South Tyneside, within the UK. Two sets of citizen engagement groups were held in January and February 2023, with 20 participants divided by generation (baby boomer, generation x, millennial and generation z) into facilitated groups. The first set examined implications of local schemes designed for community-level impact; the second examined community-level impacts of national policy. Data were recorded, transcribed and analysed thematically.

Results Data support elements of previous research, but also indicate two findings of importance to health policy. As in recent studies conducted with young people in Bradford (Johnson 2023), there was clear recognition of the potential health benefits of UBI, mainly mediated through a reduction in stress for those in and out of work and increased long-term health-promoting behaviour. However, there was a significant concern i) about the potential for recipients to be victims of acquisitive and violent crime during randomized trials and ii) about UBI’s potential impact on bingeing behaviour and addiction, which is not prominent in the literature. These are crucial concerns, given high rates of crime and drug and alcohol use within low-income communities and their role as social determinants.

Conclusion This study demonstrates the potential public health benefit of cash-based upstream interventions, but also the complexity of implementing schemes in ways that do not inflict harm. There is need for more robust evidence on the role of sudden income increases on short-term, health-diminishing behaviour through crime and drug and alcohol misuse. This highlights the importance of PPI in considering the safety of recipients in design and implementation of trials, especially in communities vulnerable to changes in resource.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberOP31
Pages (from-to)A16-A16
Number of pages1
JournalJournal of Epidemiology and Community Health
Issue numberSupp 1
Early online date24 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - 24 Aug 2023
EventSociety for Social Medicine and Population Health (SSM): 67th Annual Scientific Meeting - University of Newcastle, Newcastle Upon Tyne, United Kingdom
Duration: 6 Sept 20238 Sept 2023

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