NEW RESEARCH led by Northumbria University has found that a Basic Income scheme could potentially save the National Health Service (NHS) tens of billions of pounds.

Researchers at the Universities of Northumbria, York, Bath and Strathclyde, in collaboration with think tanks Compass and Autonomy, have presented groundbreaking evidence on the role that Basic Income can play in dealing with our public health crisis.

A new report, Treating causes not symptoms: Basic Income as a public health measure uses a range of economic and health modelling, public opinion surveys and community consultation to present cutting-edge evidence on the impact of Basic Income schemes.

A basic income is a regular and unconditional cash payment to all individuals, designed to reduce poverty, enhance economic security and improve overall well-being.

As a result of these potential benefits, researchers have looked at the knock-on effects for the economy and public health.

Economic impact:

  • Even a more ‘modest’ basic income scheme (£75 a week, £3,900 a year) would reduce child poverty to the lowest level since comparable records began in 1961 and achieve more at significantly less cost than the anti-poverty interventions of the New Labour governments.
  • Child and pensioner poverty down by at least 60 per cent each.
  • Working age poverty down by between 29 per cent and 75 per cent depending on the scheme
  • Inequality down 55 per cent to the lowest in the world under the most ambitious scheme.

Public health impact:

  • Between 125,000 and 1 million cases of depressive disorders could be prevented or postponed.
  • Between 120,000 and 1.04 million cases of clinically significant physical health symptoms could be prevented or postponed.
  • Between 130,000 and 655,000 quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) could be gained, valued at between £3.9 billion and £19.7 billion.
  • Based on depressive disorders alone, NHS and personal social services cost savings in 2023 of between £125 million and £1.03 billion assuming 50 per cent of cases diagnosed and treated.

Through new polling, the report also found that the British public prefers a more generous Basic Income scheme, that significantly reduces poverty and inequality and improves physical and mental health. They want to fund those schemes through new wealth and carbon taxes and increased corporation taxes, but also view small increases in income tax as tolerable.

Matthew Johnson, Professor of Public Policy at Northumbria University, and the project lead, said: “The findings of this report are clear: there is no obvious alternative to Basic Income that has the same multipurpose impact across society.

“These first indications of public health impact are debate shifting, while evidence on British public opinion present clear pathways to funding through wealth, carbon and corporation tax increases. This should encourage administrations, such as in Wales and Greater Manchester, which have expressed support for policies like this.”

Kate Pickett, Professor of Epidemiology, University of York, and co- author of The Spirit Level, said: “Given decades of measurable failure, it should be clear that people in local communities affected by poverty, insecurity and lack of opportunity are the authoritative voice on what they need to enhance their health and wellbeing. We need to listen to their expressed needs and lived experience and create policies that support them to flourish.”

Dr Jonathan Coates, a GP in Newcastle upon Tyne and National Institute for Health Research In-Practice Fellow, Durham University, said: “As a GP, I increasingly find that my patients are in financially precarious positions, regardless of whether they are in work or on benefits, and this has a clear impact on their physical and mental health. Basic Income represents an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of previous bold interventions to address the causes, not the symptoms, of illness.”

The research was funded by the National Institute for Health and Social Care Research.

* Read Treating causes not symptoms: Basic Income as a public health measure here.

* Source: Northumbria University