Y Pwyllgor Deisebau

Petitions Committee

29/11/2021

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Buffy Williams MS
Jack Sargeant MS Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Joel James MS
Luke Fletcher MS

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Dr Will Stronge Autonomy
Autonomy
Ewan Hilton Platfform
Platfform
James Radcliffe Platfform
Platfform
Lydia Godden Rhwydwaith Cydraddoldeb Menywod Cymru
Women's Equality Network Wales
Sophie Howe Comisiynydd Cenedlaethau'r Dyfodol Cymru
Future Generations Commissioner for Wales

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Gareth Price Clerc
Clerk
Kayleigh Imperato Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Mared Llwyd Ail Glerc
Second Clerk
Samiwel Davies Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor drwy gynhadledd fideo.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 14:01.

The committee met by video-conference.

The meeting began at 14:01. 

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau a dirprwyon
1. Introductions, apologies and substitutions

Croeso cynnes i chi i gyd i gyfarfod y Pwyllgor Deisebau.

A warm welcome to you all to this meeting of the Petitions Committee.

This meeting is being broadcast live on Senedd.tv, and all participants will be joining by video-conference. This meeting is bilingual and translation is available. A Record of Proceedings will be available and published at the end of the session. Aside from the procedural adaptations relating to conducting business remotely, all other Standing Order requirements remain in place.

Item 1 on today's agenda: apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest. No apologies have been received and I welcome all Members to the final committee of the year. Committee members should note any declarations of interest now or at the relevant point during today's proceedings. Clerk, I will refer the clerking team and all those viewing today's evidence sessions in items 2 and 3—panel 1 and panel 2—that Members have already declared interests in the inquiry that is taking place and to refer back to the meeting on 5 November. And I will remind Members, if anything's changed since then, then declare an interest.

2. Sesiwn Dystiolaeth (Panel 1) - P-06-1224 Dylunio cynllun peilot Incwm Sylfaenol Cyffredinol 'Ymadawyr Gofal a Mwy' sy'n cynnwys amrywiaeth o bobl
2. Evidence Session (Panel 1) - P-06-1224 Design a 'Care Leavers Plus' Universal Basic Income pilot that includes a range of people

Item 2 on today's agenda: evidence session for P-06-1224, 'Design a "Care Leavers Plus" Universal Basic Income pilot that includes a range of people'. We do have two panels today. This is our second evidence-gathering session in relation to this petition, so I do welcome the witnesses. I remind witnesses that this is a bilingual meeting and the questions may be asked or answered in both English and Welsh, respectively. Can I ask the witnesses to introduce themselves for the record, please?

Hello, I'm Sophie Howe, I'm the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales.

Hi, my name's Dr Will Stronge, I'm the director of research for Autonomy, a research organisation.

Thank you, both, and welcome to today's Petitions Committee. It's great to have you both here, and I think we'll delve straight into questions around universal basic income and the petition in hand. Sophie, if I can start with you. You've been a long-standing champion of a universal basic income, like myself, I would add. Can I ask why your office has taken an interest in this particular topic? And then, of course, today, you've published a report, 'A Future Fit For Wales', which focuses heavily on a universal basic income, and Autonomy and Dr Will Stronge have had a key role in that. Can I ask why you commissioned Autonomy, as well?

Yes, of course. Thank you. My job is to act as a guardian of the interests of the future generations of Wales and to ensure that our public bodies are applying the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. As you know, the future generations Act sets out a number of key principles, two of which are planning for the long term and preventing problems from occurring or getting worse, and then it also sets out seven well-being goals.

So, looking to the long term, I think there's been perhaps an absence of debate and discussion, not just in Wales, but all parts of the UK, on the changing nature of work, for example, and whether the welfare infrastructure that we have at the moment is fit for the future. So, for example, zero-hours contracts have gone up by about 35 per cent during the course of the pandemic. We know that the whole world of work, since the welfare state was established, has fundamentally changed. We know that many people are working in precarious work and so on, and therefore I think our benefits system is not necessarily fit for the current, let alone where all of those trends will escalate, potentially, in the future.

We also know about the really long-term impact of poverty on the health of the population, on educational attainment, physical health, mental health, on crime and a whole range of areas. And, of course, each of those areas relates back to the seven national well-being goals. And in Wales, about 31 per cent of children, for example, are living in child poverty. And I think that what we tend to do in public policy is try to just deal with the effects of that poverty—so, the ill health, the poorer educational attainment and so on and so on—rather than actually getting to the root cause of it. And therefore the modelling that we’ve done with Autonomy identifies—well, two models, which I’m sure we’ll talk about later. So, two potential models, one of which would halve child poverty—or halve poverty, sorry—in Wales, and one that would pretty much eradicate it. And so, really, the point that I’m making is that this is a long-term investment in the health and well-being of our nation in order to save longer term costs and in order, particularly with children, to give them the best start in life.

And 'Why did I commission Autonomy?', sorry. We went out to tender on this piece of work, really asking the question, ‘What could the benefits across the seven national well-being goals be of a universal basic income, and how could it work in Wales?’, and Autonomy were the successful organisation for that tender.

14:05

Diolch yn fawr for those answers, and I think we will dig deeper into some of the modelling later on, but if I can bring Buffy Williams in.

Hi. My question is also to Sophie. I was just wondering what would be your proposal to expand the pilot, and what are the key principles that underpin your idea?

Well, we think that—. I’m supportive of a care leavers pilot, but I think it is important to point out that that is a basic income, but not a universal basic income. A universal basic income is exactly that—so, it goes to all people. The proposal, really, I think you can model it whichever way you want, but we’ve set out that 5,000 people would be in receipt of a universal basic income, probably in a geographical area, or maybe across two geographical areas, and there would obviously then have to be a control group who weren’t in receipt of the universal basic income so that you could then compare what the differences were in terms of those who have it and those who don't.

The reason why we think that’s important is that it gives you a wider approach to evaluation in terms of identifying what the benefits could be of a UBI to different types of people—so, to older people, to people who are in work, people who are out of work, to young people and so on, whereas, with just a care leavers basic income, obviously you’re looking at one group of people, which, okay, may have significant sets of disadvantages and absolutely warrant these sorts of interventions, but you’re not able to get that wider analysis. I think, however, that it’s a starting point. I’d like to see it go further. I’m sure, again, Will can share his views on the issues around evaluation where we’re just looking at a small—one particular section of the population.

Yes, I would just corroborate what Sophie’s saying, basically, that, when you look at the past trials around the world, whether it’s the Mincome trial in Canada, or Namibia, or all, basically, relevant trials to this discussion, you see a wide range of impacts across different life experiences and conditions. And therefore, if you’re looking at just solely one cohort, you have a limited amount of results that can emerge from that, even if that cohort is a particularly important group for us to look at in itself. So, you might want to be looking at, for example, single parents, you might want to be looking at elderly people, you might want to be looking at impacts on children and their experiences and so on, and those kinds of things won't necessarily be fully captured if you're looking at just one group. So, I would support that.

14:10

Okay, thanks for that. Just before I bring Joel in, I have got a couple of questions on the back of what we've said. Whether it be the care leavers pilot proposed by the Welsh Government today—which I think is quite a bold and progressive step, to have that type of commitment under Mark Drakeford—or whether it be the type of pilot that the future generations commissioner is suggesting in today's report, conversations between UK Government and Welsh Government are pretty key in delivering these. How do you think those conversations with the Department for Work and Pensions and Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, for example, will pan out? Because I note, in your report, you do suggest suspending quite a lot of benefits that are already out there. So, how do you think those conversations will pan out and how does the Welsh Government get around that if they're not exactly successful conversations?

I can start on that, if that's helpful, and maybe Will can come in as well. It's clear that, in order to have a successful pilot, the Welsh Government would need co-operation from the UK Government. The proposal that we've outlined in our modelling retains most existing benefits other than child benefit and the state pension and therefore you'd have to have the co-operation of the UK Government, because what you wouldn't want is the Welsh Government giving a UBI on the one hand and that being taken away in benefits by the UK Government.

So, I don't know—I'm not privy to the conversations that have happened between the Welsh Government and the UK Government. I do know that there hasn't been a particular appetite from the UK Government around a universal basic income. And parliamentary committees have looked at it; there's quite a substantial grouping of MPs who are advocating a UBI, particularly in response to the issues that have arisen in terms of people's livelihoods during COVID and so on. But I do think that the UK Government would need to play ball with the Welsh Government to take that forward.

Yes, I would agree with all that Sophie said. I'm not privy to those discussions, but I think it's our job to make the best case for welfare reform in this regard, and I think we're doing—. The report goes some way to making that case.

One option—which I don't recommend—would be to, for example, run a trial without including those who are using the universal credit system, using the social security system. That would get you some results for certain cohorts and we know that countries have done this targeting certain groups of people. The reason why I wouldn't recommend it, as I think is obviously clear, is that we want to obviously be talking about a whole range of people, including those who are on the current welfare system and how this would impact their lives. But there are options outside of this; it's just you do lose, obviously, a certain set of results that you might want to be looking at.

Thank you, Chair. I'd just like to start by thanking Sophie and Will for attending this evidence-based session. One of the questions I have is about the modelling you've done, and I was just wondering if you could just explain a bit more about that, what are the essential elements of it, and then what do you think of it could be amended, if that makes sense.

It's probably best for Will to pick up on that one.

Yes, sure. So, the way we went about it was that we thought we'd propose two models: one that potentially could be implemented in the fairly short, short to medium, term, and one that is perhaps a longer range kind of lodestar, a target, for Government in their journey to eradicating poverty. So, one's slightly more feasible in the short term; one's slightly longer term.

Now, the way we went about it was to, effectively, be very clear about how our basic income model would interact with the current welfare system. So, we have a very—hopefully, very—clear chart saying that, with our system, we're not looking to replace all benefits. We're looking to replace simply two benefits—that's child benefit and the state pension—and that's because we're replacing the state pension with an increased over-65s basic income, so you're getting about £10 extra on top of your state pension, so we can reduce costs by eliminating the current state pension and replacing it with an over-65s basic income. And the same with child benefit. So, we're getting rid of child benefit and doubling the amount that children would get with a basic income. So, we're retaining the whole welfare system, but with two removed and replaced by higher levels of payments. The system would be pretty much as every basic income scheme is, so, universal—and by 'universal' we mean all residents in Wales. This could be six months or a year; it depends on how the policy is designed. So, all residents in Wales receive a certain payment. Now, children get £40 per week, adults—so that's over-16s, or over-18s, I think it is—get £60 a week, and then pensioners get £175 a week. The idea is that this would be non-withdrawable, and the important thing would be that these amounts would be what we're calling 'disregarded' by the welfare system, so they wouldn't factor into your universal credit or your housing benefit or your maternity allowance calculations, so you don't just start losing it as soon as it gets tapered off by the universal credit system. So, it's important that they're disregarded, and then we basically calculated that for all current Welsh residents at the time of the study itself.

Now, what's innovative about our study in particular is that the gross costs and the net costs are wildly different, and that's because we've modelled it by taxing the basic income amounts that go to every resident, so that means we retain the principle of universality, so everyone gets a basic income, but we also have a principle of fairness, so those with the broadest shoulders receive a smaller amount of the basic income, as it's taxed at a higher rate. So everyone's basic income is taxed at their current tax bracket, basically.

So, if you take away the income tax revenue from the basic income payment, and you take away the abolition of the state pension—it's about £4 billion—and you take away the child benefit—it's about £0.5 billion—you basically take the cost of the basic income—this is our model 1—from £13 billion down to £6.8 billion, basically, so you almost halve it. So, that's model 1, and that's something for which we supply a few different funding options, which we can talk about. Model 2 is basically the same but with higher payments, basically, so we're talking still £40 for children per week, £213 for an adult, and £213 again for pensioners. We basically decided upon these amounts based on the results, basically. So, the effect of model 2, which costs a fair bit more, would be the eradication of poverty, basically. So, these are the amounts needed, and this is why model 2 is less about a short-term implementable model and more about saying, 'Well, look, if you want to eliminate poverty, these are the amounts we are talking about.' And the details of the exact figures are all in the report.

I think that's a first-off summary, but, please, I'd welcome questions.

14:15

Yes, thanks for that, Will. I'll bring Luke in, and then back to Joel, but Luke first, please.

Diolch, Cadeirydd, and, first off, thanks for all the work on the modelling. I think it gives us a good basis to take this debate forward in Wales. I do have a specific question around the wording, particularly with model 1. I'd be interested to know why does this headline as the first and main proposal in the report. My impression of it is that it acts as more of a top-up rather than a basic income. So, I suppose a further question would be: wouldn't that defeat the purpose and diminish the argument for a basic income in the long term? And again, I suppose—sorry, I'm overloading you with questions now, but would you say that that would go far enough, or in reality is the preferred option model 2, which eradicates poverty, rather than just halving it?

So, I think there's a couple of things going on there. I think any basic income model should aim for the eradication of poverty and the covering of all basic needs. That's absolutely part of the purpose of a basic income. But I think, when we're talking about feasibility and deployment, you'll start seeing immediate results with what we're calling 'a modest basic income', which is model 1. So, I think it's—. When we're talking—. The costs of model 2 are around £19 billion, basically, and I think, as we move into the twenty-first century, it's going to become absolutely necessary, as the Institute for Public Policy Research notes, that each state is going to become a higher-spend state. With future economic shocks, environmental, perhaps more epidemiological and so on, that's absolutely going to have to be the case, and there's no better way to shore up people's incomes and the labour market, in many ways, than providing a strong floor. So, I think, ultimately, we are going to have to move to a stronger and more substantive basic income, absolutely.

Model 1 shows us part of the way of that road map, basically, and that's why we treat model 1 as something that could be implemented in the short term, have huge effects on poverty, well-being, potentially employment impacts as well and so on, as we actually put in the report. And I think it shouldn't be sniffed at, to think about half way along the road to a full basic income, the huge transformative effect it would have, basically. That's the compromise we made between the two models. 

14:20

Okay. Happy, Luke? Shall I bring Joel in? Yes. Joel. 

Thank you, Chair. No, it was just a couple of quick questions that I've been thinking about from what you've said, but then also from the previous evidence-based session. I know the chap—unfortunately, I can't remember his name, sorry—that we spoke to last meeting said that, 'You'll never get a UBI trial because most things that are proposed aren't universal basic incomes', and I know from discussions at the Welsh Affairs Committee, I think, one of the witnesses there in their evidence said this isn't UBI, this isn't a universal basic income. So, should you really be looking to call it universal basic income? And I was just wondering if that's one of the issues there, in the sense that I see this very much as like a top-up, rather than a basic income. Isn't there, not like a danger, but isn't there an unfairness to advocate this as a universal basic income, because most people will think, 'Oh, that's—?' Whatever my own personal views are, they might say, 'Well, that's a good thing', but then, ultimately, it's not universal basic income. Isn't there, for want of a better word, like a con there, if that makes sense? 

And then the other question I have then—. It was brought up in the previous evidence base, and you've also mentioned it today, Will, about what happened in Namibia, but it's not mentioned in the report that you've published, and I was just wondering why.  

Sure. So, maybe I'll tackle the first one and then, Sophie, she might want to chime in on that as well around, 'Is this a true basic income?' I think, again, we're partly mixing the idea of, let's say, a full basic income in terms of meeting all needs versus a basic income that is a modest introductory basic income that shows the benefits of an income floor, which can meet many of the living costs and needs of Welsh residents. So, if you think about a family with two children, they would receive, even on model 1, £10,000 extra a year, which goes some way to effectively guaranteeing a certain set of needs for that family. It shouldn't be seen just as a top up that is insignificant; I think it goes some way to becoming a basic income, but I agree with you that, basically, yes, it's not a full basic income as with model 2. Whether that means we should dump model 1 and go straight to model 2, that's an open question. I think, ultimately, the funding would have to be raised over time. That's why we also talk about a Wales future fund in the report as a potential model for long-term funding of a more substantive basic income, absolutely. But I think I should hammer home the point here that many of the targets for a basic income would be met, or well on the way to be met, by model 1.  

The Namibia question—. There are many trials around the world, and since we've actually written this report, a few more have started. We could have, for example, included the Stockton basic income trial in California, which is particularly exciting. We haven't—. There's no particular reason why we didn't include Namibia; it's a really interesting example of entrepreneurship off the back of a basic income, child malnutrition dropping and so on, as I'm sure you know. So, we could have included that. I think it's important for us to get a mix of—. In the report, we wanted to make sure we had countries like the Netherlands, Canada, what happened with the feasibility study in Scotland and so on, because they are also comparable countries to Wales, even though it's important also to draw from Namibia, Kenya and so on as well.    

Okay, thank you. Sophie, did you want to add to that? 

Yes, I suppose just to support what Will said there on the first point, in particular, about, 'Is it a universal basic income, or what exactly is it?', I think that there's something around pragmatism here around moving straight to model 2, although, from my perspective, that is the most desirable model. Any model that completely eradicates poverty has got to be desirable in terms of the long term and in terms of the well-being of future generations. And, of course, there is a multitude of other potential models in between that could be considered, and a multitude of potential pilots that could be considered. We've looked at two, which is sort of a pathway, as Will described it, towards a full UBI.

What I would also say, in terms of the cost and so on, I think if we—. It's been described as our generation's NHS, and if we look back to when Nye Bevan established the NHS, the first budget for the NHS was about £473 million, which is the equivalent of about £15 billion in today's prices. So, I think what we're talking about here is something that is on that scale of ambition, which I think back then people thought that perhaps that was a completely crazy idea and it could never work, and now the NHS is widely regarded enviously across the world, and of course none of us would be without it. So, I think that's the sort of position that we're trying to get to, but also looking at the reality of the situation and looking at how we could plot a journey towards that longer term aspiration of completely eradicating poverty with a basic income.

14:25

Okay. Thank you, Sophie. Will, you wanted to come in, and then I will bring Joel in.

I just wanted to pick up on something, a good point that Sophie made there, just in terms of the trajectory and success of welfare systems. If model 1 can reduce poverty in Wales by around 50 per cent, and child poverty nearly by two thirds—so, 64 per cent—this would achieve something that, effectively, the welfare system hasn't achieved over decades. This would achieve it very, very quickly, and basically transform life overnight. I think that's something that shouldn't—. For the cost, given that it's about half the cost of the price Sophie quoted for the NHS—that's obviously slightly different—I think that's quite significant. One finding I didn't mention was that being able to reduce child poverty to below 10 per cent or just at 10 per cent is precisely the recommendation of the Marmot health review of last year for the targets for countries in Europe or globally—to basically reduce child poverty to that level. So, this would achieve that target in a very short space of time, in a context in which welfare states over the last 20, 30 or 40 years haven't been able to achieve at all.

That's a very interesting point, Will. Joel, you wanted to ask a supplementary.

Yes. Thank you, Chair, and I promise this is the last question, because I don't want to be hogging all this. It was just a quick thing, really, because I note from the report you published—as you've mentioned, you've highlighted examples and you've highlighted the positives, but, when you've come to highlight the negatives, you've mainly focused on the flaws of the study, rather than anything that's been found. Like, for example, with the Ontario one, you mentioned about how, due to the change in political balance, it was withdrawn. You've mentioned about the Barcelona one, and also the Ontario one, as being negative income tax studies, as opposed to universal basic income, but then you've not necessarily—. You've—. For example, with the Finland model, you've highlighted the positives, but you've not necessarily highlighted any of the negatives that might have arisen. So, did these trials all just have positive outcomes, or were there negatives that not have necessarily appeared in your report?

Will, I'll ask you to come in. If you could be brief in that answer. I know, Luke, you want to come in on this. If you could be brief in asking as well. I do want to move on from this one.

Sure, absolutely. In our report, these are summaries of those trials. Any negative results, which—if you dig into, for example, the Ontario trial, the Finland trial, there are individuals who report, for example, negligible effects and so on, but that's absolutely not the broad message, and the overwhelming message and the message reported by the social scientists was incredibly positive. There's an interesting way about reporting the Finnish trial experiment as being negative, simply because it didn't create incredible employment outcomes, but that's not a primary purpose for basic income. So, I think it's important to think about what are the success objectives here: poverty reduction, well-being increase, as well as a stronger social fabric as the primary targets. And those have always been successful in the trials we mention in the report, despite the fact that there are exceptions—and you can find them, but they're in the vast minority.

Thanks, Will. I am going to come onto evaluation shortly, but Luke.

Diolch, Cadeirydd. My supplementary isn't necessarily on what Joel has been asking. In fact, I'm taking it away a bit from where Joel was, for a second. In terms of the location of a pilot, what would be your ideal scenario or ideal location for the pilots? Has that been given any thought at all?

I can go, but I've talked a lot. Sophie, do you want to start and I'll—?

From our perspective, we haven't looked at particular geography, although I think that there are a number of local authorities across Wales now that have passed motions in their councils and so on, and so you would think that perhaps starting with those areas might be appropriate. But we haven't specified a particular geographical location, no.

14:30

Okay, thank you. I think we just managed to pick that up; your connection was slightly disturbed there, but I think we got the message of what you were trying to say. Will, do you want to come in briefly on that?

Sure, yes. I'm with Sophie as well—basically, we do specify that it would be important to have a democratic mechanism for deciding upon the particular regions. We see obvious benefits in both a saturation of sites being rural and urban, so we propose two different sites, one rural, one urban, to at least have that differentiation, and that, for each of these sites, it is as universal as possible in terms of those who receive it, and those who, for example, join that region late specifically don't receive the basic income, so that we have a pure study, as pure as is possible. But the precise locations of them—where the rural, where the urban is—is, we suggest, to be decided more democratically and maybe, yes, starting with those locations that came forth, as Sophie said, would be a good place to start. 

Thank you. There's been a lot of discussion around costs in the report itself, and I often think—and I think this goes for a lot of other policies as well—that we focus a lot on the costs, but we don't focus on the savings that come as a result of the spend. Sophie mentioned the NHS, for example, and, like Sophie said, when that was first proposed, I imagine that there were a lot of people who used the cost argument in arguing against it. My worry is, of course, that the same will be done this time around. So, I was just wondering, in terms of the report itself and the modelling, has any consideration been given to what the savings will be and any rough calculations as to what the savings will be, because we do find more often than not with these sorts of policies, especially ones that eradicate poverty, the savings as a result of that policy often cover the cost, if not go beyond covering the cost, and there's actually a net benefit in the end.

I can pick up on some of that and then perhaps Will could come in. I think that Luke is absolutely right—this, as I see it, is an invest-to-save policy and, to a large extent, we're actually already spending this money many times over. So, the cost—these are UK figures, but—of child poverty overall is estimated to be almost £38 billion; the cost of poverty to the health system is estimated to be around £29 billion. When you look at the World Health Organization's analysis on the reasons for the difference in life expectancy—. And, interestingly, Wales's life expectancy has actually plateaued; it's one of a few countries across the world where life expectancy is not continuing to increase, it's actually plateauing. And so when you look at self-reported health, 35 per cent of what makes a difference in those terms, in terms of the life expectancy gap, is about income insecurity, 46 per cent in terms of mental health conditions is relating to income insecurity, and 40 per cent on life satisfaction. So, if you just look at the kind of potential health savings alone, they could be really substantial.

In one of the Canadian trials, there was an 8.5 per cent reduction in hospital admissions amongst the population in receipt of the universal basic income. In one of the trials in India—okay, a different context, but—there was a 20 per cent increase in the number of healthy birth-weight babies. So, you can see there where these potential savings—. And, of course, birth-weight is a really good indicator of long-term health and so on. So, I think that there are some really substantial issues in the here and now in terms of how our system is perhaps already spending this money, but spending it in a sticking-plaster way rather than getting upfront of the issue.

The other thing that I want to flag, really, is some of these longer term issues, because, obviously, we have this huge problem with poverty at the moment, but there are these issues in terms of what will happen as work continues to change, as there are continuing increases in freelancers in the gig economy, with people in precarious work and so on. So, what we're really trying to do here as well is to try and anticipate what some of those challenges might be and explore some progressive policies like this that will actually stave off some of those problems.

Another long-term trend and scenario that I want to flag that I think is really relevant to this is the ageing population. If we are going to see vastly more people over the age of 65 and over the age of 85, there are some real challenges there in terms of meeting care needs. I think that there's something to be considered; I would really like a kind of pilot to look at what would a universal basic income give, in terms of a floor or income security, if you like, to enable people perhaps who might still be working whilst also trying to care for sometimes children and elderly relatives or what have you as well—what would that give in terms of the ability for people and communities to perhaps meet more of those care needs in the future. That's not taking away from the need to increase provision in social care, but the reality is that, at the moment, the whole system is creaking and we need to find ways of supporting people, more and more of whom are going to be entering into a caring scenario.

14:35

Thank you for that, Sophie. Listening to that from a personal point of view, and not speaking on behalf of the committee, it seems to me that a more bold and progressive step is needed, and perhaps there are a number of ideas that need to come together here. I'll mention a four-day week at this point, because, again, personally, I'm a supporter of that.

I'd just like to pick up on a couple of things that have been said throughout. We spoke about evaluation, and I think you mentioned evaluation in your response to Luke quite heavily about how we evaluate differently, and the well-being of future generations Act clearly helps us with that. As a committee, we're looking at the proposed pilot by the Welsh Government of the 250 care leavers; your two models today are quite significantly a step further than that. Do you see the need for the pilot of the care leavers to go ahead if that's something the Government decides is the right thing to do? Do you agree that would be a good thing to do? Do you think that is perhaps a stepping stone towards where you would like to see a pilot growing? And if that is the case and the Welsh Government do decide to go ahead with this without any alterations, just how important is the evaluation of that particular pilot, and how do we get the right answers at the end of it to see if the pilot is really benefitting the people of Wales?

Perhaps I can answer those more general points, and then Will is the research expert who could talk to the criteria and the approach to evaluation. My preference would be to move in an initial step from the model 1 set out in the report towards the model 2. That said, I think, on the care leavers pilot, we need to understand that it's not an universal basic income. It would be a basic income of sorts, but targeted at a group who are amongst the most disadvantaged in society. So, there's nothing really not to applaud in terms of that as an approach.

I think the big question for me is: how do you gain further evidence and evaluation from such a small group of a particular section of the population in order to make the case as to then whether you move to the model 1 we're suggesting or indeed the model 2? I think that really is the kind of exam question for Welsh Government to answer. I think however that any step towards a basic income and a universal basic income is a useful step, and therefore I would support the Welsh Government in what they're doing, albeit I think it would be much better if they were to go further. 

Thank you for that. I will bring Will in. I just wanted to check with the Clerk—did you get the first part of Sophie's answer? You picked it up. Okay. Brill. Thank you, Sophie. Will, do you have anything to add to Sophie's answer?

I basically agree with exactly what Sophie just said. There's always a danger with a very limited trial that people will claim, 'Well, that wasn't a proper trial of the basic income in Wales; that was just a social experiment for a certain cohort.' I would support a carers basic income with exactly the same caveat that Sophie gave—that if we have a shot at doing a trial of basic income in Wales, the more the better, basically.

I think, when it comes to evaluation, a good place to start, particularly in Wales, would be for anyone monitoring and evaluating a trial to stack up the results alongside the ambitions of the well-being of future generations Act. I think we should pay attention to the trial design that is proposed in Scotland, and also, obviously, elsewhere, bringing in the relevant experts. We'd want to look at things like reductions in poverty, the feeling of economic security as well as the actual numbers on the sheets, increased uptake of education, for example, and increased entrepreneurial activity. We'd want participants to be keeping diaries to get as rich data as possible to really make the most of this opportunity basically.

One thing I would just mention is: the last question was around economic benefits. I think one thing I should mention we do do in the report is also estimate how much VAT would come back to the state in new spending, particularly for low-income earners. So, if you're giving everyone a basic income, you can estimate how much of that money would go back into the economy, spent on goods and services, because lower income deciles do spend more money rather than save money because they simply have to. And, therefore, we can also give some estimates; it's around £280 million that goes back every year into the Welsh—. Well, at least into the economy, simply through redistributing that cash to lower income deciles. So, there are economic benefits, which I think we are the first perhaps to model in the basic income scheme. 

14:40

Okay. Thank you for those answers there. I am conscious of time now, so I will call, unless there's any burning questions from other Members—. I don't see any, no. Do witnesses have anything they'd particularly like to finish on? No. Okay. Well, we'll call this evidence session a day, then. I do thank both Sophie Howe and Will Stronge from Autonomy for being here today. I think it's been a very useful session for us. There will be a transcript of today's proceedings; we will send you that. So, if you could check that for factual accuracy and amend the record if needs be. Just on that point, if there are further issues that you'd like to raise with us, then please feel free to write to the clerking team, and I'm sure we will do the same if we feel there are any questions that we need to help us with our reports in the future. But that's been very useful. So, diolch yn fawr iawn for that. I will close this session now. We will take a short technical break to bring in the next panel of witnesses. If we could return in about seven minutes' time, at 2.50 p.m, that would be wonderful. Thank you, both. Great to see you. Diolch yn fawr.

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 14:43 a 14:51.

The meeting adjourned between 14:43 and 14:51.

14:50
3. Sesiwn Dystiolaeth (Panel 2) - P-06-1224 Dylunio cynllun peilot Incwm Sylfaenol Cyffredinol 'Ymadawyr Gofal a Mwy' sy'n cynnwys amrywiaeth o bobl
3. Evidence Session (Panel 2) - P-06-1224 Design a 'Care Leavers Plus' Universal Basic Income pilot that includes a range of people

Croeso, bawb. Welcome back to the second evidence session of today's Petitions Committee. Again, we're taking evidence on P-06-1224, 'Design a "Care Leavers Plus" Universal Basic Income pilot that includes a range of people'. I'd like to welcome our second panel; please, if you could introduce yourselves for the record, with your name and title.

Hi, I'm Ewan Hilton, chief exec of Platfform.

Hi, I'm James Radcliffe, I'm head of public affairs for Platfform.

Hi, my name is Lydia Godden, and I'm here on behalf of Women's Equality Network Wales.

Thank you, all, for being here; we're very grateful for your time this afternoon. I will remind you that this is a bilingual meeting, and that questions may be asked or answered in Welsh or English. There is interpretation; if you press the globe, if you do need translation, and select 'English', you'll be able to get it from there. That's great.

If we can delve straight into questions this afternoon. If I could ask each of the witnesses, perhaps—if I look at Platfform first and then move to WEN Wales and Lydia—why have you taken a particular interest in the idea of a universal basic income?

Shall I start, then? It just feels like such an opportunity to pilot something that will or could work so much better, particularly for the people we support. We provide community-based support to around 8,000 people a year across Wales, and the majority of those people are on some kind of benefit. And actually, when we talk to our support staff, the trauma that the current benefits system causes people, and the lack of financial security it causes people, particularly when they're starting to recover—. So, when you look at the employment and support allowance parts, you've got the support group and the work group, which are two chunks of the benefits system that you can end up in. The support group is for people who are sick, poorly, too ill to think about work, and it protects them from some of the sanction-style regimes of other parts of the benefits system. The current system offers perverse incentives, really, to stay there, because the minute people start to get better and recover—and if you think about mental health being fluctuating, so it's not always good and not always bad, you're kind of in one or the other of those groups—the minute you get pushed into the work group, the sanctions and the system around expectation suddenly is wrapped around you. And what we find is so many people we support are on that fine line between those two groups, and so financial insecurity and the disincentive to recover and start thinking about work is massive.

And particularly our employment services, I think they support around 2,000 people a year—significant numbers of those don't want to engage in work-focused activity because they fear that the one security they have in their life—the financial security of being in the support group—will get taken away. About 70 per cent of support workers' time is spent on mending benefit mistakes, taking things to tribunal, resetting up claims that have been stopped for various reasons. The potential of a universal basic income to support that group in their journey of working towards a more fulfilled life, including work, could be immense. So, yes, we're really, really interested in it. And I guess our big ask for today is to get the evaluation right, but also, I think this pilot should be extended to adults of working age who are on mental health-related elements of those current ESA benefits. Because at its worst, it's abusive, that system; at its best, it just doesn't work to support people towards work.

14:55

Okay, thanks, Ewan. I've got my own views on the current system, which I won't delve into in this committee, but it seems to me that you're looking at this as a pilot, but with a view to a much more bold and progressive reform of the wider system. Is that—?

Absolutely, yes. I think it has real potential. Obviously, that needs co-operation with Westminster. These are big changes, and I think the evaluation has got to look beyond economic inactivity; it's got to look at savings to other parts of the system, for example, as well as well-being indicators.

If you're looking at mental health, the Welsh Government have just adopted the Warwick-Edinburgh well-being scale for measuring the potential positive impact of mental health services. It seems sensible to be looking at person-centred well-being measures, along the same lines that are adopted in other parts of the system in Wales. I'm sure Sophie had stuff to say about that at the earlier session as well.

Great, thank you for that. James, anything to add there?

I think Ewan's given you a very comprehensive answer there. I'd just add that one of the things we're interested in at Platfform is how existing systems and bureaucratic processes can be retraumatising for people. When you're talking about those processes, the Department for Work and Pensions, unfortunately, is one those bureaucracies that can retraumatise people. We have a lot of people who are extremely anxious whenever they even have an appointment with somebody from the DWP, because they know that if they say the wrong thing on that phone call or that face-to-face interview, they're losing their benefits, they're then in the food bank and they're then wondering where their next meal is going to come from. If you're talking about somebody who has experienced trauma already, whether it was early in their life or recently, that process in itself is retraumatising and it keeps people ill.

Okay, thank you, James. Lydia, if I could ask you the same question, really: why have you taken a keen interest in this idea within your role in WEN Wales?

I think, obviously, at WEN we campaign for gender equality in Wales and to advance women in Wales. Currently in Wales, we have huge issues related to poverty, and women face a lot of barriers in life in Wales. So, I think a UBI pilot is an opportunity to examine—[Inaudible.]—poverty in Wales. I think one of the issues we've really been interested in is the idea that it could reduce the stigma around claiming benefits. So, the current scheme's set-up is you prove you're poor before you get any help, and as Ewan and James have both said, it can be really traumatising for some women.

In addition to this, we think a universal basic income could actually impact gender inequality in a useful way. It could help women leave abusive relationships, which I know is something that myself and Jack are both very, very passionate about. Currently in Wales, women struggle to leave abusive relationships due to financial coercion from an abusive partner. Under the universal credit scheme at the minute, there's a five-week wait for your first payment when you first sign up for universal credit. In those first five weeks a lot of women actually return to an abuser because they, financially, cannot cope on their own. Some women who return to abusers obviously, sadly, lose their lives.

The main reason women can't leave is just due to the lack of financial autonomy. So, we feel that a UBI could give women the financial autonomy they need to leave abusive relationships, but it could also help, you know, unpaid care work, which a lot of women overwhelmingly do in the household. It could also help a diverse group of women. Black, Asian and minority ethnic women in Wales have been impacted by COVID in a drastic way. Also, linked to that, there's the poverty that COVID has inflicted on a lot of people, including disabled women in Wales. So, we really think that a UBI, if piloted in a, perhaps, wider setting, could give some really interesting evidence on how it could impact women in Wales.

Thank you for that, Lydia. That brings us on nicely, I think, to a set of questions from Joel James.

Thank you, Chair. I'd just like to also add my thanks to everyone who's come to provide evidence. The first session, I thought, was very informative, and I think this is one is as well, really.

I know, Ewan, you mentioned hoping to expand the pilot to cover mental health issues, and then, Lydia, about gender equality, and I was just wondering whether I could ask a couple of questions on that, really, in the sense of how you would see—. Hang on, I'll just have a look at my notes. What would be the key principles to underpin your proposals? Also, how would you see the role of the UK Government fitting into that then?

An added-extra question, really, for Lydia is something about—. You mentioned there how it would give financial stability to those in abusive relationships in order to escape the relationship, really, and it was something that we touched on in the previous evidence session about the logistics of that. In these sorts of relationships, you could argue that the man very much controls the finances, so what proposals would you see would be needed to get around that, to give that independence back to women who are being abused? Thank you.

15:00

Thank you, Joel. Lydia, do you want to come in first and then we'll go over to Platfform? 

Yes, for sure. Thank you, Joel; those are really interesting questions, actually. One of the current issues women face on the universal credit system is that payments are made to a household. So, if both partners in a relationship are claiming universal credit, then it can automatically go to one account, and that, traditionally, is stereotypically the man's bank account. What this does is, you know, it doesn't always lead to financial coercion, but we need to look at how we can limit financial coercion if it is happening. I think one of the issues with universal credit is that it allows financial coercion to happen too easily, by just going into, predominantly, the man's bank account or the abuser's bank account.

With universal basic income it's individual, so it goes to each individual, regardless of the household or the relationship status. So, within the intricacies of that, we would need people to have their own bank accounts so that the payment would go into the woman's bank account and not a joint account or anything. By splitting the payments and ensuring that they are split, we're keeping in mind the financial coercion that can occur in relationships and really trying to limit that from the off.

Of course, it's not a silver bullet. Abusers can still take that money, but by actually limiting from the starting point and actually allowing the women to have that money for themselves, it can reduce the likelihood that coercion can occur within relationships. Sorry, the first question I missed, then, because I focused on Joel's question.

That's no problem. Joel, do you want to come back in to ask it?

It was just about the key principles that underpin your proposal. Obviously, you've touched on them briefly. I was just wondering whether you could expand on them, really.

Yes, sure. Obviously, at WEN we're focused on ending gender inequality and violence against women. So, in terms of widening the pilot, I think our reasoning for that would be, at different stages of life, women suffer different barriers. Women and girls leaving care around 18 years old—around young-adult age—face very different structural barriers than women in their 30s, 40s, 50s and so on will face. So, for us, we really want to see the evidence of how the UBI would affect a range of women.

If you just focus on care leavers, you do neglect vast cohorts of other people. If we gave the money to single parents, single mothers or parents with disabled children, for example, we could actually see, 'Well, does universal basic income benefit those children? Does it improve educational attainment?' By just restricting the pilot to care leavers, who are a hugely deserving group in society who need the money, we actually don't really build the evidence base that I think Wales needs going forwards. We need it to be universal, so that if it was implemented in years to come, we would know how it would impact society and women in particular.

I guess the clue for us is in the title. If it's going to be a universal basic income pilot, there needs to be an element of universality—I think that's a word—in the pilot. I think we're missing a trick if we just stick to one group of people. The reason I'm interested, and we're interested, in people experiencing mental health challenges is because, of all of the groups that are claiming disability-related benefits, this is the kind of thing that fluctuates. What we're finding is that the fluctuation of people's wellness does not sit well with the current system. 

If we think about the levels of people on disability benefits for mental health-related reasons in Wales and the level of prescribing in Wales, they're some of the highest in the UK, plus the impact of the pandemic on our mental health and well-being—and that's well documented already—I think we're really missing a trick. So, we'd have to draw a line around the group of people that we are talking about, and whilst we're not always a big fan of psychiatric labelling, we would probably, for this pilot, want to talk about people who had a diagnosis and who were of working age, and then we could compare directly with other regions that weren't involved in the pilot, to see if there were different outcomes. And, for us, we would be looking at economic outcomes, volunteering, training, learning, closer to work and in work, as well as the well-being Warwick-Edinburgh-style outcomes, and then I think we need to be looking at how, within the pilot, we can measure whether people are less dependent on other services, so that you can start to generate more of a case around how other savings might be made elsewhere in the system, which will help us with some of the concerns around what would it cost if we were to do this across Wales.

In relation to the Westminster Government, I don't have the magic answer for how we could make that work—I get that that's a big challenge. Certainly, as a campaigning organisation, we would be more than happy to connect with politicians in Westminster and do everything we can to help.

15:05

Thank you for that, Ewan, and I think one of the things that we've drawn out as a committee over the evidence sessions that we've had, and individuals researching this subject, it's clear that the Westminster Government, the UK Government, and the Welsh Government, do have to have a relationship that is collaboratively working towards this. And if it isn't, then there does need to be a piece of work by the Welsh Government to just see how far they can push the current powers in order to make a valued trial, and I think that's what you're trying to say there as well.

Yes, for sure.

Thanks, Chair. I'd also like to thank you all for coming along and giving evidence today. What I'd like to know is: if the pilot does go ahead, what key elements would you like to see implemented if it is restricted to care leavers?

Okay. I think it's important when we talk about care leavers that we are talking about people who, of course, by definition, have experienced trauma in their lives, so there is going to be substantial overlap. As Ewan said earlier, we would like to see older adults included as well, but if this was going to be care leavers, I think, for me, the important thing would be ensuring that the team that was doing the evaluation of this pilot was independent, and perceived to be independent of Government by those doing the care leaving, and that they were able to develop a long-term relationship with those care leavers, because that's the only way you'd be able to really get into the nitty-gritty of what the care leavers were experiencing on universal credit. Because you're often talking about people with a distrust of authority, people who are terrified of losing their benefits, and no matter how many times you tell them UBI might be a different scheme, it'll take time for that trust to be established. And we also know that people who've experienced trauma very often don't disclose that in the early stages of their relationship with anyone they perceive as being in authority. And, I think, what I'm saying here is that whoever's doing the evaluation needs to be contracted to do a proper job of it, but also to really undergo trust. Because we know that if a care leaver, as a result of receiving UBI, decides to go and do voluntary work, which enhances their own well-being and their own employment prospects, they might be too afraid to disclose that to somebody in the initial stages of an evaluation. What we really need is a long-term relationship with the care leavers, so that they can really truly disclose the difference that it's made to their lives.

And also, for those who aren't on the pilot scheme, who are just receiving the standard package, so to speak, again you need somebody to be able to develop that trust so they can disclose, 'By the way, I'm terrified of my next interview with the job centre and so forth.' Because, again, you're talking about people who have an adversarial relationship with authority, they distrust a lot of people in authority, and they won't be able to tell the difference between a bureaucrat who's employed by the DWP and somebody who's employed by the Welsh Government's UBI scheme and so on. So, what I'd really like to get out of this is to make sure that whoever's doing the evaluation understands the issues in depth and understands the need to develop trust with those who are in receipt of UBI, whether they're care leavers or other people, and look at the well-being indicators as well as the more traditional employment-hours-worked-type outcomes.

Thank you for that, James. I can see a lot of nodding in agreement there. I think that's a very useful contribution for the committee to take into consideration. Lydia, did you have anything to add to that? I think you were having some problems with your connection there. I think your connection may have gone, so on that note, we will move on and hopefully we can try and get Lydia back. But, in the meantime, we'll move on to Luke Fletcher.

15:10

Diolch, Cadeirydd, and, of course, thank you for your time today. I think there's a lot for furthering the debate around UBI in Wales, and hopefully we'll have a lot more opportunities in future to hash out a lot of these details.

I asked in the earlier session with the future generations commissioner about autonomy around costings. Now, of course, I always find that the cost argument is more often than not a bit of a red herring in the sense that we don't include in that sort of debate the savings that can come with the actual initial spend. We know, for example, poverty, specifically policies tackling poverty, more often than not provide substantial savings in other sectors, and I think Ewan alluded to that already in his earlier contribution. I was just wondering—and, of course, this is for both for Platfform and WEN—if you've done any work in terms of what potential savings there would be, if we were to introduce UBI, and if you had done any of those figures as well that you might be able to share with the committee.

I'll probably ask James to jump in, because he's done more of this than me, but ball park, I think around £15 billion on benefits comes into Wales, and I think the initial analysis is this could cost £22 billion if universal credit were to be rolled out across Wales. So, there's not a massive, massive gap in fact. So, I think the red herring bit is important not to lose sight of.

I guess I'd just reinforce what I was saying earlier, that we need to be measuring the reduced impact and demand on other services as a result of this. I would never want to do Platfform out of business, but if our support staff are spending 70 per cent of their time doing benefit claims, and they don't have to do that, we could either not be doing anything or we could be doing something so much more useful for people that really help them move towards more fulfilled lives, including work. So, that's why looking at the whole system and system conditions, and other system indicators within this evaluation, is really, really important.

Yes. My response to that would also be to look at the time that's spent. As Ewan said, some of our workers are spending 70 per cent of their time just dealing with DWP to help them, and my view is, look at the opportunity cost of that. That's time that could've been spent helping somebody recover from a traumatic experience. That's time that could be spent talking about other things in the counselling session other than where their next meal was going to come from, if they were sanctioned. And it's also quite demoralising, I think, for our staff who just want to help people, to be spending all their time having to phone around different organisations and say, 'Actually, you've made a mistake here as well'. They've got better things to do other than that. So, I'd say resources isn't just about the money; it's also about time.

Okay. Thank you for that. And, just picking up from your answers before, it seems that if the care leavers trial goes ahead as planned and announced by Government, or certainly committed to by Welsh Government, that there's an opportunity here as well to test some other things, not just the system of a basic income, in terms of perhaps what I would call kindness in policy making and how we deal with individuals. Would you agree with that, that there's an element of real boldness to help shape an agenda here? Ewan.

Yes. I think so. I think universal basic income is a kind benefit, and you need the system wrapped around it to be kind and compassionate. So, you know we're absolutely alongside you on all of that stuff, Jack. It's a great opportunity to be really thinking differently about how the system supports people.

Okay. Thank you. And, Lydia, I think we have you back now—your connection's back. There were a couple of questions there, in particular: if the pilot does go ahead, and it is restricted to care leavers, are there any particular key elements that you'd like to see? And then, there was an additional question on costs and what thoughts you've given to any savings that would result from the pilot.

Yes. Sorry about my connection. I'm in Merthyr Tydfil and I'm out in the sticks and the connection's quite poor. But, yes, if the care leavers pilot does go ahead and it isn't widened, I think it'll still give us an evidence base. I think what we can do to try and extract the most evidence is actually make the sample of care leavers as diverse as possible. So, we can include care leavers that identify as LGBTQ+. So, how would a universal basic income support members of the LGBTQ+ community in Wales? In addition, how would it support disabled care leavers? So, I think, there are a lot of things we can do by actually targeting specific care leavers. We can then build a bit of evidence on, 'Right, well, within the group of care leavers, more specified, then, within them, how is it going to impact disabled people?' And although obviously—people, care leavers—we can't extrapolate the data for all of society, but by looking at those groups then we can build a more specific evidence base. And I think we would really like to ensure the payments are individual, and that they are split payments, it the trial went ahead, as it's suggested.

And, then, on the cost and saving question, I think, a universal basic income policy would cost a lot of money, there's no doubt about that, so we'd want it to work. But the current—[Inaudible.]—results, a lot of people remain in poverty in the universal credit system; it's not enough to pull yourself out of poverty. And recently actually alarming figures from the Trussell Trust show that those on universal credit still claimed emergency foodbank support. So, use of emergency foodbanks in 2014-2015—there were 87,000 people in Wales using them. In 2021, that had jumped to 145,000 people using an emergency foodbank to support themselves. So, clearly women and people in poverty in Wales don't have enough on the benefits system to live. And studies in Ontario actually showed that 80 per cent of participants noted that their health had improved for having been on a universal basic income pilot. And so, I think there are definite links to the fact that while a UBI might cost—upfront costs—there are actual savings that can be linked then. We can help people with maybe mental health issues or women recovering from domestic violence. And if there are links to poverty and health inequality in Wales, then by targeting poverty there should be a positive relationship then—with less reliance on the NHS, people are healthier. So, I think, there is evidence out there to show that there could be savings in terms of healthcare.  

15:15

Thank you for that, Lydia. Joel, you wanted to come in. Did I see a hand from Buffy as well? No. Joel.  

Thank you, Chair. It was just something that Lydia mentioned, because Lydia highlighted the Ontario example, and it's one of the things I've been reading with the autonomy report that was submitted earlier. In there, they're arguing that it wasn't necessarily a universal basic income in Ontario. It was, if my notes are right here, a negative income tax study, it could be argued. So, how that was geared was trying to get people back into work so that the income would be lowered as your income from your work increased, if that makes sense. And I just wanted your views on that then, because that wasn't necessarily that you gave everyone a basic income to survive on. It was designed to try and get people back into work, and it wasn't then designed, I think, to be long term, and I was just wondering what your views are on that then, if I could. 

Sorry, the connection isn't stable, but I think I did get the question. So, I think what you're hinting at is maybe the working relationship and the fact that a UBI—. Some argue it could disincentivise work. The Ontario project, but many other pilots of UBI or something similar tackling poverty, have all actually shown quite a significant link in mental well-being improving. Public Health Wales also released figures on this, and so I think there is a documented link between—. People's almost opinion of themselves, I think—. It's been hinted at by Ewan and James that it is stigmatised—the universal credit system—and by removing that stigma a lot of people's mental well-being improves. But I think people—. While the universal basic income might disincentivise work, I think we need to be careful, because in some projects people have chosen not to work, but that isn't always a negative issue. There are a lot of women that take on caring responsibilities within the household. And, so with the universal basic income people could actually choose, 'Okay, while I'm not working, I am going to invest in my local community, take on caring responsibilities' but actually have a security blanket while they're doing that—a security network—so they can provide care for their families, but still actually have a base level of income to protect themselves then.

15:20

Thank you, Lydia. Ewan, you wanted to come in on the back of that. 

You turned me off, and I turned it back on again. Just around the incentives to work, and repeating the point I made earlier, the current system does not incentivise people to work when it's mental health related benefits. Because of the complexity of that system, you are rewarded for staying sick and staying in the safe support group where your money's guaranteed. The minute you head out, your rent stops and all that kind of stuff. So, I think there's a counter argument to that. I think there's an interesting conversation to be had about how universal it is, and do we all keep on getting paid it, even when we're on salaries that reach a certain point, I think, which is where you were going a little bit with that, Joel, and whether there's something at the other end of the system where there is a cut-off. I'm not sure I have a strong view or a fully formed view on that at the moment, but certainly something to consider, and for us to think more about. 

Okay. That's really useful. Well, we are coming to the end of the session today. Are there any particular last questions from Members? No. An opportunity for witnesses to say anything they haven't said so far—. 

I just think, in relation to that previous question, it's worth highlighting that supporters of universal basic income have come from across the political spectrum in the past, and the negative income tax has effectively been an offshoot of the different brand name for a similar concept, and I think—.FootnoteLink I'm not familiar with the Ontario experiment, but it might have just been the case that it was easier to pay for it and administer the scheme via their income tax system than it would be for another country to do so, and it delves into the argument about how you pay for it. Do you just give everyone a basic income and then adjust income tax accordingly? So, effectively people who are well off don't become even better off as a result of universal basic income; they just receive their UBI in one week, and then it gets taken off them through an increased tax rate the other week, and that's essentially down to the practicalities.

But for me, I think, the big benefits, whether that be UBI or negative income tax, is precisely the unconditionality of it. If you've got no other money, no other source of income, you're getting some money in that month, which means you don't have to worry about where you're next meal is coming from; you've got something to assist you, if you want to leave an abusive relationship or you're leaving a psychiatric unit and need to get back on your feet and so forth. And because of the lack of conditions, the lack of sanctions, you also create the incentives for people to try to do other things, whether that's voluntary work, caring responsibilities, and people go through different periods in their life. It may be that somebody has caring responsibilities at one time and therefore can't do much work. That doesn't mean they won't look for work in the future, or if their circumstances change. So, why bother creating a massive bureaucracy around that, where everyone has to fit into one nice little box? Isn't there an advantage to doing something differently? 

Thank you, James. Lydia, any further comments or happy? 

I'd just like to say that, I think, with regard to including women in the pilot scheme, it really does have to have a gendered perspective. So, not just including women, but actually a want from those making the policy to really understand the issues that women face, and, again, people suffering from mental illness in Wales. I think, so long as that understanding is at the heart of the policy, then it really will benefit the policy going forwards.  

Okay. Thank you for that. I think it's been a really useful session again. But I will call this session to a close now. I do thank Lydia Godden, James Radcliffe and Ewan Hilton for coming today. It's very useful for the committee to consider, and we will look to report sometime in December or possibly January now, but it's been really useful. I do thank you for the time. A transcript will be sent to you following today's proceedings. So, please, check for factual accuracy, and if anything needs changing, please, let us know, and we will do so. In the meantime, if there are things that needed to be said and haven't been said, feel free to get in touch with the clerking team to add that, and I'm sure we will do the same, if we have further questions we'd be grateful for your answers. That's wonderful. Diolch yn fawr iawn and thank you for your time, and we hope to see you soon in future. Diolch.

15:25

Diolch. Bye bye. 

4. Deisebau newydd
4. New Petitions

Okay. So, moving on, then, to item 4. We have now finished the evidence sessions for the petition on design a universal basic income plus. Moving on to item 4 and new petitions, item 4.1, P06-1212, 'Mark Allen's Law—we want throwline stations around all open water sites in Wales'. And the petition reads as follows:

'Mark Allen, aged 18, drowned after jumping into a freezing reservoir on a hot day in June 2018. In May 2019 we watched whilst 3 throwlines were installed where he died. Mark could have possibly been saved if they were in place beforehand.'

The additional information adds:

'We, Mark's family and friends, feel that it should be law that throwlines like those placed where Mark died should be placed in designated places around every reservoir, lake, canal etc. Speaking to people who work in water safety, e.g. fire services etc., such throwlines have saved many lives. We want to save lives and save people from going through the heartbreak and tragedy of losing someone they love to drowning. Plz help us make a positive difference in Marks memory. Thank you, Mark's family and friends.'

And that petition was submitted by Leeanne Elizabeth Bartley, with 11,027 signatures. And I can tell committee members that I have met with the petitioner on 19 November, which was a very emotional and powerful meeting, and I think the words of the petition in particular put exactly what the petitioner wants to achieve. They want to save lives and save people going through the tragedy and heartbreak that, sadly, they went through. I do think there's a piece of work for the committee to do with this particular petition. I understand it may be challenging to look at all open water sites within Wales, but I do think the Petitions Committee can take evidence in looking at publicly-funded open water sites to be a good start. 

Another key point from that meeting was the need for the petitioner, and the want from the petitioner, to make sure that the offer is proactive for throwlines, and risk assessments are taking place at/around open water sites. So, I think, as a way forward for the committee, I would like to suggest to the committee that we do look at some detailed work around this particular petition. We will bring in Water Safety Wales, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, Natural Resources Wales and perhaps some other families who have suffered similar tragedies on this, and, again, considering the number of signatories this has, perhaps we'll look to debate the issue, once we've gained some evidence. 

So, if I could ask Members if there any further comments, or if they are in agreement with that way forward. I can see nodding, so, if we can take that forward, Clerk, that will be great. And, again, I'd like to thank the petitioner for the time they spent with me on 19 November; a truly powerful meeting, and I thank them for what they're doing and their bravery for coming forward on this issue. 

Item 4.2, P-06-1217, 'Open Long Covid one stop medical hubs / clinics.' 

'There are 1,000s of people suffering from long covid who are not getting any medical help. We feel ignored and helpless. Our lives have been decimated.'

This was submitted by Lawson Webb, with 1,214 signatures, and I'd like to invite Members to discuss this petition. And I'll bring Joel James in.

Thank you, Chair. I've been reading through the document about this now, and it looks like the petitioner has expressed concerns about whether or not the Welsh Government conforms to the new National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines. And I was wondering whether or not it would be possible, maybe, that we as a committee could write to the Minister to seek further clarification on this, then, about the NICE COVID-19 rapid guideline—I think it's 'managing the long-term effects of COVID-19'. I think that's something that, as a committee, we could look at, just to see what the latest is on that, really. 

15:30

Diolch, Joel. And I can see agreement from Members with that proposal, so we will—. Joel, you wanted to come in.

Yes. And also, sorry, just to go through it, and then whether or not— to see if it is the intention of the Welsh Government to introduce these one-stop medical hubs then as well.

I don't see any objections to that, so I think we can certainly add that to our letter to the health Minister in the Welsh Government.

Item 4.3, P-06-1218, 'Notify all 18-year-olds who have been under social care the right to request their personal information'.

'Everyone who has been in the care of social services should be told of their right to request their personal information by social services when they turn 18. Reviewing papers years and years after the event can have a significant detrimental effect on a person's well being and families.

'Every person has human rights and should be informed about the right to view their file.'

This was submitted by Victoria Pritchard, with 260 signatures. I will invite members of the committee to discuss this petition, and I'll bring Luke Fletcher in.

Diolch, Cadeirydd. Looking at the Minister's response, it doesn't seem to me that she addresses the call for there to be a duty to notify individuals of their right to access their files once they turn 18. So, based on that, I would like to suggest that we as a committee write back to the Minister to ask how the Welsh Government can ensure each young person is informed of this right, and of course what Welsh Government and others could do to raise awareness of this right as well.

Okay. Thank you for that suggestion, Luke, and I can see we have agreement with that suggestion.

Moving on, item 4.4, P-06-1219, 'Install a commemorative statue of African-American singer Paul Robeson in the Valleys'.

'Paul Robeson was an African-American singer & actor who came to have a love for Wales & its mining communities. He supported Welsh miners with proceeds from his concerts to their striking relief fund & toured Wales, singing in Cardiff, Neath & elsewhere to raise funds for miners.

'Whilst he was subject to segregation in the U.S., he described the reception he received in Wales as warm beyond'—

and I quote—

'"all bounds", and said that Welsh mining communities had'—

quote—

'"shaped" his life.'

This was submitted by Morgan Paulett, with 404 signatures, and I will bring committee members in to discuss this petition. Buffy Williams.

Thank you, Chair. Firstly, I'd like to thank the petitioner. I can see that the Deputy Minister concerned has made the Welsh Government's position clear on this, and the petitioner has actually accepted that. So, I'd like to ask the clerking team if they could send the information from the research services regarding seeking funding for the statue, and I'd like to thank the petitioner again, and I think we can close this petition then.

Thank you, Chair. I'd just like to echo what Buffy said there then. I think this is a fantastic idea, but, as we've seen, Welsh Government doesn't necessarily get involved in this, and it falls to either local groups or even local councils to be involved. And I definitely think, Buffy, it's a good idea there to give them advice then on how to do that—I think that's perfect.

Thank you for that, Joel. I can see nodding from Luke. I too agree with that way forward. And in a personal opinion, it would be great to see a statue of someone who supported the miners who were on strike, as a proud trade unionist—I think it would be wonderful to see that. So, I wish Morgan and those campaigning for that every success in the future.

Moving on, item 4.5, P-06-1221, 'Reject plans for the Wentlooge Farmers' Solar Scheme, a solar farm on the outskirts of Marshfield'.

'This plan intends to develop a 152 hectare solar farm on the Gwent Levels, a Sight of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Unique in it's habitats and biodiversity.

'Plans should be rejected for the negative impact they will have on the environment and the habitats of rare species. Also for the negative impact they will have on the living environment of local villagers.

'We call upon the Welsh Government to consider less environmentally valuable sites to meet their renewable energy pledge.'

And this was submitted by Helen Rowena Colvin, with 122 signatures. I invite Members to discuss this petition. Joel James.

15:35

Thank you, Chair. I suspect—. Since the petition was launched, the Minister has intervened on the application and has refused it. So, I think we could close this and congratulate the petitioner, really, on a successful outcome. Hopefully, the petition, I think, would have had an impact on that, which I think it would have, and I think that would have been a good result for everyone involved.

Thank you, Joel. Again, yes, I agree. I think this always shows that a petition, and just raising a petition at the Senedd's Petitions Committee, does raise the profile of issues locally and is of course worth doing and this is a shining example of just that.

Item 4.6, P-06-1223, 'Prepare a bid for Wales to compete in the Eurovision Song Contest'.

'Wales is known around the world as “The Land of Song”, and we have a rich culture of music and performance which is recognised and celebrated internationally. Wales should have the opportunity to be represented at Eurovision as a nation in its own right. Therefore, we call on the Welsh Government to work with S4C and other relevant bodies to prepare a bid for Wales to compete in the Eurovision Song Contest.'

And this was submitted by Lewis Owen, with 1,257 signatures. And I invite Members to discuss this petition. Luke Fletcher.

Diolch, Cadeirydd. I think Wales has got a lot to offer when it comes to our musical talent and whilst, personally, I don't watch the Eurovision song contest—which is going to probably be a scandal now in The Western Mail tomorrow—I would like to see Wales have its own entry in the song contest. It's disappointing—despite Creative Wales developing an action plan for commercial music in Wales, it's clear from the response that we've received from Welsh Government that it's not really on the agenda for them. And I'm struggling to see where we can take this as a committee as well. So, on that basis—. Although I am very tempted to ask the Chair to go on a fact-finder for us, but I think he's in the same boat as me—maybe Buffy or Joel might want to take his place on that. But perhaps, in this instance, I think we should definitely thank the petitioner and close the petition.

Thank you. Diolch yn fawr, Luke, for that. And yes, I tend to agree with that, but I will never rule out a duet with the Member, if one needs to be.

5. Y wybodaeth ddiweddaraf am ddeisebau blaenorol
5. Updates to previous petitions

Moving on to item 5 on today's agenda, updates to previous petitions.

Item 5.1, P-06-1181, 'Sea bottom trawling is killing our marine wildlife...Stop bulldozing our seas!' And that was submitted by Robert Curtis, with 205 signatures, and I will invite Members to discuss this. Buffy Williams.

Thank you, Chair. I'd like to thank the petitioner and also I can see that we've had confirmation from the Climate Change, Environment and Infrastructure Committee that they're going to be exploring the issues raised by the petitioner during evidence sessions with stakeholders in December, so I'm really pleased with that. So, with that in mind, I'd like to thank the petitioner and then close this petition.

Thank you, Chair, and I agree with Buffy there, in the sense that the climate change committee is looking at it and there's no sense in duplicating work, but do you think we should wait to see what they say before closing it? I don't mind whatsoever, really. It's up to the rest of the committee—I don't mind closing it, or if we just want to see what they say and then close it, if it's positive for the petitioner. I don't know.

Luke, any particular input? My own opinion would be to agree with Buffy on this particular matter. I think the clerking team of the climate change committee would keep them well informed. I don't see the route of what we can do, but I'm happy to take—if Luke, you have a view, and we can—.

Yes. Sorry, Chair. I don't see the point in us doubling up the work. I think you're right—I think the climate change committee will be looking at it and their clerking team can take up the case. I don’t see the point in us doubling the work on that, so I would agree with Buffy’s suggestion.

15:40

Okay. Thank you, Joel. Thank you, Buffy, and we will take forward and congratulate the petitioner. And, obviously, the climate change committee, we’ll keep them fully informed, and I would suggest that they take an active role in seeking evidence and the inquiries they take forward too.

Item 5.2, P-05-1097, 'Ban game bird cages', and this was submitted by the League Against Cruel Sports, with 5,287 signatures. I do note that this has come to committee a number of times now, and I would like to invite Members to discuss this petition, bringing in Luke Fletcher first.

Diolch, Gadeirydd. On this point, I understand it has come to committee a couple of times now, but I would be interested, though, if we could write back to the Welsh Government one last time to seek specific responses to the concerns and questions raised by the petitioner. I’m sure other Members agree, but whilst I broadly welcome the animal welfare plan, there are some issues in there that I’d like to see a bit more work on. I think Members are quite aware of my opinion on greyhound welfare, for example—I think there’s a lot more work that needs to be done there. But I think it is welcome, of course, that there is a consultation on the code of practice for the welfare of game birds reared for sporting purposes. But in this instance, I would just like to write to Welsh Government one last time to seek a specific response. But, of course, based on the response there, I would be minded in future, potentially, to close the petition, because I think we have done everything we can on this petition, but I would like just one last-ditch attempt to get something out of them.

Thank you, Chair. Just a couple of things. Firstly, just for transparency’s sake, and I know I’ve highlighted before when we’ve mentioned this, I’m a member of BASC, which is the British Association for Shooting and Conservation. I’ve been doing a little bit of research on this, and I think—the clerk might be able to provide an idea on this—but I think there’s a Bill that’s been progressing in the House of Lords to look at specifically this and, if it does receive Royal Assent or consent, it would cover England and Wales. I was looking at the thing now, and it’s been proposed by Lord Randall of Uxbridge, and the Order was printed on 10 June 2021. So, it would,

'prohibit the use of raised laying or battery cages to keep certain game birds for the purpose of producing eggs; to set minimum space requirements for enclosures for such birds; and for connected purposes.'

So, I don’t necessarily know if that’s linking with what this petitioner is campaigning for as well, or whether or not there’s any scope of this committee influencing the Bill process in the House of Lords. I don’t know. But I just wanted to highlight that, really. It might be something for us to expand our scope, really, for more information on what the Bill is being proposed for in the House of Lords.

Thanks, Joel. There's been a suggestion by Luke to write to Welsh Government that last time. I’m sure we could, perhaps, include that within the letter to the Welsh Government and perhaps highlight to the Welsh Government that they might want to influence the House of Lords Bill that you were talking about there as well. I’m sure we can highlight that in our letter to the Welsh Government and do it that way. Everyone agree? Yes. So, we're in agreement there.

Item 5.3, P-06-1183, 'Implement a 20MPH speed limit 100 metres either side of the new pedestrian crossing in Glan Conwy', and this was submitted by Daniel Worsley, with 85 signatures. And I can tell Members I had the pleasure again, on 19 November, to visit Glan Conwy and meet the petitioner, Dan, alongside the former Chair of the Petitions Committee and Member for Aberconwy, Janet Finch-Saunders. A fantastic visit. It’s good to get out to north Wales. We set a vision for the committee to do so and reach every corner of Wales, and this is just the start of that.

I must say, the petitioner and the local Member were thrilled—I think that's the right word—that they actually had the crossing put in place, and there was lots of praise for the former transport Minister, Ken Skates, for delivering on that requirement of the community. But there was an indication from the particular petitioner that there are still some people nervous and complaining, perhaps that the road crossing itself isn't identifiable, or perhaps ignored by some. So, when we had a discussion of where to take this forward, there was genuine concern there, but the discussion was that some well-lit road signs or those that light up when you drive towards them, reminding visitors or those local residents that there is now the pedestrian crossing there, may aid, obviously, in its ambition. And, again, they queried whether it's within the Welsh Government's powers to make it a 20 mph road within 2023, and that question still remains.

But I think, as a committee, we can write, actually, to Conwy council as the local authority, and perhaps we could copy that letter to the local town and community council as well, and ask them if they could arrange a visit to the site and consider what additional measures could be put in place to calm traffic and alert them to that pedestrian crossing. But I must say, there was real praise for the Minister for delivering on that initial pedestrian crossing, and hopefully, with some additional signs, it will certainly do the job that it's intended to. Just finally from me, it was really important on that visit, because it was a well-used pedestrian crossing, and it was great to see a young set of school children—our future generations—using that crossing. So, I do think we should commend the Welsh Government there for implementing that, and hopefully Members agree and we can send those letters off and see where we get to. But it was fantastic to visit Dan and the former Chair of this committee, Janet Finch-Saunders, in Aberconwy. Members are in agreement with that. Wonderful.

15:45
6. Papur i’w nodi
6. Paper to Note

Item 6, papers to note. It's my letter to the Business Committee regarding the changes of the signature threshold that we discussed in the previous committee, on 5 November. Are Members happy to note? I see they are. 

7. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(ix) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o eitem 8 y cyfarfod.
7. Motion under Standing Order 17.42(ix) to resolve to exclude the public from item 8 of the meeting.

Cynnig:

bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o eitem 8 y cyfarfod, yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(ix).

Motion:

that the committee resolves to exclude the public from item 8 of the meeting, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix).

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

Moving on to item 7, then, and this does conclude today's public business. We will now go into private session. We will consider the evidence we've heard on a universal basic income, and discuss how we take the work forward in terms of a report.

I do propose, therefore, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix), that the committee does resolve to meet in private for item 8. Are Members content? They are.

Before I close the meeting, I just want to say that this is our final meeting of the year, and the next committee session and when Members will meet will be on 10 January 2022. I'd like to thank Members in particular for all their hard work to date, and I'm sure we've got another hard year, moving forward. I'd like to thank everyone who's taken forward and taken part in the petitions process to date, and we look forward to working through them. And I would like to thank our wonderful clerking team and teams behind the scene who do all the hard work behind the scenes for us, and they do deserve the credit, much more than the Chair and Members who get the plaudits. So, diolch yn fawr iawn, all. Thank you for all your support and help through that. I wish everyone, as a Grinch myself, a merry Christmas and a peaceful new year, and I look forward to working with you all next year to forward the Petitions Committee's work and hopefully make a positive impact on the people of Wales. Meeting closed. Diolch yn fawr.

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 15:49.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 15:49.

James Radcliffe wishes to note that a better way of expressing his statement would be: 'Negative income tax is effectively a different brand name that encompasses similar principles to the concept of basic income.'