Policy Research in Macroeconomics

From Universal Basic Services to the Social Guarantee

The Social Guarantee (SG) is an initiative hosted by PRIME to stimulate wider interest in Universal Basic Services (UBS) as a framework for policy and practice, to ensure that everyone has access to life’s essentials. Since our last update in February, the SG team has been busy working towards three strategic goals: to get the Social Guarantee on the agenda through public and political debate, to create alliances and networks, and to build knowledge through research.

Framing the Social Guarantee

An early task was to develop a new frame for UBS, one that is more digestible and appealing. After a few weeks of dialogue and testing, we developed the Social Guarantee. This is a guarantee that everybody’s fundamental needs will be met. All of us have a right to basic services, to healthcare, housing, transport and more. These needs should be met through the collective provision of public services, and through ensuring a living income for all.

Getting the Social Guarantee on the agenda through public and political debate

We outlined this idea in our launch event at the start of July with a line-up of outstanding speakers: Ann Pettifor, PRIME Director and author of The Case for The Green New Deal; Kate Raworth, creator of Doughnut Economics; Georgia Gould, Leader of Camden Council; Chaitanya Kumar, Head of Environment and Green Transition at the New Economics Foundation; plus a surprise guest appearance by Sir Professor Michael Marmot, Professor of Epidemiology at University College London, Director of the UCL Institute of Health Equity.

We have built a website displaying research on UBS and the Social Guarantee produced by the SG team and others, videos from events, a blog and information about the initiative. As well as our own blog and social media outputs, we have been publishing articles for news outlets such as the Guardian and Open Democracy as well as blogs for organisations such as the Women’s Budget Group and Labour Hub.

We have appeared on several podcasts including Ed Miliband’s Reasons to be Cheerful, Poverty Unpacked and the Post-Capitalist Podcast, and taken part in events and conferences nationally and internationally, including the Wales Institute for Social and Economic Research (WISERD),  Bristol Ideas, Forum for a New Economy and the ISEE ESEE Degrowth Conference. The Social Guarantee features In the latest report from the Club of Rome and partner organisations, 1.5 Degree Lifestyles: Towards a Fair Consumption Space for All (chapter 6).

Through conversations with MPs Caroline Lucas and Clive Lewis and campaigners for a Green New Deal, we’ve been working to ensure that the latest version of the ‘Decarbonisation and Economic Strategy Bill’ – more commonly known as the ‘Green New Deal Bill’ – includes a strong social pillar reflecting the SG framework.

In October 2021 we launched our newsletter which will explore different areas of the Social Guarantee each month, starting with housing. You can see our brief video exploring what a Social Guarantee in housing could involve as well as relevant publications here. You can also sign up to receive future newsletters here.

Creating alliances and networks

We have been in talks with think tanks, policy makers, campaigners, local and national politicians across the country discussing the Social Guarantee framework and how it can be used to develop a new post-pandemic, environmentally sustainable social settlement.

We have embarked on a project with trade unions to open up a dialogue with front line workers in care, transport, and housing to explore the interests, ideas and experience of people who work in these sectors, and to build alliances that enable us to work together to develop and disseminate this agenda. Following on from this, we are planning to work with local authorities who are pioneering the SG approach to meeting local needs.

Building knowledge through research

We’ve written and contributed to several publications since February 2021 including: a paper on how UBS can support sustainable consumption; a paper for Public Services International on why public services should serve as the bedrock for a post Covid-19 recovery; a paper with the New Economics Foundation outlining why how delivering a Social Guarantee could raise living standards, generate good jobs, and support with a just transition; and a paper for the Women’s Budget Group which places the meeting of needs at the centre of all economic, social and political activity in order to revitalise communities in a way that enables a low-carbon, gender equal future.

Our series of discussion papers on the Social Guarantee was launched in October 2021. This explores different concepts and questions concerning the Social Guarantee starting with what we mean by ‘universalism’. You can view that series and all our publications on our website here

The Social Guarantee project is funded by Network for Social Change, Polden-Puckham Charitable Foundation, and the Barry Amiel & Norman Melburn Trust.  Since launching in July, it has gone from strength to strength. With the support of PRIME, we are working hard to get the message across that access to life’s essentials is a right, not a privilege.

Sign up to our mailing list and follow us on Twitter to keep up with our progress!

Maeve Cohen is a campaigner and organiser working to build inclusive economies that serve people and planet. She is Project Lead at the Social Guarantee and a Non-Executive Director at Positive Money. Maeve co-authored a paper for the Women’s Budget Group and Women’s Environmental Network on a Feminist Green New Deal and continues produce independent research for this project. During her undergraduate degree Maeve co-founded Rethinking Economics, an international, student-led campaign to reform economics education.

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