Policy Research in Macroeconomics

Universal Basic Services – news from the project taskforce

The UBS Task Force, hosted by PRIME and supported by Network for Social Change, aims 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.  The Task Force has ten members (see below) and three strategic goals: to get UBS on the policy agenda, to build alliances and to generate new research.   

Maeve Cohen has been appointed as the new Project Officer (part-time):  she is co-founder and former director of Rethinking Economics – and a huge asset to this initiative.

Having met four times since it was set up in October 2020, the Task Force has focused initially on framing and fundraising.  Members have agreed that, while the phrase ‘universal basic services’ is familiar to some, it lacks clarity and immediate appeal.  We need another way of headlining our ideas and hope to come up with something better in the next few weeks.  At the same time, we need more resources to expand our efforts – to establish a website and a social media presence, as well as to conduct research. We already have some irons in the fire and expect this to take many months.

There are signs of accelerating interest in our agenda – more invitations to speak about UBS at online events, more news of similar ventures in other countries, more interest in publishing blogs and papers about UBS.  For example, Project Lead Anna Coote put the case for UBS at Scotland’s Financial Security Policy Circle, hosted by IPPR (21 October), in a Podcast organised by Compass (27 October) and at an event convened by the Glasgow Council for the Voluntary Sector (9 December).  In February we are discussing UBS at a seminar convened by the Industry Forum, and with Compass to explore potential synergies with basic income. We are in touch with New Zealand’s largest union, PSA, which has embraced UBS as part of its new Aotearoa Wellbeing Commitment

Recent publications covering UBS include Ian Gough’s contributions to Open Democracy, In times of climate breakdown, how do we value what matters?, to the Great Transition Initiative forum on basic income, ‘A False Promise’, and to the LSE’s Public Policy Review, ‘The Case for Universal Basic Services’.  Anna Coote has contributed to the Foundational Economy website, ‘Universal Basic Services and the Foundational Economy’, to the GTI Forum, ‘Strengthen the Welfare State’ and to Sustainability: Science, Practice and Policy on ‘Universal Basic Services and Sustainable Consumption’.

Our partners at the Institute for Global Prosperity (IGP) at University College London (where Task Force member Andrew Percy co-authored the original report on UBS), are working with several local authorities to apply the UBS framework in practice – notably with the London Borough of Camden and Leeds City Council.  The IGP’s evaluation of a ground-breaking UBS experiment with digital inclusion in Tower Hamlets, London, is out this month

UBS Task Force members include: Sarah Bedford, Head of Social Policy, New Economics Foundation (NEF); Anna Coote Principal Fellow, NEF; Isky Gordon, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; Ian Gough, London School of Economics (LSE); Andrew Percy, Institute for Global Prosperity, University College London; Ann Pettifor, PRIME; Tom Schuller, Network for Social Change; Jeremy Smith, PRIME; Beth Stratford, Leeds University; and Hillary Vipond, Senior Atlantic Fellow and LSE.

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