A basic income for everyone? Yes, Finland shows it really can work

I visit Finland’s equivalent of Iain Duncan Smith, the social affairs minister Pirkko Mattila. A recent escapee from the populist True Finns, she carries no discernible hippy tendencies – not a whiff of joss stick. Yet she seems genuinely bemused that there could be any political resistance to handing poor people some money to sit at home. “I personally believe that in Finland citizens really want to work,” she says.
What this underlines is how debased Britain’s welfare politics have become compared with much of the rest of Europe. Blame Tory austerity, or New Labour’s workfare, or Thatcherism’s trite exhortations to get on your bike – but we have ended up with a system shot through by two toxic beliefs.
One, that poverty is the product of personal moral failure. For the former chancellor George Osborne, it was about skivers v strivers. For IDS, poverty was the rotten fruit of broken families, addiction or debt. Neither man, nor the rest of their party, can accept what their rightwing counterparts in Finland do: that poverty is no more than a lack of money.
Love the idea of a universal basic income? Be careful what you wish for
Ellie Mae O’Hagan
Ellie Mae O’Hagan
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What flows from that is the second bogus British belief: the idea that social security isn’t a safety net for all, but a cash-starved and demoralised triage system for the lazy and feckless right at the bottom.
Treating the poor as criminals in the making places welfare as an adjunct to the criminal justice system. It means declaring dying people as fit for work. It leaves disabled people living in mortal fear of their next Esa or Pip assessment; jobless people being sanctioned for no good reason.

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