Coronavirus: Jeremy Corbyn would ‘generally welcome’ introduction of Universal Basic Income

Jeremy Corbyn speaking in the House of Commons. Photograph: Parliament TV.

Jeremy Corbyn speaking in the House of Commons. Photograph: Parliament TV. - Credit: Archant

Jeremy Corbyn has backed calls for a Universal Basic Income (UBI) to support people through the Covid-19 crisis – and beyond.

As of 5pm on Tuesday 91 patients had died with Covid-19 at the Whittington Hospital.

ONS statistics released this week show at least 14 people had died with coronavirus in Islington care homes as of April 10, and four people had died at home.

Two Whittington Hospital workers have been lost to the virus, as well as at least two drivers from the Holloway Bus Garage and two staff members from a care home in Highbury.

As of 5pm on Tuesday 377 people had tested positive for Covid-19 in Islington, however the limited number of tests being carried out means the true figure is likely far higher.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak last week dismissed calls for the introduction of a UBI, saying it was “not the right response” to financial turmoil caused by the Covid-19 lockdown.

UBI would see adults receive regular and unconditional sums of money from the state to cover their basic living costs, regardless of people’s means.

Mr Corbyn told the Gazette: “We need a system which guarantees everyone freedom from the danger of destitution and that’s the whole purpose of our welfare state.

“I’ve seen and generally welcome the cause for a Universal Basic Income.

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“I do think that’s what happened in this crisis has shown that all that we have said about investment in the future, and investment in people’s lives proves to be absolutely possible.

“Sadly it’s taken the coronavirus crisis for the treasury to recognise it as well.

“Although, the support that’s been given to businesses and people in work, welcome as it is, is not universal and there are many newly self-employed people who are finding great difficulty getting support.

“Also those going on to Universal Credit are finding the problem of understanding it and also the delay in getting any payment.

“There’s real stress and problems because the government hasn’t understood the nature of people’s lives or the nature of their employment.”

Mr Corbyn, who has been calling for all NHS and care workers to get adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), added: “My heart goes out to the families of the bus drivers that lost there lives that were at Holloway bus garage. At the [London] Trades Council Zoom meeting the other night we commemorated them and their lives and pointed out just how vulnerable bus drivers are, at the best of time they suffer quite a lot of abuse and now their lives are obviously on the line, so we do support the idea [implemented by TfL] of getting on at the middle of the bus so there’s much less direct contact or danger of direct contract with the driver.”

Click here for a directory of agencies helping people in the borough during the pandemic.

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