What is The Social Guarantee?
The Social Guarantee is an approach to managing the economy so that it meets the needs of people and planet. It aims to ensure that everyone has access to life’s essentials within the limits of the natural environment. Life’s essentials are what we all need to participate in society and flourish. Education, health and care, housing, energy and transport are examples. Universal access can only be achieved through collective action to deliver services that are sufficient and affordable for all who need them. And they must be sustainable so that future generations can meet their needs too. The Social Guarantee offers a framework for service provision. It is a big idea that can start small and local - with a clear vision and a practical pathway.
Linking needs and provisioning systems: The potential components of UBS
Adapted from Gough, I. ‘The Case for Universal Basic Services’ in LSE Public Policy Review
UNIVERSAL BASIC SERVICES
Note: The middle column denotes contemporary need satisfiers - the potential components of UBS. An attempt has been made in this table to separate out concepts and measures pertaining to individuals and concepts and measures pertaining to collectivities, and to list only the former. Thus desirable collective goals such as gender equality, environmental sustainability and social inclusiveness are not regarded as basic needs, but as general societal preconditions for their satisfaction. See Gough 2015, 2017 for more on this.
Meeting Needs Directly
Food is an obvious example. Everyone should have enough money to buy food. Money can’t buy what it takes to meet other needs. For healthcare, education, childcare, adult social care, we rely on collective measures. By pooling resources and sharing risks, we can help each other, providing services for all according to need not ability to pay. In all cases, including food and housing and transport, some collective measures are necessary. Regulation, public investment and other policies make sure everyone’s needs are met to a sufficient standard and no-one is excluded.The Social Guarantee reclaims and re-engineers the collective ideal that inspired the welfare state. Each of life’s essentials calls for a different combination of individual and collective contributions. Secure access to universal services is a highly valuable ‘social income’.
Everyone has a right to life's essentials
Services must be sustainable
Power devolved and decisions shared by residents and service users
Mixed economy of service providers, all bound by public interest obligations
Fair pay and conditions for service workers
Across the range of life’s essentials, there will be different combinations of direct state provision, local initiatives, enabling public policies and individual contributions. In every case these principles apply:
Universal services can improve sustainability by preventing harm, stabilising the economy and transforming provisioning systems to reduce environmental damage. They are better able than market systems to coordinate sustainable practices such as active travel, resource-efficient buildings and local food procurement, and to implement strategies for reducing GHG emissions. They can offset regressive effects of climate policies (such as higher energy prices) and help ensure a ‘just transition’ to sustainable living.
Public services represent a ‘social income’ that we get in addition to money income. They are worth a great deal, especially to people on low incomes, because they don’t have to be paid for directly. Alongside a guaranteed minimum income derived from fair wages and benefits, universal services are a sure way of tackling poverty and inequality.
Meeting needs through collectively provided services gives greater value for money than trying to meet them through markets. Private contracts tend to be inflexible, limiting scope for improvement. Costs are higher where profits are extracted for shareholders. Public sector organisations can avoid costs incurred by competing commercial organisations – for example, by sharing administrative, purchasing and research functions.
Universal services involve all of us in sharing resources and acting together to deal with risks and problems that individuals can't cope with alone. This builds solidarity by showing how people depend on each other both giving and receiving, by bringing different groups together and by reducing inequalities that stop people feeling they share values and interests.
The Benefits of Universal Services
The main focus of the Social Guarantee is on generating more and better services that are publicly funded and democratically controlled. It's an investment in the social infrastructure on which all our lives – and the wider economy – depend. There are big gains for equality, efficiency, sustainability and solidarity.
The Role of The State
The Social Guarantee re-imagines the role of the state. Nationally and locally, it provides some services directly, where that’s appropriate. Otherwise, it has four essential functions.
To guarantee equality of access, between and within localities
To set and enforce ethical and practical standards
To collect and invest funds, distributing them to ensure inclusion and fairness across the country
To support services anchored in local communities and coordinate activities across different areas of need
– for best results all round
The Social Guarantee is directed by Anna Coote and led by Maeve Cohen, with research by Isaac Stanley and communications by Claudia Elliot. Our Executive Committee includes Jeremy Smith and Tom Schuller
The Principles of The Social Guarantee
Needs are met in different ways with different combinations of direct state provision, local initiatives, enabling public policies and individual contributions. The Social Guarantee framework sets out principles that apply in every case: