Benefits of Universal Services

The social guarantee is about investment in the social infrastructure on which all our lives – and the wider economy – depend.  It is a vast improvement from our current system of social provision by increasing:

Equality

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, universal services are a sure way of tackling poverty and inequality. 

Sustainability

Universal services can improve sustainability by preventing harm, stabilising the economy and reducing 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.

Efficiency

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 keep costs down in ways that cannot be achieved by competing commercial organisations – for example, by sharing administrative, purchasing and research functions.

Solidarity

Universal services are all about sharing resources and acting together to deal with risks and problems that people cannot cope with alone. This requires solidarity and contributes to it – showing how people depend on each other both giving and receiving, bringing different groups together and reducing inequalities that otherwise create barriers to solidarity.

Universal Services and Cash Income

Debates continue between proponents of universal basic income (UBI) and universal basic services (UBS). Yet they are two sides of the same coin. Income has two components – cash and ‘social income’ (in-kind benefits or services).   We all need both to survive and thrive. That’s the aim of the Social Guarantee.

 

What matters is how they work together and support each other. We support calls for a minimum income guarantee or a guaranteed income floor (for more information check out the Living Income Campaign from the New Economics Foundation), but we oppose expanding cash benefits to levels that leave no fiscal space for defending and extending services.
 
Focusing on cash income at the expense of services fits well with a neoliberal politics that favours individual market-based consumption. Instead, we want collective strategies that promote wellbeing for all within planetary boundaries.
Image by Eduardo Soares