Quakers join calls for a liveable income for all

By agency reporter
May 4, 2020

Quakers in Britain have written to the Prime Minister asking him to ensure no one is left without a liveable income during the COVID-19 crisis.

The open letter backs the New Economics Foundation's (NEF) proposal for a temporary minimum income guarantee, which would be unconditional and not means tested at the point of access. The letter also urges the government to ensure all support is accessible to people marginalised by society, including migrants and refugees, and calls for the 'no recourse to public funds' policy to be suspended. As many other organisations have pointed out, this policy is increasing health risks as well as causing significant hardship.

Oliver Robertson, Head of Witness and Worship for Quakers in Britain, said: “As Quakers, we have a deep and longstanding commitment to the equality of all people. The state must use its resources to ensure everyone's basic needs are met, particularly in such a time of crisis. The money already pledged by the government during the pandemic shows that this can be done – so we must speak up for the people who are still falling through the gaps in the safety net."

The minimum income guarantee would ensure a source of income for all those who need it, while – the NEF proposal suggests – any payments to those whose income exceeds a certain level could be paid back through tax later on. NEF proposes that the income floor be set at £221 a week, the amount that the Joseph Rowntree Foundation assesses is the minimum needed to live decently 

The full text of the letter reads: 

"I am writing this open letter on behalf of Quakers in Britain to ask you to address the gaps in COVID-19 emergency financial support, which are still leaving many people without a liveable income.

"A cornerstone of our Quaker faith is a belief in the fundamental equality and equal worth of all people – we are all 'children of God'. Because of this, we believe that everyone should have access to the basic necessities of life, and that this is a vital foundation of a just and compassionate society.

"We welcome the unprecedented level of intervention made so far to protect incomes. However, many people not covered by the announced schemes have little choice but to attend work against public health advice. Others who have lost work are at risk of extreme hardship.

"We ask you to consider introducing a minimum income guarantee, aimed at those not covered by existing schemes. We are supportive of the New Economics Foundation's proposal for how this could work. Making payments directly to individuals, unconditionally and without means testing at the point of access, would ensure rapid access to a source of income for all those who need it. The current crisis is exposing what social security claimants and charities have been saying for a long time: universal credit is set too low, and delays are too long.

"We ask also that you ensure all support is easily accessible to people marginalised by society, including homeless people, disabled people, migrants and refugees. We welcome indications that the Home Office will review the 'no recourse to public funds' policy, and we urge an immediate blanket suspension of these restrictions. Anything less will result in continued hardship and unacceptable health risks.

"Finally, we urge you to ensure that all people, regardless of immigration status, are able to access healthcare and other public services without fear that their details will be shared with the Home Office. No one should be forced to put their health and that of others at risk through fear of destitution or deportation.

"The pandemic has reminded us all of our interdependence, and in particular our reliance on those who care for us, keep us fed and maintain our basic infrastructure. The government spending necessitated by this crisis must not be used to justify more of the austerity that has left our public services so underequipped. As we recover from this crisis, we must rebuild our economy in a way that recognises the government duty to protect all citizens, prioritises care and wellbeing, and ensures greater resilience to future shocks.

In Friendship,
Paul Parker Recording Clerk Quakers in Britain"

* Read about the NEF proposal for a Minimum Income Guarantee here

*  Quakers are known formally as the Religious Society of Friends. Around 23,000 people attend 478 Quaker meetings in Britain. Their commitment to equality, justice, peace, simplicity and truth challenges them to seek positive social and legislative change.

* Quakers in Britain https://www.quaker.org.uk/

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