Jane Hutt MS, Minister for Social Justice
Since the launch of the Basic Income Pilot for Care leavers in Wales on the 1 July 2022, there has been significant interest in its progress in Wales, across the UK and globally. We have been contacted by media and government agencies from around the world and I know my colleagues in the Senedd are equally keen to learn how the pilot is progressing.
Our pilot will test some of the stated benefits of basic income, such as improving wellbeing, financial security and life chances of individuals. Basic income is a direct investment in young people as they leave care and their futures.
Our partners include local authority leaving care teams, Llamau, Barnardo’s, Pobl, Children in Wales, Voices from Care Cymru and, most importantly, the recipients themselves.
Provisional monitoring data was published yesterday and covers the first six months of the pilot (August 2022 – January 2023). This management data, which was gathered through enrolment information, provides insight into participation in the pilot. The first eligible recipients turned 18 in July 2022 and began receiving payments from 1 August 2022.
I am pleased to confirm that of the young people who were eligible to access the Basic Income Pilot for Care Leavers in Wales in the first 6 months of its implementation 92% have signed up and are already receiving their monthly payment. This figure is based upon the estimated eligible cohort provided through local authority data as of February 2022. This figure may change depending on young people who have entered the care system and become eligible for the pilot during the enrolment period July 2022 – June 2023.
Following feedback from care leavers and practitioners, participants were given the option to receive their payment either monthly or twice monthly. So far, 57% of recipients have opted to receive their payment monthly, with the remaining 43% opting for twice-monthly payments. Recipients have also been given the option to choose for their rent payments to be made directly to their landlord. So far, 33% of recipients have elected to have payments made directly to landlords.
While it is still early days for the pilot, we are beginning to hear how young people are using their money, for example to pay for driving lessons. As more young people enrol on the pilot and begin to regularly receive their monthly payment, we hope to find out more about how the money is being used and we will be tracking the impact the payment is having with the rigorous evaluation which is in place.
The Welsh Government has worked closely with colleagues from social services teams in all local authorities in Wales to ensure they are equipped with the information they need to support young people to make an informed decision about whether to join the pilot and to support practitioners in navigating the process.
We continue to learn as the pilot proceeds and we have held regular ’one-to-one’ meetings with each local authority leaving care team in Wales, hosted regular information sessions and responded quickly to issues raised via our dedicated mailbox. Due to the fantastic efforts of our local authority stakeholders and Citizens Advice partners in working with us to overcome challenges, we have been able to adapt our approaches and support the young people in the best way possible
As you may recall, we have engaged the services of Citizens Advice Cymru, via our existing Single Advice Fund contract, to provide additional financial advice and support for recipients of the Basic Income Pilot. By the end of January 2023, Citizens Advice had supported 65% of eligible young people on the pilot through a range of financial issues. The support offered to young people ranges from better off calculations before they decide to enrol on the pilot, financial advice while they are on the pilot and assistance with planning for the point where they stop receiving their payment. The advisors providing this service meet the Welsh Government’s Information and Advice Quality Framework (IAQF) standards and are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). We are aware that not all local authorities are using this service due to robust internal advice services they are able to offer, however, it is important that we are able to offer an equitable service to all young people on the pilot regardless of where they live.
Citizens Advice have reported that young people using the service often seek support on more than one issue, but the highest proportion of requests for help relate to benefits and tax credits. The workload involved in helping different clients varies significantly from a single, brief email interaction through to repeated face-to-face advice sessions. Advisors are guided by the needs of their client. For example, one young person was referred via Children’s Services for a better-off calculation. They had already read about the Basic Income pilot and had some questions before they made their decision on whether to enrol. Following a discussion and better off calculation session with Citizens Advice, they proceeded to enrol on the pilot and have been in receipt of their payment since October. They shared with their advisor that they felt relieved to know exactly what their financial situation would be, and that the conversation had taken pressure off the unknown.
The views and experiences of the young people involved in the pilot are essential to the successful evaluation of this pilot. In Autumn 2022 we announced the appointment of the evaluation team, led by Cardiff University’s Children’s Social Care Research and Development Centre (CASCADE). The research team hold expertise in care leaving, poverty and welfare, homelessness, health, epidemiology, basic income, economic evaluation, data linking, econometrics and creative methodologies. The evaluation will consider the impact of the pilot in terms of improvements in the wellbeing and experiences of care leavers, as well as how the pilot has been implemented and a value for money assessment. Since their appointment, the evaluators have begun preparing a research protocol detailing how the evaluation will be implemented.
An overview of the evaluation was shared with academics at a conference hosted by the Wales Centre for Public Policy (WCPP) in December 2022. The event brought together academics with an interest in basic income and interventions for the care leaver population to inform the evaluation of the basic income pilot for care leavers in Wales. Over 60 delegates joined the virtual event from academic institutions across the UK and internationally. The event resulted in some very interesting and informative discussions, WCPP have agreed to produce a highlight pack summarising the outcomes from the event which will help inform the way the pilot is evaluated.
The evaluators have also started working closely with Voices from Care Cymru to ensure the voices of care experienced young people are considered in the development of the research programme. Regular feedback from recipients will ensure a dynamic evaluation which provides emergent themes on participant experiences and supports improvement to the pilot as it is rolled out.
Over the next six months we will continue to work closely with our partners to develop a minimum standard of support for each recipient’s exit from the pilot. This strategy will need to find ways of managing the risk of young people hitting a so-called ‘cliff-edge’ when the end of their two-year period on the pilot ends and support young people into the next stage of adulthood. I will provide a further update on progress and the plan for an exit strategy towards the end of this year.