Politicians often ponder welfare reforms, in order to make the system more fit-for-purpose. However, the policy of means testing has received very little in the way of scrutiny.
At face value, means testing makes sense, ensuring that people who receive money from the state actually need it. Yet, in reality, it has led to a complex system, which is difficult and expensive to administrate and which stigmatises those who depend on it.
One increasingly popular alternative is the idea of a Citizen's Income, which is essentially a payment made as a basic right. All legal UK citizens would be entitled to it, regardless of their wealth, employment status or desire to work. Jobseeker's allowance, state pensions, child benefit and income support would be scrapped.
It may seem a bit 'out there', but the idea has support from politicians, economists and political scientists alike, including Natalie Bennett, John McDonnell, Guy Standing and Carole Pateman.
The Green Party have even made it official policy. Under their proposals, most UK adults would receive £70 per week, pensioners more, and disability and housing benefits would be paid on top.
So, aside from the working population getting £70 extra, what are the advantages?
A major plus point would be removing the stigma associated with claiming benefits, as everyone would receive the money. Implementation would also eliminate poverty traps, where people can find themselves better off out of work. Instead, everyone would be protected from poverty, but those who work will always be better off.
Additionally, a Citizen's Income would act as a safety net, allowing people to change careers without fear that failure could leave them broke. It would enable people to seek paid or voluntary work which satisfies them, which could have benefits both in terms of productivity and mental health. Meanwhile, the increase in voluntary work would benefit the wider community.
Finally, it would eliminate benefit fraud and means testing, reducing administration costs.
Some critics have argued that it would lead to a work shy population, although evidence from pilot schemes, including a limited trial in Canada, contradicts this.
Of course, the idea does have problems. Not least, the cost.
According to the one estimate, it would cost around £275bn to implement - considerably more than the current welfare budget.
It has been suggested that the extra money could come from the reduced admin costs, increased taxation of the wealthy and a crackdown on tax avoidance, although those figures would require further evaluation.
Some have also expressed concerns that it would effectively subsidise employers, allowing them to reduce wages across the board.
Moreover, there appears to be no obvious solution to the additional need for disability and housing benefits.
Nonetheless, the idea of a basic income is becoming more popular and may just be the reform needed for a benefits system which is expensive to administrate and causing social problems as well. #Workforce