Over the weekend, a trial of a Universal Basic Income (UBI) of £1,600 was announced to take place in England over the next two years. 30 participants, with no qualifying criteria, will be taking part in the pilot scheme across two locations - Jarrow in the North-East and East Finchley in North London.
The announcement says, "This is a substantial amount. Universal basic income usually covers people’s basic needs but we want to see what effect this unconditional lump sum has on people’s mental and physical health, whether they choose to work or not."
This trial holds immense promise for many, and in particular the neurodivergent community. Let’s take a look…
Easing Financial Pressures:
Being neurodivergent - and equipping yourself with the tools to accommodate that neurodivergence - can be costly.
There is therefore increased pressures on neurodivergent folk to meet their basic needs (paying bills, food shopping etc.) before adding on the additional costs that then come with each diagnosis.
For example, the phrase “ADHD Tax” has come up on social media a lot recently, describing the additional costs for people with ADHD e.g. paying the higher fines for forgotten parking tickets, replacing lost items, paying for medication, the cost of the locksmith when you leave the house without your one set of keys…²
Or it may be the costs associated with meeting sensory needs as an autistic person (travelling in first class on the train, cost of buying noise-cancelling headphones).
Let’s look at employment challenges in a little more detail.
Unemployment & Underemployment:
Unemployment among neurodivergent individuals is 8x the rate for people without disabilities.¹ According to the WTW Global Benefits Attitudes Survey in 2022, only 21.7% of autistic people are in employment in the UK, the lowest of any disabled group.
Additionally, with bills to be paid and the extra costs mentioned earlier, there’s a pressure to just get ‘any’ job. In the desperation to be employed, ND folk may end up in a role where they’re heavily masking - either because of the role itself or not feeling comfortable to disclose their neurodiversity to their employer.
In fact, according to the WTW Global Benefits Attitudes Survey, 2022, 52% of neurodivergent employees only disclosed their neurodiversity after either securing or starting the role (i.e not in the application or interview stages). And perhaps they are right in doing so, as a shocking ⅓ of hiring managers in this same survey said they would not knowingly hire someone with a learning disability.
Taking that pressure off with the fall-back of of a UBI which comes closer to covering realistic living costs provides an opportunity to find the RIGHT role, and a feeling of not needing to “settle” in a role where accommodations aren’t met.
Neurodivergent folk often possess unique perspectives, innovative ideas, and immense creativity. However, it is clear that traditional employment structures do not always cater to our needs and provide an environment to flourish.³
With a guaranteed income from this increased UBI, we’re given the chance of stability, which would enable us to take more calculated risks e.g. starting our own businesses, or exploring other creative pursuits that may otherwise be considered financially ‘risky.’
If this trial was deemed successful and rolled out across England and across the UK, would we see a rise in neurodivergent-owned businesses? It’s no coincidence that an estimated 20% of entrepreneurs are neurodivergent.*
With 2 years to go until we see the results of this pilot scheme, we know there are many factors at play and that financial security is not THE solution to the struggles neurodivergent folk face in our society. But it certainly feels like an exciting possibility and we’ll be eagerly awaiting the results of this trial.
For more information on what we know of the trial so far, head to this article from the Guardian:
² Sciberras E, Streatfeild J, Ceccato T, et al. Social and Economic Costs of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Across the Lifespan. Journal of Attention Disorders. October 2020.
³ Murphy K, Barkley RA: Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder adults: comorbidities and adaptive impairments.
* Research by Julie Logan, professor of entrepreneurship at Cass Business School.