A universal basic income is an income paid to individuals, as a right of legal residence, without means testing or requirements to work. The payment is non taxable and should be sufficient to cover basic needs. Everyone who qualifies for the payment will receive it from birth till death. Having a basic income in place will provide a secure floor for people to build on rather than a safety net with holes so big many fall through.
The idea is not a new one, and many famous names have proposed it in the past. If you are interested in learning more there is an excellent page on the Basic Income Earth Network site which looks at the history of basic income.
Over the last two years especially there has been a huge swell of interest around the world in basic income. Switzerland will be voting in a referendum about it on 5 June. Pilots are being worked out in Finland, to start in the next two years or so. There is interest in pilots in 20 towns (and counting) in the Netherlands. The finance minister in Namibia is putting forward a basic income proposal as we speak, after a successful pilot of it in a town there a few years ago.
Here in the UK there have been various proposals for basic income being put forward from various groups and recently Caroline Lucas MP has put forward a Early Day Motion calling on the government to fund research into the practicalities.