Covid‑19 UK Cash Distribution

Covid-19 UK Distribution - An Outline Proposal

25 March 2020


The enormous economic disruption of corona virus requires significant, direct government intervention in the UK economy. Estimates range from an overall £330bn in the Budget, to economic estimates of up to £50bn per month, to approximately £1,000 per citizen per month. Variations of ‘helicoptering money’ are likely to be more essential than fiscal relief, but there is no current way of delivering cash easily to citizens. Oddly, the corona virus crisis represents an opportunity to move simultaneously and swiftly to an identity management system and a central bank digital currency.


Invoking the need for speedy response, UK Government could take advantage of the situation to address the long-running ‘identity card’ issue and move the UK to a position of leadership in digital finance by providing a:

  • Shared digital identity infrastructure (SDII) – this infrastructure consists of a government document timestamping system with sharing of documentation – government is then a supplier of digitally certified identity files (driver licenses, passports, etc) and a standards setter for Digital ID, ensuring interoperability of multiple ID solutions in both the public and private parts of the UK Digital Economy;
  • Providing a parallel central bank digital currency (CBDC) – a digital fiat currency, complete with citizens’ accounts, that allows government to deposit directly into citizens’ wallets – longer-term this moves significantly towards a cashless and more fraud-resistant society.


The combination of widespread internet access, especially via smartphones, and smart ledgers (aka blockchain) have been proposed for some time for both SDII and CBDC. These could be piloted with sufficient political will. There are issues, obviously:

  • SDII – needs to be positioned as a way to receive and share government documents electronically, that happens to be open to third party providers;
  • SDII – needs to be deliverable without a need to visit government or other offices;
  • CBDC – needs to be linked to SDII documentation;
  • CBDC – needs to be accessible to those without a smartphone or internet access.


Ultimately, the Bank of England, the Department of Work & Pensions, and HMRC are the most likely ways to distribute monies to citizens. However, if a Cov-ID system were running, it might form the identity portion of such distribution. Z/Yen has held discussions with SETL and others, remaining ready to provide IDChainZ. Further, such a system could also form the basis for the application of a common tender for the UK, an analogue of the Swiss WIR.