Peter Hoskin

The IDS agenda could help to end the benefits trap

The IDS agenda could help to end the benefits trap
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Yesterday, it was Michael Gove's schools agenda. Today, it's the other main reason to get behind the coalition: IDS's plans for fixing the welfare system. The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has given a speech outlining them this morning. You can read it here, and I'd certainly encourage you to do so.

There are plenty of welcome ideas in there, but none more so than IDS's emphasis on removing disincentives to work from the tax and benefit system. We at Coffee House have banged on about his "dynamic" approach, developed at the Centre for Social Justice, for some time now - and with due cause. You can set up a welfare-to-work bureau on every street corner, but so long as benefit claimants feel that they earn more out of work than they would in work, then the battle against worklessness and poverty is destined to be lost. IDS's reforms would look to mend that problem, for good.

The question now is whether there's the will to do this across government.  The upfront cost for IDS's benefit reform package was thought to be around £3bn, a figure that was said to put David Cameron and George Osborne off the idea before the election.  But now IDS is claiming that it can be done for less money.  And his very presence inside the Department of Work and Pensions suggests that the CSJ agenda has the backing of the coalition.  

It's a remarkable turnaround.  Only a few months ago, a senior Tory told me that benefits reform remained little more than an "aspiration" because it was a "matter of putting in the work".  Well, IDS has put in the work - and, whisper it, but that aspiration now looks close to becoming a reality.  That's something we can all be grateful for.