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We're Building a Welfare State That Is Finally Fit for Purpose

12/08/2015 17:49 BST | Updated 12/08/2016 10:59 BST

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To mark 100 days of the first Conservative government in nearly 20 years, HuffPost UK is running 100 Days of Dave, a special series of blog posts from grassroots campaigners to government ministers, single parents to first-year students, reflecting on what's worked and what hasn't, whilst looking for solutions to the problems we still face.

In 2010, I began to reform the complex British welfare system and restore the principles that William Beveridge called for in 1942 - a welfare state that protected the vulnerable but did not stifle incentive and opportunity. During the last Parliament we made a strong start: putting limits on out-of-control benefit claims with the benefit cap; bringing in better support for disabled people that reflects today's understanding of disability; and launching the most radical reform of the benefit system ever with Universal Credit. This year the British public gave us a mandate to carry on with this important work - ensuring that every part of the country benefits from a growing economy. And in less than three months since the election we've continued to make great strides with our reforms.

In last month's Budget, the Chancellor committed to moving Britain to a low tax, low welfare, high wage society, and took steps to do so. Putting tax credits onto a more sustainable footing and announcing a new living wage, ensures people see more of their money come from their pay packet and less from top ups from the State.

I have been an enthusiastic supporter of a higher minimum wage for many years. In fact, a couple of years ago I ensured that everyone in the London offices of my Department received the London living wage. My visible enthusiasm for the Living Wage announcement in the Budget was because I knew it would incentivise work and place the onus on employers to properly reward their hard working staff instead of forcing taxpayers to subsidise their work.

The benefit cap, which we brought in to place fair limits on welfare claims, has also provided a strong incentive to work. Statistics out last week showed that over 25,000 people affected by the cap had moved into work, reduced their Housing Benefit claim or stopped claiming Housing Benefit altogether. We have decided to lower the cap to £20,000 across the country and £23,000 in Greater London to build on those long term positive effects. This will better reflect the circumstances of many hard working families and ensure the work incentive effects of the cap apply in all parts of the country.

Delivering a simpler and fairer benefits system that rewards work is the ultimate aim of our reforms. With Universal Credit we've replaced six benefits and tax credits with one, and ensured that people are always better off in work than on benefits. No longer will people risk seeing a fall in their income if they take a job or increase their hours in work.

Universal Credit has reached half of Jobcentres across the country. We're now getting around 6,500 claims to the benefit each week and by next spring UC will be live in all Jobcentres. Once fully rolled out, Universal Credit will make three million households better off and bring a £7billion benefit to the economy. This is real transformational change.

Looking ahead to the autumn, we'll expand the Fit for Work service to employers, so that they will have a resource to turn to if their employees get sick. The service provides occupational health assessments and advice that helps employees stay in or return to work. We know that it's all too easy for people to fall onto long term sickness benefit, but by taking early action employers can help keep their staff in work, or close to the labour market. This is to everyone's benefit.

With near record employment in this country, and long term unemployment at its lowest level since 2009, there are more opportunities than ever for people to make the move from benefits to work, and that is why we must continue to press ahead with our reforms. We're building a welfare state that is finally fit for purpose. A system that supports people when they need it, but doesn't trap them into a life on benefits. A system that rewards work, instead of dependency. This is what this one nation Government is delivering.

Iain Duncan Smith is Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and the Conservative MP for Chingford and Woodford

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