By Claire West

The Government’s announcement today on its benefit reform plans sets out an ambitious agenda for reform but raises questions that must be answered if it is to be successful, says the Social Market Foundation, a leading UK think-tank.

Secretary of State for Work & Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, has announced today a consultation on the Government’s plans to simplify the benefit system by rolling all benefits and tax credits into a single Universal Credit.

The aim is to make work financially worthwhile for people to work a small number of hours each week, as well as to make the system easier to understand for claimants.

Commenting Ian Mulheirn, Director of the Social Market Foundation said: “There are two big goals here: making the benefit system simpler and getting people off benefits and into work. These are both good aims".

"But simplifying the system means there will be winners and losers. The impact of the government’s plans will be to reduce support for people working 16 hours-or-more each week and increase it for people who work less than 16 hours. The government’s aim is that doing any paid work should make you better off than being on benefits, even if it is only for as little as 8 hours".

"The big challenge is now to make sure that people don’t get stuck only working 8 hours a week. The Government hopes that people will progress from working just a handful of hours to being fully engaged in the workforce. But there is a risk that those on short hours will get stranded in low-paid work on the fringes of the job market".

Mr. Mulheirn siad that the reform needed to be backed up by a strategy which helped people to progress once they are in work.

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