Grant Shapps: Welfare reform means work will always pay

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The Independent Online

This October, the Government will roll out the most important changes made to the benefits system since the war. The introduction of Universal Credit will make sure that, in this country, work always pays. It hardly sounds revolutionary. Surely, it should always pay to work. For every pound you earn, you should be better off. .

But for over a decade, and for millions of people, it hasn't been the case. For years, the gap between those who earn and those who live on benefits has grown. Consider this fact: since 2007, the pay of those working in the private sector rose by 12 per cent. In the same five-year period, benefits going to those of working age rose by nearly twice that amount. During the recession, while British working families tightened their belts, benefits soared. Those going out to work weren't getting a fair deal. To them, it may have felt like work didn't always pay.

I believe that investing in welfare is crucial – but I also believe that it only works if you're getting help to those who need it. If you're doing it with no results, it's disastrous. We've had difficult decisions on spending, but we've made one thing clear. We will never stop supporting those who need help. Tomorrow, Parliament will vote on the Welfare Uprating Bill – measures which will save the economy £4bn. Taken together with other pro-job measures we've introduced, there are signs of real progress. Nearly 30 million are now in work, which is a record high.

We're also making sure that work pays. The personal allowance is about to rise to an unprecedented £9,440 for each individual. As a result of that change 25 million Britons will pay less tax – and two million of the lowest paid workers will be taken out of the tax system altogether. That's hardly about targeting shirkers – it's a basic principle that those who go out to work each day should never be in the position where they're worse off.

With resources stretched, we need to demonstrate that our country's system is just. It's not enough to simply reduce the deficit and put this country back on track. We also need to make sure that, while we're making those tough economic choices, we're rewarding people who want to get on in life and do the right thing. We need to make sure that people are progressively better off in work than they would be on welfare. In short, we need fairness. Our welfare reforms are a stepping-stone to a fairer society.