In American politics, the completion of the first hundred days of a new administration is traditionally the occasion for scrutiny, outside politics as well as inside.
In the UK, we do not have that exact tradition, but it is now about three months since the General Election. The processes of change and discussion which the electorate sought in May are well under way.
We have had the emergency Budget and we have a firm date for the Spending Review that will follow it up – Wednesday 20 October. Andrew Lansley has outlined his plans for the reform of the Health Service; Eric Pickles, in local government, has shown his intention to return more powers to communities and Iain Duncan Smith has described how the government intends to shake up our benefit system.
When out on the campaign trail, I met people who wanted to work and in some cases who had been offered jobs but did not take them up. They received benefits and were worried that, if they took a job, they would be worse off because of disincentives built within the benefit system.
If someone receives housing benefit, they may not be able to find out quickly and easily how long it will be before they receive in-work benefits. Understandably they worry about being able to pay the rent.
The benefits and tax system is complicated. It has built up bit by bit over time. Claimants have to make several application processes to several different agencies. There is not always a simple answer to the “what if I?” questions that people inevitably ask.
So the Department for Work and Pensions is now looking at ways of simplifying the system and setting up a single integrated system. The Department will also, before the New Year, examine whether there should be new rules on how much people can earn before they lose benefits.
The incentive to work is the key.