Pensions and Insurance

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Pensions and Insurance

By the Old Age Pensions Act it was provided that every person reaching the age of 70 years, with an income below a certain level, should receive from national funds a pension of ten shillings a week for life; a sum sufficient at all events to ensure that the pensioner could live with relatives without being a burden on them, and keep out of the workhouse.

The National Health Insurance Act, co-ordinating and supplementing the work of the Friendly Societies, made insurance against sickness compulsory and universal for all earning less than %pound;150 a year.

The worker paid so much, the employer so much, and the State so much, every week; and out of the resulting funds there were provided sickness and disablement benefits in cash, and free medical attention.

For the first time, regulation was applied to domestic service - which caused a considerable uproar among the ladies employing servants. "I won't lick stamps for anybody, least of all you," wrote one indignant lady to Lloyd George, the Chancellor of the Exchequer responsible for the scheme. But protests were vain; the scheme went through, and was a great success in practice. Later the Health Insurance was supplemented by widows', orphans' and old age pensions for insured workers and their dependants; and numbers of adjustments were made to save people from falling out of benefit in hard times. Contributions were not to be paid during sickness, unemployed persons were to be credited with payments due. Sickness was still bound to be a bogy and old age a possible source of anxiety, but at least neither would now mean absolute destitution.

The Trade Boards Act. The Trade Boards Act of 2009 was more purely preventative. By this Act the Board of Trade (nowadays it is the Ministry of Labour, then non-existent, which does this work) could on its own initiative set up a Trade Board to enquire into any trade where wages were exceptionally low. This Board was to consist of employers' and workers' representatives in equal numbers and a leavening of "appointed" members - the representatives being chosen by the Minister concerned after consultation with both parties. Its duties were to fix minimum rates of pay, both for piece and time work, which were to have the force of law unless Parliament turned down the Order embodying them. Where the. parties could not agree, the Chairman - appointed by the Board of Trade - had the final decision. With the coming into action of a succession of these Boards the worst evils of "sweating" in tailoring, chain-making, lace-making, and half a dozen other ill-paid and badly run trades were ended.'


What next? - Online Economic And Political Unrest

Failure of the Poor Law

We have already said something of the improvement in the national health during the second half of the century.

Public health measures, the progress of medical science, and the greater conscientiousness of local authorities, undoubtedly did much to lessen pauperism by diminishing the amount of economic disablement due to illness.

But sickness still caused destitution on a large scale.

Old age, too, needed support which the low-paid workers could hardly count on providing for themselves during their earning years.

The plight of the destitute orphan or the mental deficient was... see: Failure of the Poor Law


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