‘…to those who profess to fear that security will weaken the moral fibre and destroy self-respect, let me say this. It is not security that destroys, it is insecurity…Security in adversity will, I believe, release our people from the haunting fears of yesterday, and will make tomorrow not a day to dread but a day to welcome.’ Jim Griffiths, Minster of National Insurance, House of Commons, 1946
The aim of the National Insurance and National Assistance Acts was to provide everyone with a minimum standard of living. They, like the NHS, came into operation on the appointed day of the 5 July 1948.
The level at which National Insurance benefits were paid was set too low. In many cases they were not enough to live on. More people than Beveridge had originally intended applied for National Assistance.
However, the Labour Government had created a social safety net to protect people from Want.
Seebohm Rowntree’s 1950 study of York found that poverty had significantly declined. Less than two percent of York’s population were now living in primary poverty.
National Insurance Act 1946
It was compulsory for every employee (except married women) to pay National Insurance. The majority paid a flat rate contribution of 4s 11d a week out of their wages.
This covered unemployment and sickness benefit, and pensions from the age of sixty five for a man and sixty for a woman. Women who had paid into the scheme were entitled to a maternity allowance. There was also a grant to help with funeral expenses.
Benefits were paid at a flat rate. The Act set the basic rate for a single person at 26s a week and 42s for a married couple. Benefits were not linked to inflation, but were instead to be reviewed every five years.
Industrial Injuries Act 1946
This provided compensation for any employee injured or killed at work. Compensation was paid by the Government and not by the employer or private insurance company. Cases were assessed by tribunals.
National Assistance Act 1948
This Act officially abolished the Poor Law. It provided benefits to those not covered by National Insurance, such as the homeless and disabled, and those living below subsistence level.
A centralised National Assistance Board replaced the local Public Assistance Committees. It was the duty of the Board to assist those whose income was insufficient ‘to meet their requirements’. However the benefits were means tested.
Local Authorities provided welfare services for those in need. It was, for example, their duty to provide suitable accommodation ‘for persons who by reason of age, infirmity or any other circumstances are in need of care’.