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'Thank you, God, for the means-test man'

New Society

Author: Deacon, A.
Type: Journal Article
Year: 1981

Abstract:

An examination of the Assistance Board in Great Britain during WWII. It is argued that the success of the Board in these years lessened the opprobrium it had acquired in the 1930s, & engendered high hopes about the operation of means tested national assistance after the war. The Unemployment Assistance Board had been created in 1934 to provide assistance to the unemployed, & its administration of a household means test had aroused intense bitterness. In 1940, it was renamed the Assistance Board & given the task of supplementing old age pensions in cases of need. Only 400,000 old people were expected to apply, but 1.5 million did so, which profoundly shocked contemporaries who had underestimated the extent of poverty among the aged. For its part, the Board responded to its new, more deserving clientele by adopting a positive approach to the seeking out & meeting of need. It also instituted a range of welfare services, including the regular visiting of pensioners living alone. By the end of the war, the Board enjoyed a popularity that would have been inconceivable in 1939, which, with the removal of the household means test, led the postwar Labour government to assume that the problems of stigma & reluctance to claim means tested benefits had been solved. It was not until the late 1950s that this assumption was seen to be false.

Further Details

Pages: 519-520
Volume: 56
Issue: 971
Accession Number: 1.4.03
Keywords: United Kingdom, older
Reads: 199
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