July the fifth this year sees the fulfilment of centuries of social legislation, when the new National Insurance Acts come into operation. For the first time, everyone, or almost everyone in the United Kingdom can ensure against want. There will be sickness and unemployment benefits, retirement pensions, maternity grants, death grants, widows’ benefits, guardians’ allowances, industrial injuries benefits. Under the new acts, everyone will be required by law to make a weekly contribution to the scheme. If you are in business of your own account, you should have registered as a self employed contributor, and pay six and two pence each week. Well maybe you’re what we cal a non- employed person, paying four and eight pence a week, you should also have registered unless you’re a housewife. Well then you must be an employed contributor, the biggest class of the lot, you’ll pay four and eleven pence each week, and your employer another four and tupence, if you’ve not been insured before you should have already registered.
Charley: What! you mean I’ve got to pay all that every week , what a geezer.
Commentator: Yes, and so will twenty two million other people.
Charley: You can keep it; I’d rather go back to the days before we had any of your wonderful insurance.
Commentator: It’s no good running away from things even if you go right back to the beginning of time. The first living creature to discover land was no doubt, looking for security. In the middle ages, men banded together to protect themselves. In time of danger the castle spelt security. As time went on there were other dangers to be faced. One of the greatest was unemployment. To be thrown out of work meant begging in the streets. The first poor law system was established in Elizabeth’s reign, and was followed by a compulsory poor relief rate. The poor became the concern of the parish. By the middle of the seventeenth century, new comers were deported if they looked like being a charge on the parish. Another constant peril was sickness. With the breadwinner laid low, he and his family were likely to starve. And should he die, his dependants had to rely on the workhouse. By an act of 1733, each parish had to provide a workhouse, and people who refused to work there got no relief. In 1834 the Elizabethan poor laws were amended, this was still severe on able-bodied poor, children and the sick, and by now a new danger had arisen.industrial injury. It was not until 1897 that the first workman’s compensation act made employers liable for injuries to workers in a few dangerous industries, and paved the way for further improvements. The first old age pension, a few shillings a week for the over 70’s came into force in 1908.
Charley: All right, all right, that’s enough.
Commentator: Other measures were on the way – 1911, first National Insurance Act. 1925, Contributory Pensions Act. 1930, Poor Law Act. 1934, third Unemployment Act. 1936, National Health Insurance Act. 1941, Beveridge Report.
Charley: Phew, am I glad to be back, the things I’ve been through.
Commentator: Well, does it cost too much to avoid all that? And only a scheme like this can afford you such high benefits. Come on now, it’s worth it, isn’t it?
Charley: Every penny of it. Come to think of it, I’m paying quite a lot now in bits and pieces. I’m just in time to find out all about it before the scheme starts. You can get the address of your National Insurance place from the post office.