Ministry of Pensions, 1916-1953
In September 1916 a Cabinet Committee on Pensions recommended the formation of a Pensions Board to take over the work of the War Office, Chelsea Hospital commissioners and Central Army Pensions Issue Office. These proposals were enacted as the Ministry of Pensions Act 1916, providing for a single department to administer military and naval war pensions and provide medical care for the disabled.
A Central Office, Blackpool was the principal centre for awarding pensions. It kept all the records of pensions granted, issued pension books that enabled the award to be drawn by individuals, and also prepared cases for appeal tribunals.
Ministry of National Insurance, 1944-1953
The Ministry of National Insurance was largely the product of the report of the Beveridge Committee on Social Insurance and Allied Services appointed in June 1941. This interdepartmental committee, was appointed to survey existing schemes of social insurance and allied services and make recommendations.
In 1940 a number of departments were involved in social insurance and welfare, and the Assistance Board had responsibility for providing supplementary pensions and unemployment assistance. The Beveridge Committee recommended the formation of a Ministry of Social Insurance to which most of these departments' functions should be transferred. It also favoured the absorption of the Unemployment Assistance Board. Its report also recommended the absorption of the work of the Ministry of Pensions and closer association with employment exchange work of the Ministry of Labour and National Service by the new department. Finally a National Health Service (NHS) was envisaged, free from restrictions of insurance administration in treatment of individuals and under the central control of the department responsible for health.
Following consideration by a committee of officials under Sir Thomas Phillips, the coalition government broadly accepted these proposals. The Committee on Reconstruction Problems, chaired by Sir William Jowitt, was given charge of the co-ordination of plans drawn up by the various government departments in their respective fields. In 1944 a Ministry of Social Security Bill was introduced and enacted as the Ministry of National Insurance Act 1944. The ministry was established in November 1944.
The new ministry continued the preparation of legislation and the administrative organisation necessary for the introduction of comprehensive schemes of national insurance. In April 1945 it assumed health insurance and pensions functions of the Ministry of Health and the Department of Health for Scotland, and unemployment insurance and assistance functions of the MLNS. The minister thereby also assumed the ministerial responsibilities for the Assistance Board's operations.
The administration of unemployment payments and assistance continued to be carried out under agency arrangements in employment exchanges and in the local offices of the Assistance Board. Home Office functions concerning workmen's compensation were also transferred to the new ministry.
During the next three years comprehensive schemes of insurance and allowances were introduced to replace earlier limited and overlapping schemes. In August 1946 the ministry introduced family allowances and later that year the new retirement pensions were instituted. The comprehensive scheme of national insurance embodying contributory pensions, unemployment benefits, sickness benefits, and medical benefits through the NHS and the industrial injuries scheme (which replaced workmen's compensation) was introduced on 5 July 1948.
In 1948 the Assistance Board was renamed the National Assistance Board with wider powers in respect of non-contributory and supplementary pensions, national assistance and welfare services. The board also assumed statutory responsibilities of the Ministry of National Insurance as the central pension authority in the determination of questions of eligibility and assessment in connection with non-contributory pensions.
Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance, 1953-1966
The Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance was established in 1953 by the merger of the Ministry of National Insurance and the Ministry of Pensions in an attempt to provide a more coherent system for paying war pensions and national insurance benefits.
In April 1954 the new ministry also took over the administration of death and disability pensions for merchant seamen and fishermen killed or injured in the First World War (formerly administered by the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation). It continued to provide agency services undertaken by the Ministry of National Insurance and also certain services in connection with the health functions of the former Ministry of Pensions, responsibility for which had passed in 1953 to the Ministry of Health.
Ministry of Social Security, 1966-1968
The Ministry of Social Security was established in August 1966 under the Ministry of Social Security Act 1966. This dissolved the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance and the National Assistance Board, and provided for transfer of their functions to the Minister of Social Security, except for certain powers transferred to a new Supplementary Benefits Commission (which was to have responsibility for general guidance on supplementary benefits awards and individual awards).
A new scheme of non-contributory benefits was devised to replace national assistance, and was intended to minimise the distinction between contributory and non-contributory benefits. A guaranteed income was to be provided for individuals with long-term needs (e.g. the chronically sick) and provisions were made for payment of rent, etc.
The ministry was organised on the basis of the divisions inherited from its parent departments, with regional medical offices in England and offices in Scotland, Wales, N Ireland, Irish Republic and Canada. The central offices at Blackpool and Newcastle dealt respectively with war pensions and national insurance as before, and there were regional offices for pensions, national insurance and supplementary benefits in England.
Department of Health and Social Security (DHSS), 1968-1988
In November 1968, following the report of the Fulton Committee on the Civil Service, the Department of Health and Social Security (DHSS) was created by merger of the Ministries of Health and Social Security under a Secretary of State for Social Services, assisted by two Ministers of State responsible for health and social security respectively. In 1976 a Minister of Social Security of Cabinet rank was appointed.
Responsibility for a number of functions was transferred both into and out of the DHSS during its existence. During the 1970s and 1980s a substantial amount of legislation was passed which affected the DHSS, including the creation of the Occupational Pensions Board and the major reorganisation of the National Health Service (NHS) in 1973-1974.
In 1978 a Central Management Services Branch was established to advise both the DHSS and NHS on means of improving efficiency. In 1980, control of the administration of the supplementary benefits system and the provision of reception and resettlement centres passed to the DHSS on the abolition of the Supplementary Benefits Commission.
In July 1988 the DHSS was administratively divided into its two traditional broad functions, and separate Departments of Health and Social Security were formed.