Following the formation of the Ministry of Pensions in 1917, discussions took place to decide which and how appliances should be supplied to disabled war pensioners by the state and the Lord Kitchener Memorial Fund. In 1918, as a result of these discussions, the Minister of Pensions assumed a clearly defined responsibility for the supply of invalid chairs and hand propelled tricycles to certain disabled war pensioners. In 1945, this was extended to include motor propelled tricycles, and, in 1948 small cars.
Section 28 of the National Health Service Act 1946 made provision for the supply of medical and surgical appliances to war pensioners and patients with permanent or semi-permanent disabilities. Following the creation of the National Health Service (NHS) in 1948, disabled patients generally could also qualify for help, the categories of eligibility being broadly the same as for war pensioners. The Ministry of Pensions (which had previously supplied such services to the war disabled) continued to supply limbs, vehicles and appliances to NHS patients on behalf of the Ministry of Health.
With the abolition of the Ministry of Pensions in 1953, such services became directly administered by the Ministry of Health (from 1968, the Department of Health and Social Security). Section 33 of the Health Services and Public Health Act 1968, further defined and clarified the powers of the Secretary of State to assist disabled people.
Limbs, appliances and vehicles were dispensed through Artificial Limb and Appliance Centres (ALACs). There were 30 ALACs in England. In Scotland a similar service was provided by the Health Boards of the Scottish Home and Health Department, whilst in Wales responsibility for ALAC services passed to the Welsh Office. Aids to mobility provided by the Disablement Services Branch have included artificial limbs, wheelchairs, appliances, invalid three-wheelers and cars. However, since 1976 with the introduction of the Mobility Allowance, rather than the provision of vehicles, the emphasis has been on cash help to disabled persons. Provision for war pensioners has been continued by the War Pensioner's Vehicle Service.
The Disablement Services Branch of the Ministry of Pensions and the Ministry of Health (and its successors) operated as part of the supply divisions. Warbreck Hill General Hospital, Blackpool, provided the secretariat for ALAC services.