DESPITE the almost crippling cost of war, Britain has found money for 1f extended social services. One of the most important, Supplementary Pensions (Old Age and Widows Pension Act 1940), conies into force to-morrow
week, August 3.
If this legislation, hitherto deferred on aCcOunt of cost, is admitted as the price a predominantly Conservative Government has paid for the co-operation of the Labour opposition, the gain in social service is no less real and substantial.
It is in effect three-quarters of the " El-aweek Old Age Pension " that has been for so long a plank in the Labour Party's programme, without, however, the Means Test which has been inserted. Nevertheless, the increases are considerable.
The pensioner living alone and hitherto getting only 10s. a week is now to have 19s, 6d., as is also any woman of the age of 110 or more who is living in similar circumstances and is in receipt of a widow's pension. For a man and wife it is to he 31s, a week, where only une is a pensioner, and 32s. where both are. In all cases an allowance may also be made in addition where the rent exceeds 6s. a week NOT TAKEN INTo ACCOLNT.
In cases where the pensioners arc living with their families a somewhat complicated scale of allowances has been set up in respect of the different members, from which is to be deducted the resources available, plus certain further deductions, the difference to be the supplementary pension due.
Amongst the assets which will not be taken into account arc the capital value of the house in which the household lives, the first El a week of any disability pension, 5s. a week of a Friendly Society's sick pay, the first 7s. 6d. a week and the first £2 of any maternity benefit, one-half of are payment received under a Workman's Compensation award, the first 7s. 6d. of a superannuation benefit, and sickness payments under the present Old Age and Widow's Pensions Act where such do not exceed 7s. 6d. a week. Savings under £300 are not to be taken into consideration, as are also earnings up to a certain point.
The most gratifying part of the new Act, however, is the procedure laid down
for the applicant, Instead of the pensit-titer hating to go cap in hand before a conoirillee he now just goes round to the Post Office mid asks for a card. On this the applicant has• only ro fill in his name, address, and pension book number, and then to slip it into a pillar-box_ In due course an inspector calls at the home of the applicant, in the privacy of which he takes notes of all relevant details. Essentially each claim is judged on its individual merits. and pensioners will feel grateful to those who have made unnecessary the degrading semi-public inquisition that has hitherto been attendant upon the granting of assistance.
Another social change which has also just taken place is that women who have attained the age of CO and who are still at work in an insurable occupation are now no longer required to pay National Insurance. Employers of such persons have still, however, to continue paying without deducting anything from the wages of the person concerned.
S.V.P. conferences will have particular reason to he pleased with the new legislation which will substantially relieve many of the calls hitherto falling upon their slender funds.
Explanatory forms of all these new schemes can he obtained from the Post Office, or the Ministry of Health, Blackpool, and any Brother who masters their intricacies will be sure of being in great demand during the ensuing months I have just put one of these claims through for an old lady of 84, and she told me how courteous the inspector was when he calleda marked advance from the days of Bumbledom.