The Old-Age Pensions Act 1908 is an Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom, passed in 1908. The Act is often regarded as one of the foundations of modern social welfare in the United Kingdom.
The Act provided for a non-contributory old age pension for people over the age of 70, with the cost being borne by younger generations. It was enacted in January 1909 and paid a weekly pension of 5s a week (7s 6d for married couples) to half a million who were eligible. The level of benefit was deliberately set low to encourage workers to also make their own provision for retirement.
In order to be eligible, they had to be earning less than £31. 10s. Per year, and had to pass a ‘character test’; only those with a ‘good character’ could receive the pensions. You also had to have been a UK resident for at least 20 years to be eligible and people who hadn’t worked their whole life were also not eligible.
The pension was due to be paid from 1 January 1909 and those eligible had to apply to a Local Pension Committee starting in October 1908 set up by the county councils. By December 1908 in Scotland, 64,769 people had applied to receive a pension and this included both men and women. So there was no stigma about collecting the money, as would have been the case with Poor Law relief, the Post Office agreed to manage the scheme.
Excluded were those in receipt of poor relief, ‘lunatics’ in asylums, persons sentenced to prison for ten years after their release, persons convicted of drunkenness (at the discretion of the court), and any person who was guilty of ‘habitual failure to work’ according to one’s ability.
A committee was set up in Blantyre of responsible and elected figures to manage the town’s pensions contributions. In 1909, the committee consisted of Chairman, Mr John Jackson, County Councillor and Justice of the Peace (JP) of Bardykes, Messrs John Menzies, Alex.. McMillan, Donald Macleay, John Cunningham, James Kelly, J.P., Thomas Westwood, and Miss Ferguson. The clerk was Mr A. B. Maxwell who would later in life become a Councillor.
The Committee met to keep accounts and manage the applications for pensions and cessation upon death of Blantyre’s elderly population. They met at Low Blantyre Public School, on the second Wednesday evening of every month at 7pm.
Partly from “Blantyre Explained” by Paul Veverka (c) 2017 with additional reference to Wikipedia.