Old-Age Pensions Act 1908

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Old-Age Pensions Act 1908
Long title...
Citation1908 c
Territorial extentEngland and Wales; Scotland; Ireland
Royal assent1908
Status: Repealed

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 and forms part of the wider social welfare reforms of the Liberal Government of 1906–1914. Individuals over the age of 70 years got a total of 5 Shillings per week and couples over the age of 70 years got a total of 7 Shillings 5 Pence per week.[1]


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. One 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.

Also excluded were those in receipt of poor relief, people being held in what were then called 'lunatics 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.[2]


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.[3] Those eligible had to be over the age of 70, must have been a British subject for 20 years and have resided in the United Kingdom.[3] It was open to both men and women, both married and single, and their yearly means must not exceed £31. 10s.[3] Forms for applicants were available from the end of September 1908 and had to be returned to the postmaster of the post office that would pay the individual's benefit.[3] The claims were assessed by the pension officers and then sent to the local pension committee for approval.[3]

On 31 December 1908 a total of 596,038 pensions had been granted:[4]

Rate England
(excluding Monmouthshire)
(including Monmouthshire)
Scotland Ireland
5s 297,332 19,691 60,787 161,578
4s 15,178 864 1,443 3,101
3s 14,830 805 1,488 3,131
2s 7,185 362 656 1,628
1s 4,423 234 395 927
Totals 338,948 21,956 64,769 170,365


Initially, most of the recipients of the pension benefit were women. In order to remove any stigma in receiving the benefit, the scheme was administered by the Post Office rather than the existing social welfare agencies such as the parish or Poor Law.

See also[edit]

State pensions acts
Private pensions acts


  1. ^ Gazeley, Ian (17 July 2003). Poverty in Britain 1900–1945. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-0333716199.
  2. ^ Macnicol, John (13 August 1998). The Politics of Retirement in Britain, 1908–1948. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 157–8. ISBN 978-0521622738.
  3. ^ a b c d e "The Old-Age Pensions Act. The Regulations". The Times (38732). 22 August 1908. p. 10.
  4. ^ "Old-Age Pensions. Official Statistics". The Times (38862). 21 January 1909. p. 10.

External links[edit]