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1936 Cabinet conclusion on unemployment benefits

Cabinet Conclusion 25 June 1936. Unemployment Assistance
Cabinet Conclusion 25 June 1936. Unemployment Assistance
CAB 23/84  C 44 (36)

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In 1934 the National Government reorganised relief for the unemployed. It created Unemployment Assistance Boards (UAB) to administer benefits, taking over from the Public Assistance Committees (PAC). By 1936 unemployment was falling in many areas but the cost of benefits was rising. One of the problems was that in different areas, local authorities were using different rates of benefit payment. This document sets out proposals to standardise the rate of benefit. For the majority of people in the hardest hit areas the standardisation would mean a cut in benefit.

The reference in the extract to the benefits for adolescents refers to the fact that under 18s were given less than over 18s. Also, their benefits counted as family income and so as a result the parents might be earning more than the benefit system allowed. In order to work this out the family would have to have a means test to see how much was coming in to the household.

Questions to consider

  1. What would happen to benefits in Scotland?
  2. What was the situation across the country in terms of benefit payments?
  3. Was the government concerned about opposition to its plans to cut benefits?
  4. Was the government concerned about opposition from 'extremists'?
  5. Which people or groups do you think the government might consider to be 'extremists'?


Under the scale an adolescent aged 18 to 21 would receive 8/-. This compared with 10/- now being paid in Edinburgh and Glasgow, 11/- in Lanarkshire, and 12/- in Fife. For adolescents under 18 the scale rates were also below those now paid in many Scottish areas.

*The Secretary of State for Scotland said that broadly speaking he was satisfied with the figures supplied.

It was going to be very difficult indeed to persuade the House of Commons to agree to cutting these adolescents up to 3/- a week. The effect would be an enormous steepening of the Means Test. This was shown by the fact that the Minister of Labour had claimed that the benefits of the new Regulations would mainly go to older persons and to households without resources. The basic scale for a man and wife was to be cut from 26/- to 24/-. It was true that in many areas in England 24/- was the normal figure: but in the industrial areas in Scotland it was 26/-; and it must be remembered that many of those now receiving 26/-, who might be in work when the new Regulations came into operation, would next year be applying for relief and would only get 24/-. Some of the scale allowances were worse than the cuts in transitional payment made in the crisis of 1931. For example, a single man in lodgings in 1931 received 15/3 as against 15/- under the new Regulation.

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