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Short-term benefit

Unemployment and sickness benefit

In 1944, the newly formed Ministry of National Insurance took over responsibility for unemployment insurance, health insurance and pensions. The coalition government planned interim measures to ensure adequate unemployment benefit during the transition from war to peace. After the Second World War, the Labour government established unemployment and sickness benefit. It formed an important element of the social insurance system and replaced complex arrangements applied during the inter-war period.

In the 1944 White Paper on social insurance, the government laid out its intentions for sickness and unemployment benefit. To qualify, claimants needed to have made sufficient contributions and be available for work. Those who left work voluntarily, or were dismissed for misconduct, were disqualified. The amount of benefit paid was less than subsistence, at 24 shillings a week for a single person. This was intended to provide an incentive for claimants to seek work.

Unemployment insurance

James Griffiths , a supporter of the Beveridge proposals, was appointed Labour Minister of National Insurance in July 1945. The most contentious issue in Cabinet discussions was about the period for which benefits could be claimed.

William Beveridge had recommended that unemployment insurance should be available for an unlimited period. The Chancellor, Hugh Dalton, was concerned about the expense and argued for a maximum of 30 weeks, which was eventually agreed by Cabinet. The Foreign Minister, Ernest Bevin, considered it unfair if those genuinely seeking work were excluded after 30 weeks. It was agreed that there would be a right of appeal to a local tribunal.