Reasons for the Establishment of the Unemployment Assistance Board
In 1932 Long term mass unemployment peaked in Britain with a rate of 10.6% of the workforce (crafts: 1991,
p.78). Those few not covered by the 1911 contributory National Insurance Act could claim benefit up to six
months until their payments had been exhausted. The poor law was the only benefit option left for those who
had consumed their entitlement or who had not previously contributed to the National Insurance
scheme (George: 1973, p.20).
The poor law was ill-favoured as it deliberately casted a negative image upon the moral character of aclaiment to
deter idleness (DWP). It was originally established to deal with only a small numbers of claimants, however the
new levels of long term unemployment quickly overwhelmed the administration of benefit payments by local
authorities (George: 1973, p.20).
The poor law was also psychologically damaging as skilled workers lost their self-respect and social status by
the implications of claiming poor relief. The law's inadequacies triggered civil unrest provoking demonstrations,
hunger marches and pressure groups (Black: 2000, p.37). With the recent Russian revolution in mind, the government
must have been fearful of a British revolt.
The long term levels of high unemployment forced the govenment to change their belief that the economy was
self-rectifying and that job security was the responsibility of the individual. This change of attitude combined
with civil pressures forced the government to take charge of the relief of the unemployed, regardless of National
Insurance, by establishing the Unemployment Assistance Board in 1934. The poor law's execution was
transferred to the centrally governed UAB who took on the administration of benefit to the long-term unemployed.
The UAB was given the power to decide, via a means test, who would receive the benefit and to how much...