National Assistance Act 1948

The National Assistance Act 1948 is an Act of Parliament passed in the United Kingdom by the Labour government of Clement Attlee. It formally abolished the Poor Law system that had existed since the reign of Elizabeth I,[1] and established a social safety net for those who did not pay national insurance contributions (such as the homeless, the physically disabled, and unmarried mothers) and were therefore left uncovered by the National Insurance Act 1946 and the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act 1946. It also provided help to elderly Britons who required supplementary benefits to make a subsistence living,[2] and obliged local authorities to provide suitable accommodation for those who through infirmity, age, or any other reason were in need of care and attention not otherwise available.[3] The legislation also empowered local authorities to grant financial aid to organizations of volunteers concerned with the provision of recreational facilities or meals.[4]

National Assistance Act 1948
Long titleAn Act to terminate the existing poor law and to provide in lieu thereof for the assistance of persons in need by the National Assistance Board and by local authorities; to make further provision for the welfare of disabled, sick, aged and other persons and for regulating homes for disabled and aged persons and charities for disabled persons; to amend the law relating to non-contributory old age pensions; to make provision as to the burial or cremation of deceased persons; and for purposes connected with the matters aforesaid.
Citation11 & 12 Geo 6 c.29
Status: Amended
Text of statute as originally enacted
Revised text of statute as amended

The National Assistance Board, which administered the National Assistance scheme, operated scale rates which were more generous than in the past. The rate for a married couple before the new service was launched, for instance, was 31 shillings (£1.55) a week, and 40 shillings (£2.00) a week when the new service was introduced, together with an allowance for rent. In addition, as noted by Denis Nowell Pritt, "In most cases where the applicant was a householder, the rent allowance was the actual rent paid."[5]

Under Section 29 of the Act, the power was granted to local authorities to promote the welfare of physically disabled individuals. The social needs of the mentally disabled were to be the responsibility of mental health departments which, being part of the new National Health Service, were to provide its services to all those who needed it, regardless of ability to pay.[4]

See also



  1. Spicker, Paul, An Introduction to Social Policy, The Robert Gordon University, archived from the original on 20 July 2007, retrieved 6 March 2012
  2. Taylor 1988
  3. Byrne & Padfield 1983
  4. Labour and inequality: sixteen fabian essays edited by Peter Townsend and Nicholas Bosanquet
  5. Pritt 1963


  • Byrne, Tony; Padfield, Colin F. (1983), Social Services, Made Simple Books, William Heinemann, ISBN 978-0-434-98570-8
  • Pritt, Denis Nowell (1963), The Labour Government 1945–51, Lawrence & Wishart
  • Taylor, David (1988), Mastering Economic and Social History, Palgrave Macmillan, ISBN 978-0-333-36804-6
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