The latest Government proposals for the increase in pension age to 66 is being actively considered, to try and ensure it will be sustainable into the future with the life expectancy of individuals increasing year on year. Over a hundred years ago in 1908 the Old Age Pension Act was passed and the first payments made in January 1909. The maximum payment of five shillings (25p) for a single man or woman was meagre - the equivalent of just under £20 a week now. To get even this you had to be at least 70 years old, at a time when only about 5% of the population were older than that. You might be denied it at all if you had been sent to prison in the previous ten years, were habitually drunk, had never worked when able to do so, or were otherwise of bad character. To check up on claimants and their entitlement, civil servants known as pension enquiry officers would visit people in their homes, assess their circumstances and then make recommendations to a separate pensions committee. William Gunning King (1859-1940) cartoon depicts such a visit by the Pensions Officer.
PENSION ENQUIRY OFFICER: "Have you ever been in the hands of the police?"
APPLICANT: "Well--er--sir, you see I used to be a cook! Girls will be girls!
Besides, it was a good many years ago, and he was a sergeant!"