pensions campaigning

Canon Blackley proposed a compulsory scheme of national provident insurance for sickness and old age in 1878. [1] Combined with the example set in Germany, Blackley's proposals led to campaigns for the government to establish some form of pension provision in Britain from the 1880s onwards.

The campaign involved notable figures such as the politician Joseph Chamberlain and social reformers Charles Booth, Canon Samuel Barnett, Benjamin Seebohm Rowntree and George Cadbury, and was also supported by the Labour movement and Friendly Societies.


The Rev F.H. Stead founded the National Committee of Organised Labour for the Promotion of Old Age Pensions in 1898, which was disbanded when the pension act was passed in 1908.

Campaigning resumed in 1916, with the National Conference on Old Age Pensions (1916) campaigning for  pensions to increase in line with inflation.

In 1942 the Scottish Old Age Pensions Association and National Association for Old Age Pensions Associations (established 1937 and 1938) were merged as the National Federation of Old Age Pension Associations. All three organisations campaigned for improvements to state pension provision.

The National Spinsters’ Pensions Association (NSPA), established in 1935, campaigned for state pensions to be provided to women at an earlier age, on the basis that women had to give up work earlier than men. The NSPA, which was led by Florence White, had a membership of 150,000, mainly textile workers. The NSPA’s claims were investigated by a Parliamentary Committee which reported in 1938, and dismissed their demands.

[1] Information on this page is from Pat Thane, Old Age in English History, particularly pages 284-286, Salter, Bryans, Redman and Hewitt's 100 Years of the State Pension, chapter one, and the Pensions 100 website:

The Pensions Archive Trust - Registered Charity No. 1122633    

Chairman - Alan Herbert     Secretary - Peter Dawes