Pensioners - The Campaign for Social Security Rights
campaign was started primarily to increase pensioners' take-up
of Department of Health & Social Security (DHSS) benefits.
It had three strands:
- To involve pensioners in action regarding
their right to social security benefits.
- To expose the anomalies, contradictions and failings of the
Social Security system.
- To confront the state and achieve changes in government policy
by the force of grass-root action.
The efforts to obtain heating allowances were
an important element of the campaign. The 1966 Social Security
Act allowed for discretionary payments where a house was 'damp
or otherwise difficult to keep adequately warm.' The SSTUC and
the CU argued successfully at appeals tribunals that most houses
in the North East were damp and/or difficult to heat. A precedent
was established for weekly payments of 50p-75p to be made (a considerable
amount at that time) only to have this 'offset against long-term
additions' so that usually no extra payment was actually received.
This anomaly regarding the heating allowance
was raised at local and national level involving the DHSS, the
TUC, and parliament. Several thousand leaflets were distributed
in the region. In a notorious incident one leaflet addressed 'To
All Senior Citizens' was distributed by Post Offices in the belief
that it was an 'official' document.
Success was achieved when Keith Joseph, Secretary
of State for Social Security, announced in Parliament that, as
from the 1st October 1973, extra heating allowances would be paid
on top of supplementary benefits and that, for the first time,
recipients would be entitled to the full amount of heating allowance
awarded. It was estimated that over 400,000 pensioners benefited
at an annual cost (then) of around £6 million.
The campaign for heating allowances was used
to spearhead other campaigns for increased benefits. Several important
changes in social security benefit policy were achieved and, equally
important, a change of attitude by pensioners to claiming benefit
The campaign can also be seen as contributing
to an awareness by local authorities to the importance to local
economies of maximising the take-up of benefits. Rights 'advice-agencies'
were established in many areas. In such ways the state absorbed
and deflected popular protest and revolt while, at the same time,
economic interests were served in the guise of philanthropic intent.