The Old-Age Pensions Act 1908 has been described as as one of the foundations of modern social welfare in the UK, and is part of the wider project of social reforms initiated by the Liberal Government between 1906 and 1914.
The Act provided a non-contributory old-age pension for the first time to those over the age of 70 years of age. It paid a weekly pension of 5s a week (and 7s 6d for married couples); around 500,000 people were eligible. The level of benefit was set low deliberately so as to encourage workers to make their own provision for retirement. To be eligible, workers had to earn less than £31. 10s. per year, and had to pass a 'character test'; only those with a 'good character' could receive a pension. This meant that all those who received poor relief, who lived in mental asylums, who had been in prison for 10 years and who were convicted of drunkenness were excluded, as were those who had lived in the UK for less than 20 years and had not been in work all their lives.