Help For He­roes

Alan Thomas ex­am­ines the ing’s Na­tional Roll Scheme set up just af­ter World War I.

This England - - Help For Heroes -

LE ig­nored by his­to­ri­ans and com­men­ta­tors alike, the ing’s Na­tional Roll Scheme was a most im­por­tant piece of leg­is­la­tion for dis­abled ex-ser­vice­men, of whom there were al­most two mil­lion when World War I ended.

The re­turn home of such a large num­ber from the con­flict chal­lenged the wide­spread be­lief that dis­abled peo­ple were a bur­den, and such was the scale of na­tional grief at the time, some­thing just had to change this ide­ol­ogy.

Dur­ing the hos­til­i­ties a Bri­tish pub­lic ser­vant, Henry Lesser Roth­band, later Sir Henry, had cam­paigned tire­lessly for a scheme aimed at find­ing em­ploy­ment for in­jured sol­diers and sailors, and in 1917 pub­lished a widely read book on the sub­ject.

Fur­ther trac­tion was given to his ideas when the Bri­tish Legion lob­bied the govern­ment for a law that would oblige em­ploy­ers to en­gage dis­abled ex-ser­vice­men.

These plead­ings, to­gether with a grow­ing con­cern, cul­mi­nated in ing Ge­orge V is­su­ing a procla­ma­tion in which the ing’s Na­tional Roll Scheme was pro­mul­gated.

The scheme called for five per cent of any busi­ness es­tab­lish­ment to be re­served for the em­ploy­ment of those ser­vice­men who had been dis­abled in the con­flict.

Em­ploy­ers who ful­filled this Quota were al­lowed to im­print on their busi­ness sta­tionery a spe­cial de­sign with the words “Na­tional Scheme for Dis­abled Men”.

Hav­ing this em­blem, known as the Seal of Hon­our, on the sta­tionery made it easy to dis­tin­guish the pa­tri­otic from the un­pa­tri­otic em­ployer.

In ad­di­tion, each em­ployer who com­plied was given a num­bered cer­tifi­cate from the Min­istry of Labour, a doc­u­ment that was of­ten framed and placed in a po­si­tion of promi­nence in busi­ness premises.

There were re­ported in­ci­dences of hos­til­ity to the scheme by some trade unions and em­ploy­ers, but it was made abun­dantly clear to them, in no un­cer­tain terms, that it was their duty to ac­cord ex­cep­tional treat­ment to the brave men who had been in­jured in the war.

In an ef­fort to pla­cate the unions, they were given as­sur­ances that the scheme was in no way aimed at the di­lu­tion of skilled by un­skilled labour.

It was fur­ther stressed that the pri­mary ob­ject was to ab­sorb in­jured exser­vice­men into oc­cu­pa­tions for which no spe­cial train­ing was re­quired, and with re­gard to rates of re­mu­ner­a­tion, in no case at all was the pos­ses­sion of a dis­abil­ity pen­sion al­lowed to be taken into ac­count when com­put­ing the rate of pay.

The scheme was given more teeth when it was an­nounced that when it came to plac­ing govern­ment con­tracts, pri­or­ity would be given to those com­pa­nies on the ing’s Na­tional Roll.

Clearly, the govern­ment was lead­ing the way by re­strict­ing con­tracts to those em­ploy­ers en­rolled in the scheme, un­less spe­cial cir­cum­stances dic­tated oth­er­wise.

By 1920, 17,000 es­tab­lish­ments were em­ploy­ing 155,000 un­der the scheme, and in 1926 it was re­ported that these fig­ures had in­creased to 2 ,000 and 365,000 re­spec­tively.

Re­gional com­mit­tees were ap­pointed and tasked to can­vas and en­rol busi­ness es­tab­lish­ments into the scheme, and also ob­serve that those al­ready registered were meet­ing their com­mit­ments.

In ad­di­tion, they had au­thor­ity vested in them to re­duce the per­cent­age re­quired for qual­i­fi­ca­tion when war­ranted by spe­cial cir­cum­stances.

De­spite re­peated ex­hor­ta­tions, many mu­nic­i­pal and other pub­lic bod­ies failed to fol­low the lead given by the govern­ment, with only 172 out of a to­tal of 2, 21 meet­ing their obli­ga­tions.

Amaz­ingly, the scheme which made such a valu­able con­tri­bu­tion to­wards al­le­vi­at­ing em­ploy­ment prob­lems of dis­abled he­roes of WWI is rarely men­tioned. How­ever, it re­mained ac­tive un­til the pass­ing of the 1944 Dis­abled Per­sons (Em­ploy­ment) Act which de­creed that pref­er­ence was to be given to dis­abled per­sons who had served in the armed forces of the Crown.

King Ge­orge V.

Five per cent of busi­nesses were to be re­served for in­jured ex-ser­vice­men.

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