A short history on the ‘Ministry’ at Longbenton where the National Insurance clerical records and subsequent electronic data base on everyone in the UK that was working or retired.
The National Insurance Act started in 1911 and War pensions were paid from 1916.The department was expanded by the Labour government in 1948 to cover many more benefits. The system has been subjected to numerous amendments in succeeding years. Initially, it was a contributory form of insurance against illness and unemployment, and eventually provided retirement pensions and other benefits.
In 1953 the Pensions system and National Insurance (NI) systems combined to form the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance (MPNI) and they took over the site at Longbenton = one full group containing the 100 sections of all the clerical record sheets = an NI record sheet with full ID + address + NI contributions paid And another group containing the 52 sections and all the clerical record sheets for everyone receiving a state retirement pension.
So at that point in time the MPNI had a clerical record of all the workers and pensioners.
The MPNI change its name in 1963 to The Department of Social Services = DSS as most people of our age new it by when we started work.
The first generation of computer systems was started in October 1961 (think it was the 4th of October) and the Graduated Pension(GP) scheme was introduced. Initially it would mean more money into the pension fund and when people retired an addition to their pension = for every £7.50 a worker paid in Graduated Pension they would get an extra 6 pence per week on top of their pension. My first wage in 1965 was about £4.10 so it took a number of years to contribute £7.50 to get a tanner in retirement.
But what the start of the GP scheme did in 1961was introduce the first NI computer system on the Longbenton site. It didn’t contain full NI records but it was the start and in preparation for the next generation of computer systems to be introduced in 1970 (ICL 1906A computers with 256Killobytes (NOT GIG or MEGA TERRA etc .etc. bytes). The State Pensions (SP) scheme started its own computer system, on the Longbenton site, and in them days they did not talk to each other electronically. Updates to the records from one system to another was by writing the updates to magnetic tape and passing the tape to the other system so they could read the tape and process the updates.
By 1970, 2nd Generation systems, all the info on all the NI clerical records = all active and records of those deceased (don’t know how many million it was) had been typed into a machine that added the data onto magnetic tapes. As there were 100 NI sections (00 to 99 = the last two digits of everyone’s NI number) there were what would now be called 100 separate databases containing an address for every household in the UK that had a worker paying, or had paid NI. The same applied to the clerical pension records but they had 52 sections = 1 for every week of the year as you pension number was based on the week of the year you were born (Jan 1st to 7th pension number ended in 01 – born Dec 25th to 31st pension number ended in 52).
Following that all benefit systems, eg Family Allowance (FA), had their own computer systems and databases (tape) with address records + benefit data and data updates between the systems was buy sending a magnetic tape from one system to whatever other system needed an update to its records.
The 1980s saw the 3rd generation of computer systems (ICL 2980s) but the transfer of data between systems was still via magnetic tape.
In 1990 things started to move faster and the new systems, 4th generation, could update each other electronically.
By then everyone in the UK had a record on one of the systems so every address in the UK was on one or more of the systems.
Since then the new generations were not 10 years apart; all magnetic tape records were now on discs (terrabytes in size), and all systems were updating each other electronically. So every system new about every other system and when letters had to be sent out each system could do their bit to keep the whole of the UK informed and not duplicate anything.