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War Economy

The Rehabilitation Board

The Rehabilitation Board

Safeguarding the interests of servicemen returning to civilian life was a National Rehabilitation Council and a Rehabilitation Board responsibility.

page 510

The Rehabilitation Act had been passed in October 1941 to provide for the re-establishment in civil life of men and women who served in the forces during World War II. For this purpose, quite wide powers were given, including even power to provide finance for the reconstruction of wartime industries on a peacetime basis or to assist in the establishment of new industries. Under this Act, the Council and the Board were set up early in 1942.

The principal function of the Council was to make recommendations to the Minister in Charge of Rehabilitation in relation to the re-establishment of discharged servicemen in civil life. In the main it was an advisory body.

The Board, under the authority of the Minister, was charged with making all necessary provisions for re-establishment. To this end the Board was empowered to use and co-ordinate the services of various Government departments and other organisations. Specifically, the Board had power to acquire property for disposal to discharged servicemen, to give them financial aid, to provide vocational training, to arrange employment for them and to recommend to the Government any modifications necessary to ensure their entry into any employment or occupation.

Initially, instead of setting up a special department, the Board appointed various departments and organisations as its agents in particular defined fields, but with a Rehabilitation Division of the National Employment Service playing a co-ordinating role.

In November 1943 the Rehabilitation Department was established with Mr F. Baker1 as its Permanent Head. In many cases this special department gave the Board a more direct interest in the re-establishment of individual ex-servicemen; but much of the work still required close co-operation with other departments.

The aims of the Rehabilitation Board were: ‘To see the ex-serviceman suitably placed in employment or provided with the means of earning a livelihood and to see him suitably housed.’2

In fact, in the immediate post-war years, the Rehabilitation Board and the Department were concerned with all aspects of the re-establishment of discharged ex-servicemen into civilian life, sometimes acting directly and sometimes co-ordinating the services available from Government departments and other organisations, where they could be used to assist ex-servicemen. The Board also determined the nature and extent of the assistance which might be granted to any class of serviceman and approved the granting of such assistance. It was assisted by District Rehabilitation Committees, which could keep in touch with discharged servicemen.

1 Previously Lieutenant-Colonel F. Baker, DSO, a former Commanding Officer of 28 (Maori) Battalion.

2 Parliamentary Paper H–18, Report of the Rehabilitation Board, 1646, p. 3.

page 511 The Committees' functions included limited powers to make grants of small sums for immediate assistance. They also allocated a quota of state rental houses to discharged servicemen, 50 per cent of all houses becoming available under the Government's housing scheme being set aside for this purpose. There were 112 committees operating in March 1948.

From £6 million in 1944–45, rehabilitation expenditure, including loans, leapt up to nearly £16 million in 1945–46 and then, for the years 1946–47 to 1952–53, averaged over £19 million a year. Thereafter it decreased fairly steadily, to be under £7 million in 1962–63.1

Chart 79 shows annual expenditure on rehabilitation.

chart of rehabilitisation statistics

Chart 79

From April 1954 the Rehabilitation Department ceased to function as a separate Department, and became a division of the Department of Internal Affairs. Thereafter, it took the form of a board secretariat, with regional representation at Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch.

1 See also pp. 51819.