If you’re a UK care seeker learning all there is to know about care home benefits and funding options, you’ll probably have heard the phrase ‘Attendance Allowance’ along the way.
If you haven’t, let us explain. Read on to find out more about Attendance Allowance and whether you may be able to claim it…
What is Attendance Allowance?
Put simply, Attendance Allowance is a benefit for those living with a physical or mental disability or terminal illness, who have reached State Pension age and need an elevated level of care.
Care services range from help with personal care like dressing and eating to more specific care involving medical treatments and help to get around. However, you are not necessarily required to have someone caring for you to claim Attendance Allowance.
Attendance Allowance in a care home
If you live in a care home, or you are going into a care home, you can continue to claim Attendance Allowance if you are a self-funder; e.g. you pay for all your care home costs on your own.
If your care is paid for by your local authority, you will continue to receive Attendance Allowance for the first 28 days. If you move in or out of the care home, the benefit will start and stop accordingly.
In nursing homes, people who only receive the Registered Nursing Care Contribution from the NHS to help cover costs can still continue to receive Attendance Allowance.
Attendance Allowance for the terminally ill
Those who live in a hospice and have been diagnosed with a terminal illness can also continue receiving Attendance Allowance. If you have been diagnosed with a terminal illness that means you are unlikely to live longer than six months, there is a special quick application process. If you are expected to live longer than six months, we recommend that you speak to an adviser.
You can also apply for Attendance Allowance on behalf of someone else if they are too ill to apply themselves, if they don’t know their illness is terminal, or if they are struggling to come to terms with their diagnosis. You can fill out the form and sign it for them, but the money will be paid to them.
This information is treated confidentially and the person will not be informed that they are terminally ill.
This can be a really difficult time for relatives and friends, so if you’re finding it hard to cope, why not speak to an adviser who can help.
As well as the Attendance Allowance form, you will need to send a DS1500 medical condition report. This can be given by a doctor, specialist or consultant and is a free report that describes the terminal condition and its treatment.
How much support can I get?
There are two different rates of Attendance Allowance and the amount you receive depends on the level of care you need.
For example, if you only need care during the day, you will be eligible for the lower rate, while if you require 24-hour care, or you have a terminal illness, you will usually receive the higher rate. The decided amount will be paid weekly into your bank account.
The Attendance Allowance rate for 2021/22 is as follows:
- Lower rate: £60
- Higher rate: £89.60
Am I eligible?
Attendance Allowance is not means-tested and can be paid regardless of your income, savings or National Insurance contribution record. It’s also a tax-free benefit!
However, to be eligible for Attendance Allowance, you must fulfil the following four criteria:
- You must have reached State Pension age (65+ years)
- You must need help caring for yourself due to a mental or physical disability or illness
- You must have had this disability or illness for at least six months, unless you are terminally ill
- You must meet residence and presence conditions
To find out whether you are eligible for Attendance Allowance, all you have to do is fill out a form to make a claim.
If you live in Scotland, Attendance Allowance is not available, as everyone over 65 who have been assessed as needing Attendance Allowance is in fact entitled to free personal care.
Do I need supporting information?
You may be asked to provide some supporting information about your health and the level of care you need when you submit your application. This may include:
- A letter from your GP or health consultant
- Your care plan from your local council
- GP appointment letters
- Prescription lists
- Information from a Community Psychiatric Nurse
- Reports from an occupational therapist with details of the equipment and specific adaptations you require
Occasionally, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) may contact you, your doctor or another reference on your form to request more information.
In some cases, they may ask that a doctor visit you to ask questions and examine you. If you live in Northern Ireland, the Department for Communities (DfC) will be the one to get in touch.
Receiving the decision
When you have applied for Attendance Allowance, you will receive a written decision on your claim form that tells you what rates of benefit have been agreed and the date they will start.
Sometimes Attendance Allowance is granted for a fixed period of time – if this is the case, the written decision will give an end date.
Attendance Allowance can be awarded for a fixed period or for an indefinite period. If you are awarded the benefit for a fixed period, the decision will tell you when the period ends. A new claim form will be sent to you well before the period of your award ends.
Appealing the decision
If your claim is refused, or you are given a lower rate than expected, you can go to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) if you are in England, Wales or Scotland, or the Department for Communities (DfC) in Northern Ireland to ask for a second decision.
This is known as a mandatory reconsideration and must be done before you can appeal the decision. If the second decision is also a no, you can lodge an appeal with the Tribunal Service for England, Wales and Scotland, or the Appeals Service (TAS) in Northern Ireland.
There is a time limit of one month to do this, so it’s a good idea to act as quickly as possible.
Changing circumstances advice
If there are any changes to your circumstances, for example, you go into hospital, or your care needs increase, again you can contact the DWP or the Disability and Carers Service in Northern Ireland.
You will need to fill out the form detailing exactly how your care needs have changed. We advise calling the Attendance Allowance helpline or contacting an advice service before requesting that your case is re-examined.
Some of the most common changes to circumstances you will need to inform the DWP of are:
- Going into hospital for more than 28 days
- Your condition gets better or worse
- The level of care you need increases
- You go into a care home
- You move abroad, temporarily or permanently
- You go into prison
If you go into hospital, your payments will stop and start again on the day you go in or out. Top tip: If you need to work out the total days you spent in the hospital, don’t count the day you went in or came out.
The DWP might actually send you a new form to complete and send back if you’ve spent a significant amount of time in the hospital.
If your circumstances change in any way, contact the DWP as soon as possible, as the change may affect your payment and you could risk missing out on money by delaying telling them.
Alternatively, if you inform the DWP of a change that reduces your Attendance Allowance, you may have to pay money back, so there is no benefit to reporting a change late.
How Attendance Allowance may affect other benefits
Claiming Attendance Allowance will not negatively affect any other benefits you are eligible for such as income support and housing benefit – in fact, it might even increase the amount you receive from other benefits, including Pension Credit and Council Tax Reduction.
If you receive Attendance Allowance, your local authority may take this into consideration for your Needs Assessment when they decide whether they should contribute to the costs of your care.