I know that you’ll have a full and busy life. I also realise that your own financial admin fills enough of your time, let alone taking on anyone else’s. But stay with me. This post may sound dull as ditch water, but it could unlock some extra financial support for your elder or you.
Think you don’t qualify for financial support? Think again.
Over recent years Marj’s expenses have gradually increased. Early on she needed taxis to make GP appointments and to buy new personal care products. Later Marj needed mobility aids, clothing, bed linen, furniture and more recently, domiciliary care support while my husband and I are at work. The expenses creep upwards and we’re lucky that Marj can currently (just about) fund most herself.
At the start, none of us appreciated how these expenses would increase over time. I also thought that because Marj had over £23,500 of assets and a pension she would not be eligible for social support. My dad put me right. He had arranged social support for an elder relative and urged me to do the same. I’m paying it forward here – your elder and you may qualify for additional financial support too.
Don’t be put off by the forms
Having just spent three hours completing financial benefit paperwork on Marj’s behalf, I know how gruellingly time-consuming it can be. Over the years I’ve learned to expect to complete similar forms asking for similar information over and over again AND even to receive follow-up telephone calls that repeat the same questions. Joined up, it is not. Frustrating, it is. Not at all carer friendly.
Having said that and despite initial appearances, there are people and organisations who genuinely care about you and your elder and are waiting to help. Age UK estimated in April 2017 that there was £3.5m of unclaimed Pension Credit and Housing Benefit owed, yet unclaimed, by older people every year. Don’t let what’s due to you or your elder go unclaimed.
The first chunk of financial support I urge you research and apply for immediately is Attendance Allowance for the elder you care for.
If your elder relative or friend is making a lifestyle shift or house move based on their health, the chances are they are eligible, at least for the lower rate, of Attendance Allowance (AA). The fact that you are even reading this blog indicates your elder is likely to be eligible. The rules state that any person with a care or supervision need due to a disability or illness over 65 yrs is eligible. Attendance Allowance is not means tested and is not usually taxed either.
There are two rates, £58.70 per week and £87.65 per week (@Sep 2019). AA is paid directly into the elder’s bank account.
It’s important to note that there are special terms that apply to terminal illness. In this case, Attendance Allowance Applications are fast tracked and the higher rate applies immediately. And with sensitivity unexpected from the Department of Work and Pensions, I understand that you can apply without the recipient even being aware of the terms, so as to minimise additional stress. (Thank you DWP, that is kind).
From experience, I know the form can be challenging to complete, so get some help with it. Carers Bucks offer help. Use factual, impartial legal terms like ‘best interests’, ‘monitoring’ and ‘keeping them safe’ rather than emotive ones like ‘can’t cope’. Your elder may be physically assessed. You may want to be present to ensure that the assessor isn’t hoodwinked. Be clear about all your other commitments and working hours. Do persevere, it is very useful support that helps you care for your elder in their or your home. The benefit for the State is that it cost far less to support someone in their home than in residential care.
Note – if your elder receives Attendance Allowance and starts self funding either care at home or residential care, you don’t have to let the DWP know. However, if your elder has an NHS funded hospital stay or Local Authority funded respite care for over 28 days, the DWP must be notified (you can exclude the first and last day of the term). This is to protect public funds from paying for, arguably, the same care twice.
Other non means tested support
- Is your elder receiving the Winter Fuel Payment?
- Some of the things you need to buy may qualify for VAT relief.
- Getting out and about is hard enough for both of you, without having to negotiate tricky distances together. Marj’s Blue Badge is vital for trips out.
- We’ve also used the terrific Aylesbury Shopmobility or Oxford Westgate Shopmobility scheme (though we haven’t used the new Westgate service yet). Without these Marj couldn’t do her beloved annual Christmas shopping trip.
- Could your elder make use of public transport concessions like bus passes and train discounts or railcards, click on Age UK for more info. Aylesbury Vale District Council has modified its travel assistance recently (@Sep 2019), summarised here. The Royal Voluntary Service may be able to help your elder reach appointments too and some communities have neighbourhood voluntary FiSH schemes. Here’s a Bucks example, Haddenham FISH Transport Scheme. Also check out Bucks County Council community transport and the Chilterns Dial-a-Ride Service.
- You may have caught the furore over withdrawing free TV licenses for the over 75s in 2020. However, Did a TV license is still free for those over 75 yrs AND the household they co-habit with right now? If you have been cohabiting with an elder relative, contact TV licensing to see if your household is eligible for a TV License refund. You need to either already have or apply for a 75yrs+ TV license before you can apply for a refund. It’s complicated (of course!) but you’ll only do it once. In 2018 I had a refund for two years of License Fee after overpaying for seven years. Refunds are limited to a maximum of two years unless an error has been made by TV Licensing. Hmm. Better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.
- Check that your elder is paying the best price for their utilities and target 46p a litre for heating oil. For example Community Impact Bucks has an ‘oil buying club‘ that buys on behalf of combined households every month. Use comparison sites to slash costs of other utilities and make sure payment plans don’t include anything not being used. Marj paid for wifi for years without ever using it. Consumer champions like Which? and Moneysavingexpert are great sources for savings tips too.
- Contact your water authority to see if they support people on low income with special water needs (eg incontinence requires a lot of laundry). Click here for Severn Trent Water’s support programme.
- Use a mail redirection as an opportunity to cleanse mail of undesirable requests for donations or unwelcome sales prospecting.
- Ask businesses or entertainment centres about offers for elders or their carers. Click here for the discounts and offers we are aware of.
- There are sometimes discounts or freebies for carers at museums, leisure centres and national trust sites. Offers aren’t always shown on a website so it’s always worth asking.
Means Tested Benefits
The elder you care for may be also entitled to: Personal Independence Payment, Pension Credit, support for mortgage interest payments, Housing Benefit and/or Council Tax Support. Here are details of the Aylesbury Vale Council Tax Reduction Scheme. Council Tax Support (incredibly) varies across councils as they all run their own scheme so enter your postcode on the www.gov.uk website to find out about your own council’s scheme. This is also where you’ll find details of other benefits.
Note that Universal Credit is now being rolled out in some areas including Bucks and Oxon. It replaces Housing Benefit and some other benefits.
Benefits for Carers
If you give over 35 hours of care a week and earn under £123 a week after tax and expenses (which can include half your pension contribution), you may be eligible for Carers Allowance of £66.15 per week (@Sep 2019), but you do need to check your circumstances against the list of conditions. There is also a Carer component to some other benefits and you may also be eligible for Council Tax Support too.
Find out what you’re eligible for
All the ‘ifs’ and ‘maybes’ illustrate just how challenging it can be to sort our individual benefits out. The sooner government departments collaborate to simplify the benefit landscape, the better.
In my experience, the best way forward is to check benefit eligibility for your own set of circumstances using an online benefits calculator first, to understand the landscape a bit. I then follow up with phone help (or by face to face if you prefer). You can choose from the following benefit checks: Age UK, Citizens Advice (England), Carers Trust, Entitledto or Turn2us, or if you prefer a chat over the phone, with Carers Bucks. Your local Citizens Advice Bureau would be a good place to start if you would prefer a face to face meeting. In reality you may need to consult more than one source to get clarity. Collect as much detail as possible before you start your investigation eg pension, other income or benefits and savings. The DWP attempts to consolidate its benefit provision here.
So set a day aside, make a brew and have a go at applying. You’ve got this. Good luck and let me know how it goes. And do pass on any tips. Good luck.