This page will unlock extra money for your elder and you (even if the idea of more admin is demotivating)…
Attendance Allowance – think your elder doesn’t qualify? Think again.
Attendance Allowance has helped Marj a lot over the years, as her expenses steadily increased in a way we didn’t anticipate. 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 we were at work.
Marj had over £23,500 of assets and a pension, so we had thought she wouldn’t be eligible for any social support. My dad put me right. He’d arranged social support for an older relative before and encouraged me to do the same. I’m paying it forward so your elder (or you on their behalf) can apply for additional financial support too.
Don’t be put off by the forms
Despite perceptions, there are benefits available. The first financial support I always urge new carers to research and apply for immediately is Attendance Allowance for the elder they care for.
Having just spent three gruelling hours completing financial benefit paperwork on Marj’s behalf, I know how time-consuming this is. 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.
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 means your elder is likely to be eligible. The rules state that any person with care or supervision needs due to a disability or illness over 65 yrs is eligible. Importantly, Attendance Allowance is not means-tested and is not usually taxed either.
There are two rates, £61.85 per week and £92.40 per week (@Oct 2022). Attendance Allowance is paid directly into the elder’s bank account.
Attendance allowance and terminal illness
Terminal illness triggers a fast track to payment. In this case, Attendance Allowance Applications usually receive the higher rate immediately. With sensitivity unexpected from the Department of Work and Pensions, I understand that you can apply without the recipient ever being aware of the terms, so as to minimise additional stress. (Thank you DWP, that is kind).
Getting help with Attendance Allowance forms
The AA form can be challenging to complete. Carers Bucks and similar organisations 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 also be physically assessed. If so, 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 stay). This is to prevent public funds from paying for, arguably, the same care twice.
Other non-means-tested support available
- Is your elder receiving the Winter Fuel Payment?
- Might you or your elder be eligible for the Warm Home Discount Scheme, or Cold Weather Payments?
- Many are eligible for a state pension when they’re over 80yrs and may not know it, even if they weren’t eligible at 60yrs (if they never made NI contributions). According to actuarial firm Lane, Clark & Peacock (LCP) in 2021; 107,000 people aged 80yrs or over aren’t claiming a state pension when a large proportion could be eligible. You need to have lived in England, Scotland or Wales for at least 10 years out of a 20 year period, see the fine print and check for eligibility on gov.uk.
- 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 used the terrific Aylesbury Shopmobility and Oxford Westgate Shopmobility scheme (though we haven’t used the new Westgate service). Without these Marj couldn’t have done her beloved annual Christmas shopping trip.
- Could your elder make use of public transport concessions like bus passes and railcards, click on Age UK for more info, your local authority’s website may be useful too, eg Bucks Council. The Royal Voluntary Service may be able to help your elder reach appointments too and some communities have neighbourhood voluntary FiSH schemes. Also, check out Bucks County Council community transport and the Chilterns Dial-a-Ride Service.
- Even though free TV licenses for the over 75s were withdrawn on 1 June 2020, a TV license is still free for license holders aged 75 yrs or older if they or their partner claims pension credit. Contact TV licensing to see if your household is eligible.
- Check that your elder is paying the lowest price for their utilities, it’s worth checking contracts. For example, Community Impact Bucks set up an oil buying syndicate that buys oil on behalf of combined Bucks households every month. Use comparison sites like boiler juice to check or 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 for helping save money.
- 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.
- There are sometimes discounts or freebies for carers at museums, leisure centres and national trust sites too. 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 Bucks Council Tax Reduction Scheme. Council Tax Support (incredibly) varies across councils as each all run their own scheme, so enter your postcode on the www.gov.uk website to find out about yours. This is also where you’ll find details of other benefits.
It’s worth checking whether your elder or you are entitled to Universal Credit.
Update 15 Feb 2020: Lisa, an M&M reader sent me a link to her blog which expands on Universal Credit, you may find it helpful, click here.
Benefits for you, the carer
If you give over 35 hours of care and earn under £132 per week after tax and expenses, you may be eligible for Carers Allowance of £69.70 per week (@Oct 2022).
Find out what you’re both eligible for
All the ‘ifs’, ‘buts’ and ‘maybes’ illustrate just how challenging it can be to sort an individual’s benefits out. The sooner government departments collaborate to simplify the benefits landscape, the better.
Check benefit eligibility for your own set of circumstances using an online benefits calculator first, to understand the landscape a bit. Follow up with a phone call (or 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. Start with your local Citizens Advice Bureau 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 benefits provision here.
Set a day aside, make a brew and have a go at applying. You’ve got this. Good luck.