What is Attendance Allowance and how do I claim it?

Up to 1.1 MILLION pensioners missing out on help worth £1,000s

Attendance Allowance is one of the most underclaimed benefits, with as many as 1.1 million missing out on up to £5.2 BILLION a year, according to estimates from MoneySavingExpert and Policy in Practice. If you're aged 66+ and need help with daily living due to illness or disability, check if you're due £5,300 a year...


With thanks to Policy in Practice for its help estimating how many people are missing out on Attendance Allowance, and also for kindly fact-checking this guide for us.

This is the first incarnation of this guide. We've worked hard to make it clear and understandable, but how you read it is more important than how we write it. Your feedback can help us improve it, so please let us know either in the MSE Forum or email AAfeedback@moneysavingexpert.com.

Attendance Allowance helps with costs if you're ill or disabled – whatever your income

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Attendance Allowance is a non-means-tested weekly payment to help cover costs of pensioners (aged 66+) who need someone to 'attend' them.

You can get it if you have a long-term health condition that means you need help with daily tasks. This includes sensory disabilities (such as blindness), or learning difficulties. You must have needed help or supervision for at least six consecutive months, or have been told by a medical professional that you have 12 months or less to live.

There are two rates depending on the level of help you're considered to need:

  • The lower rate is £68.10 a week (£3,541 a year). You'll get this if you need help or supervision during EITHER the day OR the night.

  • The higher rate is £101.75 a week (£5,291 a year). You'll get this if you need help or supervision during both the day AND the night, or if a medical professional has said you have 12 months or less to live.

These amounts increase on 6 April each year, in line with inflation.

Prefer to watch instead of read? Martin's video briefing...

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You DON'T need to be receiving care or be on a low income to be eligible for Attendance Allowance – check NOW to see if you qualify

Over a million pensioners with physical or mental health conditions in Great Britain are thought to be eligible for Attendance Allowance but not claiming it, according to new research from MSE and Policy in Practice. That's often due to misconceptions around what it is and who qualifies. So don't just assume that you – or someone you know – can't get it. Take the time to check:
  • You need to be of state pension age. So currently aged 66 or above.
  • Your finances are irrelevant. Attendance Allowance isn't means-tested, so if your condition means you qualify for help, you'll get it regardless of your income or savings.
  • You need to have a condition that means you need 'help' or 'supervision' with daily activities. There's no official list of qualifying conditions (though those with Parkinson's, dementia, terminal illness, blindness, learning difficulties and more are among those likely to be accepted).

    Instead, what's important is that you have physical and/or mental disability or illness that impacts your daily life. Even if you don't think of yourself as 'disabled', you may have a health condition or illness that means you're eligible.

    Crucially, you don't need to actually be receiving this help or supervision. What's important is that you're thought to need help due to the severity of your condition. You'll need to provide evidence that you could've benefitted from this help for at least six months (or have been told that you have 12 months or less to live).

  • 'Help' means needing assistance with daily activities. Some examples include (but are not limited to):

    help getting washed or dressed
    help eating
    help going to or using the toilet
    help telling people what you need or making yourself understood

  • 'Supervision' means needing someone to watch over you to help avoid danger to yourself or others. Some examples include (but are not limited to):

    - supervision when you take medicines or have treatment
    supervision to keep you away from danger you may not know is there
    supervision to stop you hurting yourself or others
    supervision to keep you from danger because you're unable control the way you behave
  • You'll automatically get the higher rate of Attendance Allowance if you're terminally ill and not expected to live for more than 12 months. There are special rules to help you access Attendance Allowance more quickly and easily, but you do still need to fill in the same form as other claimants, and provide some additional documentation. See FAQs for more.
  • You can apply on behalf of someone else. If you're caring for a family member or friend who you think might qualify for Attendance Allowance, as long as they can sign the form once you've filled it in, or you have Power of Attorney.

'I applied for my husband and he's now receiving £5,300/year'

I applied for Attendance Allowance for my husband and today the first payment was made (even before a letter arrived telling us!). He's entitled to the upper limit [£5,291 a year], which is even more than we could've hoped for.

At the same time, I optimistically applied for a blue badge for him too and again, confirmation of this being approved arrived today! Without the advice on the MSE email we would not have even been aware of being eligible. THANK YOU MSE team.

Christine, via email

Attendance Allowance also opens up access to other benefits – potentially worth £1,000s

Getting Attendance Allowance can help to unlock additional forms of help, potentially worth £1,000s. The table below shows what's available:

Attendance allowance: How this extra help works and who can get it

Everyone can get...

A third off train travel with a Disabled Person's Railcard

It costs £20 a year and gives you and a travelling companion a third off train fares. And unlike most railcards, there are no time restrictions on when it can be used. To apply, you'll need to scan and either upload or post a copy of your Attendance Allowance award letter. Somebody else can apply for you if you need help. For more, see our guide on MoneySaving if you're disabled.

Depending on your condition, you may get...

A blue badge for free and/or accessible parking

Attendance Allowance doesn't automatically qualify you for a blue badge, but it can support your application to park in places other people can't often for free, so it's worth applying to your local council. See Travelling if you're disabled for more info.

A council tax discount worth between 25% and 100%

Attendance Allowance is one of the benefits that can support an application for a 'severely mentally impaired' (SMI) council tax discount. It can be worth 25% off your council tax bill, and in some cases your entire bill could be wiped. For more info, see our How to claim the SMI council tax discount guide.

If you're on a low income, you may also get...

Extra Pension Credit worth £76 a week

If you already claim Pension Credit, not only can you claim Attendance Allowance on top, but you may also be entitled to extra Pension Credit worth £76 a week.

If you're not claiming Pension Credit, but live alone or with a partner aged 66+ and have a weekly income of below roughly £204 a week (or £307 if you're in a couple) check if you can get it. See our Pension Credit guide for help. Claiming Pension Credit can also help you get an income-based council tax reduction.

Extra Universal Credit worth up to £390 a month extra
If you're in a couple, and one of you or your partner are under state pension age, you can't claim Pension Credit (as you both need to be 66+), but you might be able to claim Universal Credit instead. It's worth checking even if you've been refused before, as getting attendance allowance means you'll have a larger 'work allowance'.

Getting Attendance Allowance may also 
qualify your household for an extra £186 or £390 a month in Universal Credit, depending on how the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) classifies your 'work capability' (it will assess this even though you're over state pension age). To apply, see Universal Credit. Plus, claiming Universal Credit can also help you get a council tax reduction.

If you've got a carer...

You could get a council tax discount if your carer lives in

If you live with someone who cares for you, and aren't classed as 'severely mentally impaired' (which entitles you to a potentially larger discount, see above), you could get a 25% discount on your council tax bill. For more info, see Council tax discounts.

They could boost their state pension with carer's credit...
If the person caring for you is aged between 16 and 65 and providing 20 to 35 hours a week of unpaid care, they may be entitled to carer's credit. They won't get any money for this now, but it gives you NI credits that can help to boost your state pension by £1,000s in future. See our Carer's credit guide.
...And/or they could get carer's allowance worth £4,000 a year

If the person caring for you provides 35+ hours a week of care and earns less than £139 a week (after tax), they could get carer's allowance. This is worth £76.75 a week (almost £4,000 a year) and also includes the state pension-boosting benefit you get from carer's credit. HOWEVER, before claiming carer's allowance, first read our warning.

  • Successes from MoneySavers who've unlocked some of this extra help

    My father has dementia and is now needing more support due to severe mental impairment. I applied for a council tax reduction as he's in receipt of Attendance Allowance. The council phoned me back the next working day and, in less than a fortnight, the council tax was stopped and he was refunded £2,600.

    Valerie, via email

    My father received the daytime rate [£68 a week], which has made a huge difference to him and enabled him to have help at home. And because he was entitled to this benefit, he also was entitled to a higher rate of housing and council tax benefit, meaning this year he does not need to pay a penny for his council tax bill and only £5 a week towards his rent. It has made a huge difference to his finances and he now worries less about his other bills. 

    Rachel, via email

Attendance Allowance usually won't affect your other benefits – but do check

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In most cases, Attendance Allowance won't impact your other benefit entitlements. It may even increase them if you claim (or are eligible for) Pension Credit or Universal Credit.

Claiming Attendance Allowance also means you'll be exempt from the benefit cap (see our 10-min benefit check guide for more on what this is), so if you or your partner gets it, the total amount you can claim in financial support from benefits will no longer be limited.

HOWEVER, in a few cases, claiming Attendance Allowance could mean you lose out  so if you're already claiming benefits for your health condition or because you're on a low income, it's worth checking how it will impact you. If in doubt, always talk to an adviser before applying.

Personal independence payment (PIP) and disability living allowance (DLA) can beat Attendance Allowance

If you claim either of the following benefits, then it's likely best to stick on them as long as possible, as they're usually worth as much as, or more than Attendance Allowance:

  • Personal independence payment (or adult disability payment if in Scotland). This is similar to Attendance Allowance, except that it's aimed at people aged from 16 to 66 and can be worth more.

    That's because while the main part of PIP pays the same as Attendance Allowance (at either a lower weekly rate of £68, or a higher one of £102), PIP also includes an additional mobility part (worth between £27 and £71 extra a week) that you'll get if you need help getting around.

    So if you've not yet reached state pension age, it's best to apply for PIP before you turn 66. CRUCIALLY, if you make (or made) a successful claim for PIP in the year before reaching state pension age, you can continue to get it after you turn 66.

    You will then continue to get the PIP payment until your award ends (when this happens varies depending on your individual circumstances), at which point you can move over to Attendance Allowance.
  • Disability living allowance (DLA) for adults. This is similar to PIP in that it provides help for those with extra care and mobility costs.

    It's slowly being phased out so, if you apply for Attendance Allowance while getting DLA, the DWP will usually reassess your DLA award instead, and if you were born on or after April 1948, you'll be moved from DLA to PIP. This could mean you end up getting a different amount of money each week.

    It's a good idea to talk to an adviser first before applying so you can see how the move might impact you financially.

Warning: Before your carer claims carer's allowance, first check you won't lose out on any 'severe disability premiums'

This warning only applies if you claim one or more means-tested benefit, such as Pension Credit, Housing Benefit or Income Support.

If so, when you make a successful claim for Attendance Allowance (or if you were previously receiving PIP, DLA or some other disability-based benefits), you may be entitled to a top-up of your means-tested benefits – these are called 'severe disability premiums'. However, you'll LOSE this extra support worth £76 a week if your carer makes a successful claim for carer's allowance (which is worth £77 a week to them).

Crucially, the amount of Attendance Allowance you receive WON'T be affected, just the severe disability premiums you qualify for on top of your means-tested benefits. Even so, the financial impact can be significant.

When you receive confirmation that you are eligible for Attendance Allowance, it's worth having a conversation with your carer before they apply for carer's allowance to check you both understand the implications. And, as ever, speak to a benefits adviser first if in doubt.

See our Carer's allowance guide for more info on how it works.

Get FREE one-on-one help if you've questions about existing benefits, or need help applying for Attendance Allowance

If you want to talk to someone about applying, or need help filling out your application, these charities offer free support: 

Age UK

Age UK

Age UK is able to offer one-to-one advice about which benefits you may be eligible for and can help you fill in and send your application form.
 

Citizens Advice

Citizens Advice

How to claim Attendance Allowance: step-by-step

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Claiming Attendance Allowance initially involves filling in a long form. Sometimes you'll also be asked to go for a medical assessment, but in most cases the decision will be made just on the basis of your application.

Read through this step-by-step help to ensure you're prepared with everything you need before you start filling in the form. We've included some guidance on what the DWP is looking for, and helpful documents to include.

Important: Don't be put off by the length or complexity of the form. If you need help, free one-on-one support is available.

Step 1: Download or request a form 

  • If you live in England, Scotland or Wales, you can request a paper form or a different format (such as Braille, larger font or audio CD) by calling the Attendance Allowance helpline on 0800 731 0122 or using the textphone service on 0800 731 0317 (Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm). If you phone up, you'll be able to backdate your claim to the date of the call, as long as you return the completed form within six weeks, so this is the better option.

    Alternatively, you can download a claim form from Gov.uk, in which case your claim will be backdated to when the DWP receives your completed form. You can either print it off and fill it in by hand, or use a PDF reader to fill in the form on your desktop computer or laptop (see Gov.uk for more info on this option).

  • If you live in Northern Ireland, you can request a paper form or different format by phoning the Disability and Carer's Service on 0800 587 0912, or use the textphone service on 0800 012 1574 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm). If you phone up, you'll be able to backdate your claim to the date of the call, as long as you return the completed form within six weeks, so this is the better option.

    If you prefer, you can download and print a claim form from the NIdirect website, in which case your claim will be backdated to when your form is received.

Step 2: Dig out the paperwork you'll need

This includes:

- Your national insurance number
- The name of your GP and the address of your surgery
- Details of your medication and an up-to-date prescription list if you have one
- Details of anyone you've seen about your condition in the last 12 months – aside from your GP
- Your hospital record number – you can find this on your appointment card or letter
- If you're terminally ill, you will be asked to provide a document called a SR1 report (see FAQs)

And, while not essential, it can also be useful to include a copy of your prescriptions, and supporting documents from medical professionals, or people involved in your care. This could include a discharge summary, a consultant's report, or a care plan. Make a note of any extra documents you include in question 63 on the form to ensure they're not overlooked.

Step 3: Fill in your form with details about your condition

As you fill in the form you'll be asked about your condition in detail. Importantly, the outcome of your application won't be decided by a medical expert, so don't assume the person reading it will know about your condition. The more detail you can add the better.

If you need help filling in or sending your application, get in touch with Age UK by calling their helpline, or visiting your local Age UK office.

You'll be asked about your care needs for day and night, and supervision doing activities you need to do, and also those things you'd like to be able to do but can't (or find difficult to do).

When answering each question, think about how long your day-to-day tasks take, any aids or reminders you use (and any difficulty you still have even with these), and any help you ideally need  NOT just the help you currently get.

While it might feel uncomfortable, it's important to be as specific as possible, and to provide information about your worst days – not just your average ones.

On your application form you'll also be asked whether you want to give the DWP permission to contact your GP and any other medical professionals you've seen about your illness. Age UK recommends doing this, as they may be able to provide further support to your application.

In addition, you have the option to include a statement from someone who knows you. While not essential, this is worth doing if you can. This part can be filled in by a carer, friend or relative who understands your condition and care needs. It's best to get this filled in by the person most involved with your treatment or care, but if that's not possible someone else who helps you can still provide a useful perspective on the difficulties you face day to day.

Step 4: Sign and submit your completed application

Once you're happy with your completed form, you need to sign and submit it.

If you're filling in the form for someone else, add as much detail as you can, then ask the person you're applying for to check and sign it (unless you have legal Power of Attorney, in which case you can sign it on their behalf).

How to submit your form depends on where in the UK you live:

  • If you live in England, Scotland or Wales, send your completed form to: 'Freepost, 
    DWP Attendance Allowance'. You don't need a postcode or a stamp.

  • If you live in Northern Ireland, send your completed form to: Attendance Allowance,
    Disability and Carers Service, Mail Opening Unit, PO Box 42, Limavady, BT49 4AN. You will need a stamp to send this, as with any other piece of post. Alternatively, you can drop off your form in person at your nearest Jobs and Benefits office.

Step 5: If needed, attend an assessment (though not everyone will have to)

You'll only be asked to come for an assessment if it's not clear from your application how your illness or disability affects your day-to-day life. If this is the case, you'll be contacted by a company called 'Medical Services' who do the examinations on behalf of the DWP.

If possible, ask someone who cares for you to attend the assessment with you.

If getting to the assessment is difficult for you, don't struggle, you can request for it to take place at your home.

Step 6: Wait for your decision letter (and appeal if unfairly rejected)

Once you've submitted your application, you should get a text or letter within three weeks, outlining when you can expect to get a decision.

If your claim's successful, your allowance will be backdated to the date your completed form was received, or the date you called the helpline to request a paper form (provided you then completed and returned the form within six weeks).

If you haven't received a decision within eight weeks, call the attendance allowance helpline on 0800 731 0122 (textphone: 0800 731 0317).

If you disagree with the decision you receive (either you've been rejected, or believe you should have been given a different rate), you can challenge it. This is called a 'mandatory reconsideration'.

You can request this by phone, letter or by filling in a mandatory reconsideration form. The contact details you should use will be included in your decision letter.

Share your Attendance Allowance successes and tips. If you've successfully used this guide to apply, please email successes@moneysavingexpert.com. Or if you've feedback on how we could improve this guide, please post in the MSE Forum or email AAfeedback@moneysavingexpert.com.

FAQs

  • Can I get Attendance Allowance if I'm in a care home?

    It depends on how you pay for your care. If you pay all your care home costs yourself, then you can still claim Attendance Allowance. But if you live in a care home paid for by your local authority, you can't usually claim Attendance Allowance.

  • Can I get Attendance Allowance if I'm in hospital?

    If you're admitted to hospital, your Attendance Allowance will stop after you've been in hospital for 28 days (four weeks). You'll be paid again from the day that you leave hospital. When working out how many days you've been in hospital, don't count the day you go in or the day you come out.

  • Can I get Attendance Allowance if I receive care paid for by my local authority?

    It depends on where you live. If you receive local authority-funded care, but you live at home, you can still get Attendance Allowance. However, if you live in a care home paid for by your local authority, you can't usually claim.  

  • Is Attendance Allowance means tested?

    No. Attendance Allowance is not means tested. This means your savings, investments and other assets are not taken into consideration when deciding your eligibility.

  • Can I use the allowance for anything?

    The principle behind Attendance Allowance is to help you pay for the extra costs associated with needing daily care or supervision. However, you can use the allowance however you see fit.

  • I have mobility problems, can I get extra help?

    You are not able to claim Attendance Allowance if you just have mobility problems, it's there to help people with physical or mental disabilities who have care needs such as getting washed or dressed.

    However, if your physical or mental disability means you also have mobility problems (for example, sight or hearing impairments or mental health issues such as dementia), you can claim.

  • I am terminally ill , what do I do?

    If you are terminally ill and not expected to live for more than 12 months, there are special rules to help you access Attendance Allowance more quickly and easily. You'll automatically get the higher rate of the allowance.

    You will be asked to fill in the same form as other claimants, but will be asked to provide a document called an SR1 report.

    Clinicians, such as a GP, consultant, hospice doctor or senior specialist nurse, can be asked to provide medical evidence on an SR1 form to support benefit claims made via the 'Special Rules' process.

    Importantly, this form can be supplied separately after you send your claim form. If you wait for the report, your payment could be delayed.

    For more information about the 'Special Rules', obtaining an SR1 form and for guidance about providing medical evidence, see Gov.uk.

  • My condition's changed since I applied, what do I do?

    If the level of help you need or your condition changes, you MUST tell the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) as soon as possible by calling 0800 731 0122. For more info, see Gov.uk.

  • Can I get Attendance Allowance and carer's allowance?

    Yes. If you have a long-term health condition that means you need help or supervision to do day-to-day activities, but you also care for someone else for at least 35 hours a week, and you have an income under £139 a week, you may be able to claim both Attendance Allowance and carer's allowance.

  • Will I be taxed on my Attendance Allowance?

    No, you won't be taxed on any money you get from Attendance Allowance.

    Also, if you claim Attendance Allowance you'll be exempt from the benefit cap, so claiming won't reduce any of your other benefit entitlements.

  • Can I get Attendance Allowance if I live abroad or have recently moved back?

    To be eligible for Attendance Allowance, you need to have been resident in the UK for at least two of the last three years (or 104 of the last 156 weeks).

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