Are you one of 3.4m disabled over-65s missing out on up to £4,500/yr to help with care?
More than 3.4 million disabled pensioners could be missing out on up to £4,500 a year in help towards the costs of their care, a national debt charity has warned. If you think you may be eligible for the attendance allowance benefit, here's how to check.
Attendance allowance is for people over pension age who need assistance with their care, due to a mental or physical disability, or terminal illness.
But while 6.41 million people aged 65 or over need help with daily activities, only 2.98 million claim attendance allowance or any other benefits helping them with their care needs, according to charity Turn2us. Its analysis of NHS figures shows a whopping 3.43 million could be missing out on money that is rightly theirs to claim.
Take our 10-minute benefits check-up to calculate what you're entitled to.
What is attendance allowance?
Attendance allowance helps with extra costs for people who are state pension age or over and have care needs. The benefit is available to those with a disability severe enough that they require someone else to help look after them. This could be getting help with daily activities, such as getting dressed or going to the toilet.
The allowance is paid at two different rates: £58.70 a week or £87.65 a week. The lower rate is for those who require care during the day OR night, and the higher rate is for those who require care during the day AND night, or are terminally ill. Someone claiming the higher rate can get up to £4,558 a year.
By claiming attendance allowance – which isn't means-tested – you could also be eligible for pension credit, housing benefit or a council tax reduction.
Am I eligible?
To be eligible you need to have reached state pension age and have a terminal illness, or a physical or mental disability – this includes a sensory disability such as blindness, or learning difficulties.
The disability must be severe enough for you to need help caring for yourself and you must have needed that help for at least six consecutive months.
However, it doesn't matter if no one actually gives you this help, as long as you can show you need it. When applying for the benefit, you're able to explain your care needs on the claim form, and if you are getting help with your care, you'll be asked to give the name and contact details of your carer.
When claiming, you'll be asked about your condition in detail and to give contact details of any specialists you have seen. You'll also be asked if you take any medication and if you have a spare prescription, you can send it with your form.
If the assessors can't get a clear picture of how your illnesses or disabilities affect you, they may ask a healthcare professional to examine you. You will be contacted if this is the case.
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.
For more information on eligibility, see the Gov.uk website.
What if I am terminally ill?
If you are terminally ill, and not expected to live for more than six 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 a DS1500 report. You can get the report from your doctor or specialist, but don't let this delay your claim – it can be supplied separately after you send your claim form. If you wait for the report, your payment could be delayed.
How do I make a claim?
There are different claim processes depending on where you live in the UK.
If in England, Scotland or Wales, you can start a new claim by filling in a form available to download here and sending it to: Attendance Allowance Unit, Mail Handling Site A, Wolverhampton, WV98 2AD.
Alternatively, you can call the attendance allowance helpline on 0800 731 0122 or use the textphone service on 0800 731 0317 (Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm).
If you live in Northern Ireland, you can download a claim form from the NI Direct website, to be completed and posted to: Disability and Carer's Service, Castle Court, Royal Avenue, Belfast, BT1 1HR.
You can also phone the Disability and Carer's Service to arrange a claim form to be sent to you on 0800 587 0912, or use the textphone service on 0800 012 1574 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm).
If your claim is successful, your allowance will be backdated to the date your completed form was received or the date you called the helpline.
Will my claim affect any other benefits?
Typically, claiming attendance allowance won't reduce any other benefits you receive.
But if you currently receive disability living allowance, the personal independence payment, or someone is claiming carer's allowance to look after you, it is likely you are already getting the help you're entitled to, so you might not be eligible for attendance allowance.
What does Turn2us say?
David Samson, welfare benefit specialist at Turn2us, said: "Unclaimed benefits are a huge issue in the UK.
"People over the age of 65 are especially likely to be missing out on their entitlements. We urge anyone who is unsure of what they are entitled to to do a benefit calculation to see if there is anything they can claim."