This blog post was contributed by Ceri Smith, Campaigns Manager at Age UK.
Age UK’s new report on Attendance Allowance highlights the big practical difference it makes to older disabled people who receive it, and calls on the Government not to go ahead with a proposal to transfer the benefit to councils.
What is Attendance Allowance, and why does it matter?
As we age, many of us will develop long-term illnesses and disabilities and very often this means a higher price tag for day-to-day things that can help us to remain healthy and independent. Attendance Allowance is a nationally administered, non means-tested, weekly payment that helps older disabled people meet some of the extra costs they face.
However, the Government is looking into transferring responsibility for Attendance Allowance to councils as part of the move to allow local authorities to retain 100% of their Business Rates. We’re deeply concerned that this change would create a patchwork of different local approaches and potentially put the future of this vital lifeline of support under threat, which could jeopardise the independence and the dignity of older disabled people needing support in the future.
The difference it makes
But what difference does Attendance Allowance really make to people who receive it now? And why does it matter that people receive it as a weekly payment rather than a service via their council?
Earlier this year, we worked with local Age UKs to survey 553 people who currently claim Attendance Allowance. We asked for their views on how the benefit makes a difference to their lives now, their thoughts on the Government’s proposal to transfer it to councils in future.
The survey found that three key themes emerged from respondents:
- Over half (56 per cent) spent their allowance on transport to essential appointments, including GP and hospital appointments
- Over a third (34 per cent) spent it on practical help at home, such as cleaning, shopping and heating
- One in three (34 per cent) put the money towards food, heating and other everyday costs
As with national estimates, our survey found that the majority of the recipients we spoke to manage without any formal care or support services, even though they are coping with quite serious disabilities and health conditions. For many older disabled people it is the ability to spend the Allowance as best supports their needs at any one time that they value the most.
In Age UK’s view, transferring responsibility for Attendance Allowance to councils would be the wrong policy choice for older disabled people and their families so we urge the Government to think again.
You can read our report and find out more about our campaign to protect Attendance Allowance at www.ageuk.org.uk/attendanceallowancecampaign