Disability benefit reviews and reassessments are suspended for 3 months from Tuesday 24 March. This temporary measure is to ensure that benefits continue during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
To find out more, visit the GOV.UK website.
If you’ve reached pension age, have an illness or disability, and you also need help with your personal care or safety, you may be able to claim Attendance Allowance.
This benefit is for you, not for a carer, and you don’t need to have someone supporting or caring for you to qualify.
If you do have a carer, they may be able to claim Carer’s Allowance or National Insurance contribution credits.
Attendance Allowance is based on the help you need – not on the help you currently get. It doesn’t matter whether you live alone or with other people, or if you get a lot of help or a little.
The Attendance Allowance claim form is quite long, and can be difficult to complete because it deals with personal care issues. But it's worth taking the time to do it, because getting Attendance Allowance can increase your weekly income.
If you need help filling out the form, you can call our free confidential helpline 0808 800 0303 to be put in touch with your Parkinson’s local adviser.
You're eligible for Attendance Allowance if:
- you're State Pension age. You can check if you are on the gov.uk website
- you have had care or supervision needs for the last 6 months (the ‘qualifying period’)
- you have been living in the UK for 2 of the last 3 years and your immigration status doesn't prevent you claiming
- you are ‘habitually resident’ in the UK, and
- you are terminally ill, or
- you satisfy one of the disability tests.
What are the disability tests?
To get Attendance Allowance, you must have a severe physical or mental disability (or both) that means you need:
- care from another person several times throughout the day to help you with your ‘bodily functions’. This can include help getting in and out of bed, getting dressed and undressed, washing and other personal hygiene needs, going to the toilet, taking medication, eating, cutting up food, drinking and communicating with other people
- continual supervision (being checked on or watched regularly – but not non-stop) throughout the day to ensure that you're safe and/or not a danger to others
- care from another person at least twice each night, or for 20 minutes or more, to help you with your bodily functions (as described above), or
- another person to be awake and watch over you to make sure that you're safe or not a danger to others, at least 3 times each night, or for 20 minutes or more each night.
'Special rules' claims
If you're terminally ill and your GP, consultant or specialist nurse says that you are 'reasonably' expected to die within 6 months:
- you don't have a six-month 'qualifying period' because your claim will be fast-tracked
- you can get the highest rate of Attendance Allowance
- you'll need to fill out a form called DS1500 which you can get from your GP, consultant or Parkinson's nurse
- you can have someone else apply on your behalf.
If you're terminally ill and live in Scotland, soon it will be possible to claim the highest rate of Attendance Allowance, even if you're expected to live more than 6 months.
Attendance Allowance is paid at 1 of 2 weekly rates, depending on the amount of help you need:
- The lower rate is £58.70 and applies if you need the above care or supervision throughout the day or the night
- The higher rate is £87.65 and applies if you need care or supervision throughout the day and the night.
If you're terminally ill and are unlikely to live more than 6 months, you can get the higher rate under ‘special rules’.
In this case, your doctor will need to confirm that you have a terminal illness (they can do this using a DS1500 form, which they should keep at the surgery).
There is no 6 month qualifying period for terminal illness. Under the special rules, someone else can apply on your behalf too. Special rules claims are reviewed every 3 years.
Receiving Attendance Allowance can increase the amount of any means-tested benefits (such as Pension Credit) you get.
Attendance Allowance can be paid in addition to any other social security benefits. However, your local authority might take Attendance Allowance into account when considering whether you need to contribute to the cost of any care and support services you receive from them (although it's often ignored).
Attendance Allowance is not taxable. It's not based on National Insurance contributions. Attendance Allowance is also not means-tested. In other words, any income or savings you have do not affect whether you're awarded it or how much you get.
Can I claim Attendance Allowance alongside Disability Living Allowance?
No. If you already get Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment, you will continue to get that benefit and you won’t be able to claim Attendance Allowance.
Attendance Allowance is normally paid every 4 weeks directly into a bank, building society or Post Office card account.
If you go into hospital, your Attendance Allowance will stop when you have been there for a total of 4 weeks (either in 1 stay, or several stays, where the gaps between stays are no more than 4 weeks each time). It can restart when you return home.
If you pay your own fees for the care home without help from the local authority or health service, your Attendance Allowance can continue to be paid.
If the local authority helps with the fees, or a nursing home is paid for by the health service, your allowance will stop after a total of 4 weeks (either in 1 stay, or several stays, where the gaps between stays are no more than four weeks each time).
It can restart when or if you're able to return home.
Attendance Allowance may be awarded to you for an indefinite period or for a fixed period of time.
If it is for a fixed period of time, then you will normally be sent a renewal claim form 4 months before your existing claim runs out.
You'll need to download Attendance Allowance claim form AA1.
If you live in England, Scotland or Wales, you can also request the form by calling the Attendance Allowance helpline on 0800 731 0122 (Textphone 0800 731 0317).
You can find out about Attendance Allowance eligibility in Northern Ireland or call 0800 587 0912 (Textphone 028 9031 1092).
If the Attendance Allowance helpline sends you the claim form, it will be stamped with the date you asked for it.
If Attendance Allowance is awarded to you, it will be paid from this date as long as you return the claim form within 6 weeks.
Once you've sent off the claim form, the Department for Work and Pensions (or the Disability and Carers Service in Northern Ireland) may contact your GP, specialist or Parkinson’s nurse for further information, or it may send one of its doctors to your home to assess you before they approve your claim.
When can I make a claim?
You must have been in need of care or supervision for 6 months before you can start getting Attendance Allowance.
You can make your claim during this 6 month qualifying period, but the benefit will not be paid until it has ended.
If you apply under the special rules for terminal illness, there is no 6 month qualifying period.
Tips for making a claim
- Use an up-to-date claim form
- Make a photocopy of the claim form once you've completed it. Keep this safe
- You normally have 6 weeks, so take your time filling in the claim form – try to get help if you need it. Your Parkinson’s UK local adviser should be able to help you
- Don’t be afraid to write too much and add extra pages if needed – just remember to write your name and National Insurance number on each of them
- Don’t underestimate your needs. If you have a carer, think about what it would be like without them. If you manage on your own, don’t be afraid to make it clear how difficult it is for you
- If a doctor visits you, try not to feel uncomfortable or be rushed into making hasty comments, such as, “I can manage by myself”. Keep in mind why you're applying for this benefit. If you live by yourself, you might not have the choice but to manage by yourself – but if you had help you may be able to do things more effectively, or quicker, or without risk or pain. Let the doctor know if this is the case
- Your condition may change through the day. It's important that you write down this information when you complete the claim form
- If your condition changes from day to day, explain what you're like on an average or typical day, but also include what you're like on both a good and bad day too. Write down how often both good and bad days occur (for instance, “I have bad days around 4 days each week”).
Take some time to think about how Parkinson’s affects you. It might be helpful to ask yourself the following questions:
- Is dressing a problem?
- Is bathing or showering difficult?
- Do you need help cutting toenails or fingernails?
- How do you get out of bed?
- Do you find it difficult to start moving?
- Do you fall or stumble sometimes? If so, is it difficult to get up again?
- Do you need someone with you when you go outside?
- Does your condition change through the day?
- Do you have times during the day when you go ‘off’?
- What is your handwriting like?
- What is your speech like? Do people find it difficult to understand you?
For some of these points, it might also be helpful to keep a daily diary of your care needs.
Write down in the claim form any changes you’ve had to make to your routine because of your condition. For example, you may have difficulty putting on make-up, wearing jewellery or tying a tie.
If you wear lipstick and have problems applying it, you may give up wearing it. But why should you if that is part of your appearance? This needs to be mentioned in the claim form.
You may want to wear a tie every day because you don't feel properly dressed without one. But you might need help because it's difficult to do it yourself. This also needs to be mentioned.
You may now wear a different style of clothing. This might be because you find it easier to put on. For example, you might wear a sweatshirt without buttons rather than a cardigan, or shoes without laces, because they're easier to manage. If this is the case, always say so in the claim form and explain why you now wear a particular piece of clothing.
If you feel that you've been wrongly refused Attendance Allowance, it's worth asking the Department for Work and Pensions (the Disability and Carers Service in Northern Ireland) for a 'mandatory reconsideration’ of its decision.
You have 1 month from the date of the decision to do this. You can ask for a mandatory reconsideration over the phone but it's best to confirm your request in writing.
It can help if you get a letter from your GP, specialist or Parkinson’s nurse, pointing out what your care needs are. The letter may simply state that they have read the diary you've kept of your care needs and they agree that those needs are due to your condition.
If you've asked for a mandatory reconsideration and the Department for Work and Pensions doesn’t change its decision, you have another month to appeal to an independent tribunal.
There are organisations that can offer help and advice (some for free) with your appeal, such as Citizens Advice, local welfare rights groups or local solicitors.
If you get the lower rate of Attendance Allowance and your condition progresses, you can ask the Department for Work and Pensions (the Disability and Carers Service in Northern Ireland) to look at your claim again and consider the higher rate.
They may do this if, for example, you need help during both the day and the night or if you develop a terminal illness.
Before putting in your request, try to get some advice and information about the process. If the Department for Work and Pensions receives information that shows your care needs have reduced, then your benefit may be withdrawn.
Before asking for a review, you should consider how your needs have increased on a daily basis. What extra support and help do you need now that you did not need when you first claimed Attendance Allowance? Keeping a diary of your care needs might help you with this.
It's important to get medical support before you ask for a review. A letter from your GP, specialist or Parkinson’s nurse that points out what your current care needs are will help. The letter may simply say that they have read the diary of your care needs and they agree that your condition would create them.
When you ask for a review, you need to contact:
- Attendance Allowance Unit (for England, Scotland and Wales) on 0800 731 0122 (textphone 0800 731 0317)
- Disability and Carers Service – Attendance Allowance (for Northern Ireland) on 0800 587 0912 (textphone 028 9031 1092)
You'll normally be sent a review form to complete.
If your condition improves, you also need to get in touch with the Attendance Allowance Unit or Disability and Carers Service (on one of the above numbers) as soon as you can. They'll normally send you a review form to complete, so they can re-assess your award.
It is always important to provide full, accurate information to the Attendance Allowance Unit or Disability and Carers Service, and to let them know if your circumstances change.
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