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Family member needs care? Applying for Attendance Allowance

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Attendance Allowance can be paid to older relatives who need help with day-to-day living. We work through the application process to make a time-consuming task a little easier.

We hear regularly from people who have been refused Attendance Allowance for an older relative based on their application. If an application is refused you can appeal but it’s more time and more effort and it means payment is delayed. So as we were successful first time round, we thought it might be useful to share how we worked through the process. It does take time but it’s worth putting the work in initially.

What is Attendance Allowance?

It’s an odd name really and isn’t exactly self-explanatory.

Attendance Allowance is a payment that the government provides to someone who needs help with personal care because they’re physically or mentally disabled and they are 65 or older. There are two different weekly rates - £55.10 or £82.30 – according to the level of disability.

What are the qualifying disabilities?

There are guidelines on qualifying disabilities. If your friend or relative has a physical disability, including sensory disabilities, and/or a mental disability that means they need help caring for themselves for their own safety or the safety of others, then currently (August 2015) it’s worth applying.

How do you apply?

The form AA1A can be filled in online or printed off and filled in with ink. Either way it has to be posted back with supporting documentation. Be warned that it’s over 30 pages long and some questions are quite challenging! Explanation of how and who are included on the form.

When do you apply?

An applicant will normally need to have required care for a minimum of six months although you can make a claim earlier. It’s wise to get the application in as quickly as possible. Payment is likely to be made only from the date of the application Attendance Allowance can be backdated to the date of your claim. This is usually the date your form is received or the date you call the enquiry line (if you return the claim pack within 6 weeks), although there is some flexibility here as far as we can see.

Who can apply?

The form is addressed to the person who will receive the allowance. However, someone else can complete the application in certain circumstances. You may have been legally appointed to deal with their benefits, such as having Power of Attorney, deputyship or being a benefit appointee. You can also apply of another’s behalf if they are too ill or disabled to do it for themselves, or if you are in the process of becoming a legal representative.

In our case Lasting Power of Attorney had already been registered with the Court of Protection. The relative in question was happy to leave us to make the application. We did have to obtain a certified copy of the LPA from a solicitor before sending it off. We paid £25 – bizarrely in cash – and charges probably vary depending on who you ask.

What does the form want?

Mostly there are pages of questions about the level of help required around day-to-day living, recent falls, professional help received, care currently being provided, level of supervision required and help needed at night as well as during the day.

There’s a section to fill in if the applicant is currently in a hospital or care home.

You’re also asked for a statement from someone who knows the applicant (not the person completing it on their behalf) asking how often they see the person and what their disabilities are. This isn’t required but it may be useful if you don’t have other professional assessments to support the claim.

There are some notes with the form to help with filling it in though you may have to actually download the form rather than using it online to access them.

The notorious questions

Remember those job application forms that said “Now list your achievements to date”? A whole blank page to fill in “Extra information” and encouragement to continue onto another sheet if necessary.

There are two questions rather like that.

Question 43 asks “Please tell us anything else you think we need to know about the difficulty you have or the help you need.” We were fortunate to be able to summarise the Social Services assessment made while our relative was still in hospital following an operation. A “Best Interests” decision said she would need care to maintain safety if she were to return home.

Question 49 says “Please tell us anything else you think we should know about your claim”. We took this opportunity to list the chronology of the relative’s emergency trip to hospital and consequent operation, transfers through community hospital and respite care in a care home, back to her own home. We named the agency and the social worker involved and referenced the Best Interests document. We also listed the names and addresses of all consultants who had been involved in our relative’s care.

Finally, at the end of the form you are asked to provide supporting documents, such as prescription list, medical reports, certificate of vision impairment, passport, care plan. We sent a copy of the mental health and best interests assessment, the social services assessment, the care plan devised by the local authority and a certified copy of the Property and Financial Affairs LPA. We had a social services assessment which made it clear that the relative needed care, but didn’t give much detail as they were expected to be paying for all their care.

How long does it take to process?

The web site says expect 40 days. We sent our form in First Class signed for on the 3 July, received confirmation of receipt on 6th July, and a letter agreeing payment on the 22nd July, which is pretty fast. We imagine this is because our case was reasonably straightforward as the person in question was receiving care in her home twice daily from an agency rather than being cared for by family. Also the care agency was recommended by Social Services who were still involved in helping the relative adapt to living at home with new challenges.

Assessment

Not everyone will take our straight path. You or your relative might get a letter saying they need to attend an assessment to check their eligibility. The letter should explain why and where they should go and what they need to take.

Response

A letter confirmed that the relative was entitled to Attendance Allowance at the lower rate. The letter stated that the information used in the decision was contained in the claim form itself, the medical report and other information we sent – so not many clues there but looks like it was all useful. It concluded that the relative was entitled to the allowance because they needed attention with bodily functions several times at short intervals throughout the day.

Appeals

Our application was successful but you do have the right to ask for an explanation of the decision and to see if it can be changed, especially if you have new information or think that some facts have been overlooked. Once the decision has been considered again, you’ll get a Mandatory Reconsideration Notice explaining what’s been done and giving you the information you’ll need to appeal. You can’t appeal until this Reconsideration process has been gone through.

If you do think the decision is wrong you have a month to get in touch after receiving the initial decision. Otherwise the date at which payments start if the decision is changed could be delayed.

Payments

We’ve arranged for payments to go straight into the relative’s bank account. We’re having to remind the relative that although the payments are set as weekly figures, they are paid on a four-weekly basis.

And that, I believe, is that.

Obviously we are under an obligation to notify the Department of Work and Pensions of any changes in circumstances.

Your experience

Have you been through the process of applying for Attendance Allowance? If you were successful, would you share your advice? If you went to appeal, how was your experience? Please let us know in the comments below.

If you found this article useful you may like to read our guides on Lasting Power of Attorney and the Court of Protection in our Free Stuff section on the web site.

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