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How to apply for Attendance Allowance - what you need to know - Part 1

How to apply for Attendance AllowanceIt’s easy enough to say you can apply for this or that to help support your parents, but just how difficult is the practice?

When They Get Older co-founder Sandra and her husband have begun the process of applying for Attendance Allowance for her mother-in-law. She’s keeping a journal of the trials, tribulations and successes and will share regular updates with us. Here are the first few weeks.

What is Attendance Allowance and who can claim it?

Attendance Allowance is a benefit for those aged 65 or over with long-term health conditions, a disability or those who’re terminally ill. Your parent or relative can receive an Attendance Allowance in addition to any other benefits they may also get such as their pension or winter fuel payments etc.

Depending on your parent’s care needs, which may be subject to a medical assessment, they could receive £54.45 or £81.30 per week towards the cost of their care. You can claim Attendance Allowance on your parent’s behalf but the money will be paid into their account along with their other benefits.

Sandra’s experience - Week 1 – Start local

My first port of call was my mother-in-law’s local authority as I thought she needed a care plan in order to qualify for attendance allowance. I was thrown from pillar to post. Four calls later, including one to the Visual Impairment Unit, and I was finally told that the work the local authority does has nothing to with Attendance Allowance – and that I should go directly to the Attendance Allowance section of the government website.

The issue here is between local government and national government. They really don’t seem to know what each other do. To be fair the people I spoke to were very friendly and did try to help. They just didn’t get what I was asking for.

The key thing with our specific situation is that it’s now three years since my mother-in-law had her stroke. At the time we talked with the local authority services to arrange adaptions to the home to ensure my mother-in-law could live there easily. We had grab rails installed as well an easy to use dishwasher and microwave and so on.

All I want to do is to see if there is any state support to help us cover some of the growing cost of the increasing number of people coming in to help her manage. Despite the cost it’s still cheaper than a care home and, more importantly, it’s what my mother-in-law wants – to be at home.

Week 2 - Going national and form filling

I had two phone calls with national government personnel to try to understand from someone exactly what information I needed to apply successfully. I duly downloaded the form and filled it in digitally which worked well, although it did seem a little antiquated that I then had to print off all 32 pages and send them off in the post! I could see which bits of information I needed – including searching high and low for my mother-in-law’s NI number – and on the whole it was fairly straightforward.

Having said this, the last question on the form really confused me. Question 52 asked me to list all the documents I’d be sending to support my application. It’s hard to know exactly what they do and don’t expect in terms of documentation.

How to apply for Attendance Allowance

Week 3 – The doctor’s note

On the basis that the more information the better I have now called my mother-in-law’s GP. I spoke with his secretary and explained what I thought I was looking for. I asked for a prescription list, a vision impairment certificate and a letter confirming her vascular dementia diagnosis as well as any other information her GP could give me. The secretary, although lovely, had no clue about what was needed and took notes of my requests so she could speak to the doctor.

I suspect I’ll now receive some “helpful” pack or a letter “To Whom It May Concern, this is a note to confirm that Mrs. Bullen has the following conditions…” and who knows if this is what’s required or not?

Week 4 – Finalising details

We will be spending next week filling in the details that we couldn’t do from memory. We’ll also need to get my mother-in-law and my husband to sign the document, because we still don’t have Power of Attorney –which is quite another story!

Week 5 – The waiting game

I am half expecting a returned form stamped with “rejected” because no one can tell me what it is they want. But I may just be surprised.

When you have a full-time job and you have to call these various government divisions within office hours it can delay your progress quite significantly. I’m at week three and it seems I still have many unanswered questions and a way to go until I can safely say the form and supporting evidence is complete and ready to be sent off.

For more information, further help or to request a claim pack you can call the Attendance Allowance helpline on 0345 605 6055 (Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm) or email attendance.allowanceenquiries@dwp.gsi.gov.uk.

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