Attendance Allowance (AA) is a benefit for older people who need help with personal care or supervision to remain safe. This benefit recognises that there are additional costs associated with having a disability such as multiple sclerosis (MS). It is a non means tested and tax-free benefit that you can claim if you are over state retirement age and claiming a disability related benefit for the first time. If you reach state retirement age and already receiving DLA or PIP, you will not be able to claim AA. You can be eligible for AA if you need help but manage on your own. You do not need to have a carer or get help from other people, the benefit is about the help you need, not necessarily the help you get. To claim AA you must have had your care need for at least six months before your award can begin.
AA can be paid in addition to other benefits and is not affected by earnings or income. Claiming AA can trigger extra help with other benefits you may be claiming. You may be entitled to a severe disability premium on housing benefits or an extra amount on your pension credit. If you claim AA anyone who supports you, may be able to claim Carers Allowance and get further help with council tax if they are under pensionable age.
There are no restrictions on how or where you can spend your benefit. However, your local authority will take your AA into account when financially assessing you for any social care services you may need.
To be able to claim AA you must pass their ‘disability test’. The test looks at daytime and nighttime needs. For the daytime, you must need frequent attention (about 3 times or more) from your personal care or someone to check on you throughout the day to make sure you are safe. For the night time, you must need help with personal care at least twice a night or once for at least 20 minutes, or someone to check you are safe at least twice a night or once if it is for a longer period. It is important to know that if you do not get help from another person but have difficulty coping you may still be accepted as needing help.
Knowing how to articulate your needs in a way that the Department for Work and Pensions will recognise can be quite challenging. The national charities Independent Age, Age UK and Carers UK all have detailed factsheets that will offer hints and tips for filling in forms. It may also be the case that your local Age UK or carers support organisation will be able to give hands on help with your application.