Millions of frail over-65s could be missing out on an important benefit worth either £58.70 or £87.65 a week if they need help and support caring for themselves.
Low awareness of and confusion over the name ‘attendance allowance’ – which implies you are receiving home visits from a carer – could be putting people off, according to retirement home developer McCarthy & Stone.
The firm helps its residents claim any benefits to which they are entitled.
But some three-quarters of the 4,000 people it has assisted over the past three years had failed to apply for attendance allowance until it informed them of its existence.
Attendance allowance: Millions of frail over-65s could be missing out on the benefit, worth either £58.70 or £87.65 a week
The realisation that such a significant proportion of its 18,000 residents were losing out on this particular benefit prompted the business to flag up the issue more widely.
It says Government figures on how many people have reached state pension age and also have a disability suggest millions of over-65s could be eligible without knowing it.
‘For many people, it isn’t just the perceived difficulty of applying to receive the payment, but there is also a widespread misconception that in order to be eligible for attendance allowance you will have someone visiting your home to provide general help or care,’ says Colin Cuthbert, senior entitlements adviser at McCarthy & Stone
The ten pots of cash and freebies you could be entitled to – and how to claim them. Read more here.
‘This can be an off-putting thought for those who want to maximise their independence in retirement, but it is simply not the case.
‘The eligibility criteria does not necessarily require that the claimant receives help in their home.’
The full rules on who can claim are here, but they include:
* You have reached state pension age, and have a physical or mental disability
* Your disability is severe enough for you to need help caring for yourself or someone to supervise you, for your own or someone else’s safety
* You have needed that help for at least six months, unless you’re terminally ill.
|Rate||Level of help needed|
|£58.70||Frequent help or constant supervision during the day, or supervision at night|
|£87.65||Help or supervision throughout both day and night, or you’re terminally ill|
|Source: Gov.uk. It says the other benefits you get can increase if you receive attendance allowance. You do not have to have someone caring for you in order to claim, but if you have a carer they could qualify for carer’s allowance if you have substantial needs.|
McCarthy & Stone believes the majority of over 65s who have a disability do not know about or understand attendance allowance and end up missing out on something that could improve their life.
Cuthbert says: ‘As our results have proven, many people over the state pension age are not accessing entitlements that could make a real difference to the quality of life in their later years.
‘This is particularly startling when you consider that the overwhelming majority of people we have helped over recent years were classed as having a disability, and they were missing out on thousands of pounds of benefits that could help provide a much-improved standard of living.
Colin Cuthbert: There is a widespread misconception that in order to be eligible for attendance allowance you will have someone visiting your home to provide general help or care
‘The benefit has been put into place to support people who are 65 or over and have care or supervision needs because of an illness or disability.
‘It is there to help with extra costs if a person has a disability severe enough that they need someone to help look after them.’
In total, McCarthy and Stone has helped residents to get £6million in benefits to which they were entitled over the past three years.
They received an annual £1,471 on average as a result. See the box below to find out the other benefits they have helped residents to claim.
Cuthbert said his firm was helping the people living in its homes, but he was certain many more retirees were missing out.
‘We know that if customers in our developments across the UK have left millions of pounds worth of benefits unclaimed, then there must be many more across the nation in the same situation and who do not have ready access to assistance to guide them through the entitlements process.’
He suggests people who need advice on claiming benefits should contact entitlements officers at charities and groups such as Age UK or Citizens Advice, or specialist charities for illnesses like the Parkinson’s Society.
This is Money asked the Government to comment on the experience of McCarthy & Stone residents, which points to widespread lack of awareness about the attendance allowance among those who might qualify.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: ‘Attendance allowance is important support for some of our most vulnerable pensioners, and we want everyone who is eligible to claim.
‘That’s why we urge people to check what benefits they are entitled to and to report a change of circumstances.
‘We provide plenty of information online and through other outlets and do outreach work and join-up with organisations including Age UK to encourage take-up.’
What benefits could you be missing out on?
Three quarters of the people M&S assisted were missing out on the attendance allowance.
The other benefits they helped people claim are below, split between those that can be claimed by the elderly in general and those targeted at the less well off.
You can find out more about claiming them on the benefits section of the Gov.uk website.
Winter fuel payment
Free bus pass
Free passport -If you were born on or before 2 September 1929
Free TV licence (over 75s)
Council tax disability reduction
Council tax benefit
Cold weather payment
Warm homes discount scheme