Attendance Allowance

Attendance Allowance is a tax-free benefit you may get if you're aged 65 or over and need help with personal care because you're physically or mentally disabled.

Introduction

The information in this section is a guide only. The Disability and Carers Service can answer any questions you may have about claiming and receiving Attendance Allowance.

Eligibility

You may be able to get Attendance Allowance if you are aged 65 or over and have needed help with personal care because of a physical or mental disability for six months.

Your care needs

To get Attendance Allowance, your disability must be severe enough for you to need:

  • help with things such as washing (and getting in or out of the bath or shower), dressing, eating, getting to and using the toilet, or communicating your needs, or
  • supervision to avoid putting yourself or others in substantial danger, for example, needing someone to keep an eye on your medical condition or diet, or
  • someone with you when you are on dialysis

There are two rates of Attendance Allowance depending on how your disability affects you:

  • the lower rate - if you need help or supervision frequently throughout the day only, or during the night only or someone with you when you are on dialysis
  • the higher rate - if you need help or supervision frequently throughout the day and during the night

You can get Attendance Allowance even if no one is actually giving you the care you need - even if you live alone.

Attendance Allowance is paid at two rates depending on how your disability affects you. The claim pack gives some examples of different levels of care needs.

Rates and how to claim

Rates

Attendance Allowance  Weekly rate
Higher rate  £82.30
Lower rate  £55.10

How to claim

Claim straight away - if you delay you may lose benefits. You can download an application form or get a claim pack from the contacts listed below.

Download an application form

To make a claim, download, fill in and print out the claim form. You can also print out the form and fill it in by hand.

Your local Social Security Office

You can collect an application form for Attendance Allowance from your local Social Security Office.

If you request a form from your local Social Security/Jobs & Benefits office, the date of request will be treated as your date of claim from which Attendance Allowance can be paid. This is as long as the form you receive is returned within six weeks of that date. If you delay making a claim, you may lose out on benefit. 

Disability and Carers Service

You can also call and ask to be sent a claim pack.

If you request a claim pack, the date of your phone call will be treated as your date of claim from which Attendance Allowance can be paid, as long as you send your form back within six weeks of that date. If you delay making a claim, you may lose out on benefit.

After you complete your application form

When you have completed the claim form you can either:

How Attendance Allowance is paid

Attendance Allowance is normally paid directly into any account of your choice which accepts direct payment of benefits. This might be a bank, building society or other account provider.

You may be able to get someone else to collect your Attendance Allowance if you wish. For help with this please contact your bank, building society or other account provider.

If you would like more information about how you can be paid by other means please contact the office dealing with your claim

Effect on other benefits and entitlements

If you start to get Attendance Allowance, it might increase the amount of other benefits or credits you're entitled to.

You may get an extra amount for severe disability with:

  • Housing Benefit
  • Pension Credit

Attendance Allowance is normally ignored as income for working out these income-related benefits and credit.

Attendance Allowance and your carer

If you have someone looking after you, they may be entitled to claim Carer’s Allowance or Carer’s Credit.

Carer’s Allowance

If you have someone looking after you for 35 hours or more each week, they may want to claim Carer’s Allowance.

Your carer cannot claim Carer's Allowance until you are awarded Attendance Allowance. Your carer's claim must be within three months of your Attendance Allowance decision being made or they could lose the benefit.

Your carer can find out more information on Carer's Allowance, including how to claim at the link below.

Carer's Credit

If your carer cannot claim Carer's Allowance they may want to apply for Carer's Credit.

Your carer may be entitled to Carer’s Credit if they look after one or more people, for a total of 20 hours or more a week.

Carer’s Credit is a weekly Class 3 National Insurance and Earnings Factor credit for carers which can help to build a better basic or additional State Pension.

Your carer can find out more about Carer's Credit and how to apply at the link below.

If you would like more information

For more information, you should contact the office dealing with your claim for the benefit or credit concerned or contact the Disability and Carers Service.

Special rules - if you are terminally ill

If you have a progressive disease and are not reasonably expected to live for more than another six months, there are special rules to help you get Attendance Allowance more quickly and easily. You can get the higher rate immediately without waiting until you have needed help for six months.

You can make a claim for someone under the special rules without them knowing or without their permission. If they satisfy the relevant conditions, they will get a letter saying that they have been awarded Attendance Allowance, but special rules will not be mentioned.

You can find out more about caring for someone who is terminally ill in the 'caring for someone' section.

Once you have made your claim

It normally takes about 25 working days to process an AA claim, from the day the Disability and Carers Service receives your claim form. If the claim is made under the special rules, it will be dealt with much more quickly.

You can check on the progress of your claim by contacting the Disability and Carers Service

If you think a decision about your benefit claim is wrong

If you think a decision about your benefit claim is wrong, you can contact the Disability and Carers Service to explain it. You can also ask to have the decision reconsidered and, if you're still unhappy, you can in most cases appeal against the decision.

Changes in your circumstances

Changes to your circumstances can affect whether you should get Attendance Allowance or the amount you get. It is important to contact the office that deals with your payments.

Here are some examples of changes which you need to report.

Your disability or medical condition

If you, or someone you claim for, needs less help with personal care or supervision, because their condition has improved, or if they need more help, because their condition has worsened.

Hospital

If you, or someone you claim for, is going into or leaving a National Health Service hospital, you need to report this. A period in hospital can affect your Attendance Allowance.

Care homes

If you, or someone you claim for, is going into or leaving a care home, you need to report this too. A permanent or temporary stay in a care home can affect your Attendance Allowance.

Going abroad to live or visit

You need to report if you go abroad for a temporary period or to live in another country. If your visit abroad is temporary, you may continue to get Attendance Allowance if:

  • your absence from Northern Ireland does not last more than 26 weeks (this includes going on holiday)
  • your absence is only to get medical treatment for a condition which began before leaving Northern Ireland

If you are going to live abroad permanently you cannot usually get Attendance Allowance.

If you move to another country in the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland and already receive Attendance Allowance, you may continue to get it under certain circumstances.

Medical examination

Some people who make a claim for Attendance Allowance (AA) may be asked to have a medical examination.  This is usually because more information about your disability or illness is needed before a decision on your claim can be made.

What is a medical examination?

A medical examination involves an interview and sometimes a medical examination with a Health Care Professional (HCP) who has completed specialised training on disability and benefit awareness.

The medical examination is likely to be different from what you would expect from your own doctor. The HCP’s examination is not to diagnose or discuss treatment of your medical condition - it is to assess how your condition affects you and the HCP may not need to carry out a physical examination.

Who does what?

The people and organisations involved in the medical examination process are:

  • the Disability and Carers Service (DCS) – part of the Department for Communities that handles benefit claims
  • Medical Support Services (MSS) – who organise medical examinations on behalf of DCS
  • the decision maker – a non-medical person within DCS who is responsible for making a decision on your benefit claim
  • the HCP – the HCP carries out the medical examination.

Why you’ve been asked for a medical examination

You may have been asked for a medical examination for several reasons.  It doesn’t mean the information you’ve provided on your claim form is being treated as suspicious or that your claim will be turned down. One of the reasons for a medical examination may be to check you’re receiving the full amount of benefit you’re entitled to.

When you first apply for AA you are sent a claim form to complete. Your completed claim form is assessed by the decision maker, who must decide:

  • whether to approve your claim
  • whether you’re entitled to Attendance Allowance
  • how much benefit you’re entitled to receive

Decision makers may ask for a medical examination if they need more information before they can make a decision, or they’re unsure about any details.

The decision maker can approve your claim without a medical examination if they’re happy with the information that they have obtained.

Your medical examination - what it involves

The medical examination will usually take place in your own home (or where you live), or at a Medical Examination Centre near where you live. You should be given seven days’ notice of your examination but you can ask for an earlier appointment if this does not suit and MSS will try to rearrange it.

If you miss your first examination appointment, the HCP must make a second attempt to visit you. If you miss two appointments, or you refuse to attend, your benefit claim may be turned down.

You can:

  • have a friend, relative or support worker with you at the medical examination
  • ask for an interpreter if you need one
  • ask to be examined by a HCP of the same gender as yourself.

You need to let MSS know ahead of time if you want an interpreter or same gender HCP. They will try to find one for you, but this may not always be possible in some areas.

Your Attendance Allowance medical examination is designed to give a general picture of how your illness or disability affects you over time, not a snapshot of your health on the day of your appointment.

It's important to tell the Health Care Professional (HCP) if your condition fluctuates and whether this is a good or bad day for you.

Before your medical examination, it's a good idea to think about how your illness or disability affects your everyday life. You might like to think about:

  • how much help you need during the day and during the night
  • if you can do more on some days than others, what a typical day is like for you

What you need to have with you

The HCP will ask to see some identification before the examination starts, to make sure you're the person they've been asked to visit. A passport is sufficient for this purpose. If you do not have a passport then Medical Support Services will advise what identification you should bring to the examination.

Your medical examination may include a sight or hearing test, if this is relevant to your disability. The HCP may want to observe you using any aids you would normally use.

What happens at the medical examination

Length

As a rough guide, you should allow about an hour for your examination. Sometimes medical examinations can be completed in much less time, especially if the HCP is looking at only one specific problem.

The interview

The HCP will interview you about the kind of help you need during the day and during the night. It’s important to give the HCP as much detail as you can. If someone else is attending the medical examination to support you, the HCP may ask for your consent to interview that person separately.

The HCP will write a statement to record what you said in the interview. This information will provide the decision maker with a clearer picture of your needs.

The physical examination

The HCP may decide a physical examination would be helpful. They should always explain what is involved first and check that you're happy for the examination to go ahead. It's important to tell the HCP if you feel any discomfort. They will not ask you to carry out any action that causes you discomfort.

The Health Care Professional's report

The HCP writes a report of findings from the examination and returns it to the Disability and Carers Service. This report is usually written after the examination and you will not normally see it before it is submitted to the decision maker.

You can request a copy of the HCP's report from the Disability and Carers Service. They will send it to you by post.

After your medical examination - what happens next?

After your Attendance Allowance medical examination, Medical Support Services will send the report to the Disability and Carers Service (DCS), who handle benefit claims.

A non-medical person within DCS (the 'decision maker') will consider the report along with all the other information provided for your claim and decide whether to approve your claim and whether you're entitled to the higher or lower rate of Attendance Allowance (AA). You will receive a letter stating their decision.

Confidentiality

All the medical information related to your claim, including the Health Care Professional's (HCP) report from the medical examination, is confidential and will not be released to anyone outside the Department for Communities (DfC).

However, sometimes the doctor may want to send some information about your medical examination to your GP. In that case, Medical Support Services will write to you and ask if you're happy for them to do so.

Renewal claims and reviews

If you’ve been awarded AA for a fixed period, you will have to make another claim to renew your benefit just before your entitlement ends. This is called a ‘renewal’ claim. Renewal claims are treated exactly the same as new claims, so you may be asked to have a medical examination.

If you have been awarded AA for an indefinite period, you will not usually have to make a renewal claim. However, indefinite awards can sometimes be reviewed and you may need to have another medical examination as part of the review.

If you're not happy with the medical examination

If you're not happy with the way the medical examination was carried out, you can complain to Medical Support Services. The complaints' procedure is outlined in the letter you received about your medical examination.

You can also complain to the doctor at the time of the examination. If they can't resolve the problem, they will give you a brochure explaining the formal complaints' procedure. You can also contact the Disability and Carers Service for advice on making a complaint to Medical Support Services.

If you're not happy with the benefit decision

If you think the decision about your benefit claim is wrong, or you disagree with the rate at which you've been awarded AA, you can:

  • ask the Disability and Carers Service to explain it
  • ask to have the decision reconsidered by another decision maker
  • appeal against the decision to an independent tribunal
  • Appealing against a benefits decision

The HCP's report

You can ask to be sent a copy of the Health Care Professional's report at any time.

If you appeal against an AA decision, you will be able to see the doctor's report as part of the appeal process.

Repeat medical examinations

Your AA award will be for either a fixed or an indefinite period. The decision maker will set the length of your award. This will depend on whether your disability or illness is permanent or your needs may change.

If your award is for a fixed period, you'll be invited to make a new claim six months before the award runs out. This is called a ' renewal claim'. Renewal claims are processed exactly the same way as new claims, so you may be asked to attend a medical examination.

If your benefit award is for an indefinite period, you will not usually have to make a renewal claim. However, indefinite awards can sometimes be reviewed and you may need to have another medical examination as part of the review.

Living in Northern Ireland

To get Attendance Allowance you must:

  • be habitually resident and in Northern Ireland
  • have been in Northern Ireland, Great Britain, the Isle of Man, Jersey or Guernsey for at least 2 out of the last 3 years (this does not apply for people paid under the special rules)
  • not be subject to immigration control

If you or a member of your family live or work in, or have come from another European Economic Area (EEA) state or Switzerland, different conditions may apply.

You may be able to get Attendance Allowance if you are either:

  • a family member of an EEA national and you have moved to the UK from another EEA state
  • working in Northern Ireland as a national of a country which has an equal-treatment agreement with the European Union - that is Turkey, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and San Marino
  • living with one of these workers as a member of their family
  • a person who has been allowed to come into or stay in Northern Ireland because someone has agreed to be responsible for your maintenance and accommodation

You may be treated as being present in Northern Ireland if you are:

  • a member of HM Armed Forces serving abroad or a member of their family
  • a mariner or civilian airman working abroad
  • working on the United Kingdom sector of the continental shelf - for example, on an oil rig

Disability benefits may be paid if you leave the UK to live in another EEA state or Switzerland

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