Attendance Allowance

Attendance allowance (AA) is a benefit for people aged over 65, who are disabled or have a long term health condition and have care needs as a result of this.

There are two rates of attendance allowance. The lower rate is paid to people who need help either during the day or night and the higher rate is for people who need help both during the day and the night time. People with a terminal illness (and meet the definition of terminal illness under AA rules) will get the higher rate.

AA can be spent in whichever way the person you care for chooses and is there to help with the extra costs of living with a long term health condition.

Eligibility criteria

  • the person you care for needs to have had the care needs for 6 months and think that they will have them for at least another 6 months.
  • they will usually need to be resident in the UK when they claim and have been in the UK for 2 years out of the last 3 years but there are some exceptions.
  • people who are terminally ill get the higher rate of AA and will not need to serve the 6 month qualifying period.

The government website has more eligibility conditions.

Which disabilities or health conditions qualify?
Is it means tested and does it affect other benefits?
How do you apply?
What should I include on the form?
Should I send in anything else?
Is there anyone who will help me with the form?
How is the claim assessed?
What if the claim is turned down?
What if the person I care for gets AA and their needs have changed?
The person I care for has gone into hospital. What happens to AA?
Why was the person I care for turned down for AA?
Terminal illness

Which disabilities or health conditions qualify?

Physically disabled people or people with a mental health or neurological illness could all qualify. People who are frail may also be eligible. It is not so much about what the health condition the person  you care for has, but how it affects them.

A person may need help with personal care, like getting up, dressing and washing. They could need help with eating, taking medication or communicating. They may require someone to keep an eye on them to make sure they are safe e.g. they may be at risk of falls, of neglecting themselves or of getting confused and disorientated. If you are providing support and care to another person it is worth thinking about a claim.

Is it means tested and does it affect other benefits?

AA is not means tested and getting it may increase certain other benefits that the person you care for gets. If they are awarded AA it’s best to get a benefit check done if they are on a low income as they may qualify for a means tested benefit like pension credit too. If they already get pension credit it could increase the amount that they get or they could become entitled for the first time. If the person you care for is awarded AA you may be able to get carer’s allowance.

How do you apply? 

You can download an application form from the government website. If you download a form and the claim is successful, the claim will start on the day the form is received by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

Or you can get a form from the Attendance Allowance helpline:

Telephone: 0345 605 6055
Textphone: 0345 604 5312
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm
Find out about call charges.

When someone phones to get a form it will be date stamped and if its returned within the time frame given date the claim can be backdated to the date the call was made. If it is not possible to return the form within this time frame you can still ask for the claim to be backdated but they don’t have to backdate in this situation. If you have had to wait for an appointment from an advice agency to get help, this may be grounds for backdating – you could ask the advice worker to write and explain this.

What should I include on the form?

It’s important to fill the form in with plenty of detail. Do not underestimate the care needed. When carers are used to carrying out caring tasks they no longer think of it as caring.

Think about how the person was before and what has changed. Consider if they have difficulty with things even if they can manage them. If the person has difficulty, or things take a long time, this can count. Think about what would happen if you didn’t do the things you do and how the person would cope. Would they be at risk of harming themselves or forgetting to do things like eat? Could they get up, washed and dressed in a reasonable time?

With AA it’s all about the help that is required. So if the person has needs, even though they are not actually getting the help, this should be included.

For example:

Maud would like to shower each day but cannot do this by herself. Her carer is only able to help her shower once a week but she needs help every day.

Andrew lives alone and has dementia. He is at risk of self-neglect and quite often puts himself at risk as a result of his memory problems. He can forget to eat and take his medication. He also gets confused and anxious. He needs someone to keep an eye on him all the time and make sure that he is safe, even though he doesn’t actually have this level of support.

The Citizens Advice Bureau has some useful guidance to help you fill in the form.

Should I send in anything else?

The person you care for could send in any medical reports or letters that they have. Sometimes the AA unit may contact the GP, or other health care professional, to ask them to provide extra evidence. However, there is no guarantee that this will happen so if they have information that they think will support the claim send this in.

A supporting letter from you, the carer, can be really useful as you are the person actually providing the care and see the person the most regularly.

If the person you care for has an up-to-date prescription list that is no longer needed send this in with the form.

Is there anyone who will help me with the form?

It can be hard to get help with filling in the form: it is lengthy and can take a long time to fill in. There are places in Bristol and South Gloucestershire that may be able to help with giving information over the phone or at a drop in. Some places offer appointments to help with filling in the form, but often there is a wait and not everyone will be able to get this level of support. You can search for your local advice centre on the ACFA website.

You can call or email CarersLine for general information about AA and we can try to find places that can help with form filling.

The Citizens Advice Bureau has a section about claiming AA on their website.

Age UK Bristol and Age UK South Gloucestershire can help with attendance allowance forms. 

How is the claim assessed? 

The claim will be assessed based on the information that is provided on the form and any supporting evidence that you send in. Sometimes your GP, or other health care professional may be contacted to provide information, but there is no guarantee that this will happen. So, if there are any letters or reports that support the claim, do send them in letters from carers and relatives can also help.

Sometimes the person you care for may be asked to attend an assessment in person but in our experience this is rare for AA.

A letter will be sent with the decision. If AA is awarded it’s worth getting a benefit check done as the person you care for may be entitled to other help. As a carer you may be able to claim carer’s allowance.

What if the claim is turned down? 

If the claim is turned down, or the person you care for is awarded less than you think they should get, it may be worth asking for what’s called a ‘mandatory reconsideration’ (MR). If this is unsuccessful, you can ask for an appeal.

Many people whose claims are initially turned down go on the successfully appeal the decision but it’s worth getting advice from a welfare rights specialist who can help assess the likely success of an appeal. If the person is awarded some AA but not as much as they thought they should get and they want  to challenge the decision, always seek advice. Most people will have to go on to appeal as reconsiderations are often not successful and it is only when someone gets to the appeal stage that success is more likely.

There are strict time limits for asking for a mandatory reconsideration and for an appeal and it’s important to stick to them.  If you do miss a deadline you can still ask for the decision to be looked at again but you will need to have what the Department of Work and Pensions agree is a good reason for a late request so try to meet the deadline if possible.

Citizens Advice Bureau gives information about asking for both a mandatory reconsideration and an appeal. Your local advice centre may be able to help with a MR or appeal. You can search for your local advice centre on the ACFA website.

What if the person I care for gets AA and their needs have changed?

If the person’s needs increase, e.g. they now need help during the night rather than just during the day, they may be entitled to the higher rate of AA. They can ask for the claim to be looked at again to try and get the higher rate.  In very rare cases AA could be reduced rather than increased, so seek advice if there are any doubts about this.

If the person’s needs decrease and they think that they no longer meet the criteria for AA they will need to notify the AA unit of this too.

The person I care for has gone into hospital. What happens to AA? 

AA stops after someone has been in hospital for 28 days. The withdrawal of AA can affect the amount of pension credit they get so it’s important to inform the AA unit and pension credit. If you get carer’s allowance this will also be affected when the AA is withdrawn so you will need to notify the Carers Allowance Unit.

If you get a means tested benefit this may also be affected so you need to let all the separate offices that pay your benefits know about any changes in your caring role.

Why was the person I care for turned down for AA?

The care needs may not be enough to qualify for AA. This may of course change over time so they can reapply if the needs increase.

However, in our experience, there could be other reasons why a claim for AA may not be successful:

  • there is not enough medical evidence to support the claim.
  • the person has concentrated on help needed with shopping, cleaning and gardening which will not usually be considered by the assessor.
  • there is not the level of detail that is required. For example someone may write that they can get upstairs but fail to mention how this causes pain and breathlessness and how they have to rest frequently.
  • medical or supporting evidence does not give enough detail or contradicts what you have said.

Terminal illness

The definition of terminal illness for AA purposes is specific and you will need to send in a statement called the DS1500 report. The GP, consultant or a specialist nurse must fill this in. Claiming in this way is known as claiming under the special rules.

There is more about claiming attendance allowance for someone with a terminal illness on the Citizens Advice Bureaus website.