A leading charity has expressed ‘grave concern’ over the Government’s announcement of a consultation on transferring responsibility for Attendance Allowance to local authorities in England and Wales.
Carers UK says Attendance Allowance is “an important source of support for older people with care needs”, and warns of “serious repercussions” for carers if the budget and responsibility for Attendance Allowance is handed to local authorities.
Attendance Allowance is paid to physically or mentally disabled people aged 65 or over and if often regarded as a “gateway benefit” to Carers Allowance.
The vital benefit is paid at two different rate – £55.10 or £82.30 a week – and depends on the level of care a person needs.
A claimants carer could be awarded Carers Allowance if the person being cared for has ‘substantial needs’.
Carers Allowance is paid at £62.10 a week and can be claimed if a carer spends at least 35 hours a week caring for someone. Full eligibility rules can be found here.
Carers UK has called on the Government to “retain the current system” of Attendance Allowance, which they say “is clear and relatively efficient”.
Heléna Herklots, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said: “The current national entitlement to Attendance Allowance is an important source of support for older people with care needs, helping them to remain independent for longer.
“The present delivery of the benefit is quick and efficient for those who need it.
“In contrast, devolving the budgets for future Attendance Allowance claimants locally, so that local authorities have flexibility over their own systems of support, threatens to create a lottery of support for older people and carers.
“Given that Attendance Allowance is a gateway benefit to claiming Carer’s Allowance, we are extremely concerned that, in the future, carers will find it more difficult to access Carer’s Allowance – an absolutely vital source of income for those caring for older and disabled loved ones.
“We urge the Government to retain the current system which works well, is clear and relatively efficient.
“Attendance Allowance should not be seen as a way of shoring up the cash strapped adult social care departments.”
Caroline Abrahams, charity director of Age UK, said: “Attendance allowance fulfils a real need. We would be very worried if it [were] to go to fewer people as a result of any transfer.”
Clause 1.4 on page 7 of the provisional local government finance settlement 2016 to 2017 reads:
“The Government will also consider giving more responsibility to councils in England, and to Wales, to support older people with care needs – including people who, under the current system, would be supported through Attendance Allowance.
“This will protect existing claimants, so there will be no cash losers, and new responsibilities will be matched by the transfer of equivalent spending power.
The Government is planning to consult in the New Year on this proposal, including on the right model of devolution and the level of flexibility that councils would need in order to effectively deliver this additional responsibility.”