The government doesn‟t get full value from the „Attendance Allowance‟ disability payments it makes to 1.3 million older people because it provides no advice on how they should use the money and fails to share information with local authorities and health services, says a new report published today (Monday 17 June 2013) by older people‟s charity Independent Age and public policy think tank the Strategic Society Centre.

About 1.3 million1 older people in England receive the benefit from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The report says that the weekly payment – worth up to £79.15 a week – is vital in helping users maintain their independence, particularly as recipients tend to be on lower incomes.

But the report, Independence Allowance: developing a new vision for Attendance Allowance in England, reveals that only 170,000 of the 1.3 million recipients are in touch with councils, who coordinate care services locally, so most receive no advice and support about how best to use the cash or information about other local support. And the DWP does not even provide councils and local health bodies with summary data about Attendance Allowance users in their areas to help them plan services.

James Lloyd, Director of the Strategic Society Centre, and author of the report, said: “Our research confirms the value of this benefit to disabled older people – many would be living in poverty if they did not get Attendance Allowance. But, with the population ageing and at a time of intense pressure on public spending, it is vital that the government takes the opportunity to make the best use of the Attendance Allowance system and gets greater value for money in this area of public spending.”

Chief Executive of Independent Age, Janet Morrison, said: “Attendance Allowance has been overlooked by the government. If older people using it received better information and advice services, they could spend their money more effectively and maintain their independence for longer.”

1 Source: DWP

The report is calling for all 1.3 million recipients of the benefit to be offered guidance to help them use the money to retain their health and independence. In addition, the report suggests that information on users should be anonymised and provided to councils and health services to help them plan local services.

The report also suggests that the benefit should be rebranded „Independence Allowance‟ to give people a greater understanding of the intention of the benefit and how to use it. 

At a glance

Independence Allowance: developing a new vision for Attendance Allowance in England provides quantitative and qualitative insight into Attendance Allowance recipients: who they are; their disability and health conditions; who supports them and the way they live their life and how therefore, the government can make better use of the Attendance Allowance system.

In light of its findings, Independent Age and The Strategic Society Centre are calling for:

- all 1.3 million recipients of Attendance Allowance in England to have recourse to personalised information and advice service from their local authority by telephone and for all new Attendance Allowance claimants to be systematically offered information and advice, following application for, and award of, the benefit

- a duty on councils to ensure their information and advice services are accessible to older people using Attendance Allowance

- for information on users to be anonymised by the DWP and provided to councils and health services to help them plan local services

- for Attendance Allowance to be renamed „Independence Allowance‟, giving people a greater understanding of the intention of the benefit and to increase take up among those disabled older people who still fail to claim it.

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