Applying for Attendance Allowance: Five common pitfalls to avoid

Reviewed by Dean Morgan

How difficult is applying for attendance allowance? Considering that attendance allowance is a non-means-tested benefit awarded to elderly people, applying for it is not an easy process. There are many pitfalls to applying for attendance allowance. It’s essential to avoid those pitfalls if you or your elderly parent are going to make an application or they could end up being one of the 58% of applicants that gets rejected.

Get an attendance allowance application right and your elderly parent will receive an extra income to assist in paying for help with things like personal care at home. In fact, once it’s been awarded, attendance allowance can be spent on anything that will help the claimant be more comfortable and maintain their independence longer.

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Who is eligible for attendance allowance?

The Department for Works and Pensions (DWP) decides eligibility for attendance allowance on various factors. To be eligible to apply your elderly parent or relative will need to meet these basic criteria:

  • Be over state pension age
  • Have been in need of some type of assistance for a period of at least six months
  • Have a physical or mental disability no matter how minor
  • Be a permanent resident in the UK

Making a mistake on an attendance allowance application is easily done. The DWP requires very specific details about exactly what areas of daily life you or your relative are struggling with. Not being specific enough when completing the application is one of the most common attendance allowance pitfalls, but it’s not the only one.

Should you complete the form online or by hand?

Before we dive into the common pitfalls, it’s worth noting that there are a couple of ways to complete the attendance allowance form, which can be found on the website.

  • Download, print and complete the form by hand: While you can complete this thirty-page long form online, you may find it easier to print it out and fill it in by hand, but be aware that unless your handwriting is pretty small, you’ll need to continue your answers in question 44 which serves as an overflow. You can of course always attach additional sheets of paper as further continuation, but you’ll need to ensure you are accurately referencing back to the question when doing so, to reduce the chances of anything being misunderstood and/or disregarded.
  • Download and complete the form on your computer: There is also the option to download and complete the form on your computer (in PDF format) which allows for smaller font and the ability of course to save it, come back to it, share it quickly with others, make changes and easily make a copy for your records.

Whichever method you choose to complete the form, you should always take a copy to cover any claims getting lost in the post, or simply as a reference if ever you need to challenge anything in your claim.

The five main pitfalls to avoid when applying for attendance allowance

Here are some of the main attendance allowance pitfalls. Avoid these and you’ll have a much better chance of getting your application approved the first-time round.

Pitfall 1: Not reading the notes provided

Don’t read the notes provided with an attendance allowance application and you’re heading for trouble before you’ve even started filling in the form. You’ll find a twelve page downloadable and printable copy of the notes on the website, on the same page as the attendance allowance claim form. It’s recommended that you print it out as it’ll be easier to refer back to if you need to – and you undoubtedly will.

Read the attendance allowance notes from the beginning. The first thing you’ll come across is a reminder of the eligibility criteria for applying. Make sure your relative meets those criteria or you’re going to waste quite a few hours that could be better spent doing something else. In case you need a further reminder, the eligibility criteria is:-

  • Be over state pension age
  • Have been in need of some type of assistance for a period of at least six months
  • You or your relative have a physical or mental disability no matter how minor
  • Be a permanent resident in the UK

You won’t be eligible for attendance allowance if you already receive other benefits such as:

  • A personal independence payment (PIP)
  • A disability living allowance (DLA)
  • Are not a permanent resident in the UK unless you’re a member of the armed forces
  • Are a resident in a care home

As you read through each section of the notes, you’ll find information on:

  • What does the DWP mean when they use certain terms like personal care and supervision
  • Details of when you can claim for attendance allowance
  • How the two different rates of allowance are calculated
  • What the DWP class as a disability for attendance allowance purposes
  • A special section for those suffering from a terminal illness
  • Notes relevant to particular questions on the application form – keep a note of these so you can refer back to them when completing the application

If you don’t read the notes thoroughly before starting to fill in the attendance allowance application, you may fail to include vital information that would get your claim accepted.

Pitfall 2: Not providing enough information

Once you’re ready to tackle completing the attendance allowance form you’ll need to be prepared to divulge as much information as possible. Even a detail that you might feel is irrelevant could mean the difference between acceptance or rejection of the claim.

The first page of the form, questions one to eight, requests personal details which is self-explanatory. But if you’re completing the form for someone else then you’ll need to make sure you get the details of their date of birth, National Insurance number and bank account number correct so gather all that info together before you begin. There will also be some medical questions to answer so be prepared for those too. After you’ve completed those you’ll be starting to get to the nitty-gritty of what it’s all about.

Question 25 on the form asks what aids that have been prescribed by an occupational therapist your relative uses to make life easier. Adding as many items as you can and explaining in brief how they make their life easier will benefit the claim greatly. You can include things like a cane or walking frame, a shower stool, a non-slip bath mat, special kitchen equipment or even technological items like voice-controlled lights.

Make a point of mentioning any problems your relative may have with remembering to take medication or if assistance is needed to prepare a weekly pill box. It’s also beneficial to mention if eating is a problem because your relative has shaking hands or it’s become difficult to handle a knife and fork. Even the smallest of detail helps.

Pitfall 3: Not getting help to complete the form

A lot of people’s claims for attendance allowance get rejected because they don’t ask for help to complete the application form. It’s great to be independent, but this is one time when getting help will pay dividends and help is available free of charge so make the most of it.

You can get help to make an application for attendance allowance from AgeUK. If you or your relative is unable to attend one of their branches in person, they can organise an advisor to call on your relative at home where they will complete the form for them. The advisors have a lot of experience making attendance allowance claims.

You can also get help by calling the Attendance Allowance helpline on 0800 731 0122.

Pitfall 4: Not keeping a diary of needs

Questions 26 to 44 on the attendance allowance application form ask for details on what activities a person is having difficulties with. There are spaces to include details about difficulties inside the home during the day and at nighttime as well as any problems that may occur outdoors. These answers are not enough.

Before you make the application for attendance allowance, you or your parent /elder relative may want to consider keeping a diary of their needs (although this is not essential from a DWP perspective). The DWP needs to know that the claimant has been having difficulties with various things for at least six months. You don’t have to keep a diary every day for six months. The Citizens Advice Bureau recommend you keep a diary for a week and to make it easier have created a diary page you can fill in. It’s downloadable from their website here.

Keep one thing in mind when you’re completing the diary, and the application form, what the DWP wants to know is when and with what the claimant needed help with previously. They don’t want to know about any help you think your relative may need or want in the future, just what help you’ve already had. It’s easy to forget small details that’s why keeping a daily diary is so beneficial for the claim.

Here are some examples of things you could include in the diary of what your parent needed:-

  • I needed help to get out of bed. My (relative, carer, friend, neighbour) came at 8 o’clock to help me get up.
  • I couldn’t button my shirt or cardigan so my (relative, carer, friend, neighbour) did it for me.
  • I had shopping delivered, but couldn’t manage to put it away so my (relative, carer, friend, neighbour) did it for me.
  • I forgot to take my medication so my (relative, carer, friend, neighbour) is calling by to check I have.
  • I’m having trouble shaving so my (relative, carer, friend, neighbour) has been giving me a shave

Whatever activity your relative has needed help with, write it down even if it’s as simple as someone opening a can of soup or buttering some toast for breakfast. It all counts.

Pitfall 5: Avoiding repetition

You will find questions on the application form that coincide with what you’re writing in the diary. Just because those difficulties are mentioned on the application form doesn’t mean you should skip noting them in the diary, if you are completing one. Don’t try to think up new answers to avoid repeating yourself either. Say it exactly as it is as many times as you need to.

There are also some questions on the application form that basically ask for the same information – question 28 and 31 as well as 25 and 29 are prime examples. Don’t omit the information even though it’s repetitive. It’s important to fill in the answers even though you’re repeating yourself.

In summary

Applying for attendance allowance may seem a tedious business, but it really is worth the effort as the extra income can help make life more comfortable for your parent or elderly relative. Whether they’re awarded the lower rate of £68.10 a week or the higher rate of £101.75 a week, it’s a useful amount that can be spent in whatever way they want to spend it – no questions asked.

Common questions

Who cannot claim attendance allowance?

You can’t claim attendance if you:

  • Are not over state pension age
  • Have not needed some type of assistance for a period of at least six months
  • Are not a permanent resident in the UK
  • Are a resident in a care home
  • Already claim benefits such as Personal Independence Payment (PIP) or Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

How long does it take for attendance allowance to be assessed?

The DWP will contact you within three weeks of receiving your application to let you know how long it will take them to make a decision on your claim.

Can I appeal a decision if my attendance allowance claim is rejected?

Yes, you can ask for a mandatory reconsideration of your claim. This must be done within a month of receiving the rejection notification using the mandatory reconsideration form available on the website.

What happens if care needs change after receiving attendance allowance?

If your care needs change once you’re receiving attendance allowance, you should contact the Attendance Allowance Helpline on 0800 731 0122 to update your details.

Do I need to renew my attendance allowance claim each year?

It depends on how your attendance allowance was awarded. If it was awarded for a fixed period you will need to renew your claim before the old one expires. DWP will send you a new claim form which you will need to complete and return. If you are awarded attendance allowance for an indefinite period you won’t need to renew your claim.

Terminology toolkit

Attendance allowance – a tax-free benefit paid to people over State Pension age who live independently but need help with personal care or supervision due to disability or illness. 

DWP – Department for Works and Pensions

PIP – Personal Independence Payment

DLA – Disability Living Allowance


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