Financial support for elderly UK: What is your parent entitled to?

Reviewed by Dean Morgan

Is your elder parent getting the financial aid and funded care they’re entitled to?

Although many state benefits are means-tested (meaning they are contingent on an individual’s or household’s financial circumstances and income), financial aid in the UK is not just reserved for those on the breadline, especially where elder people are concerned.

Beyond the State Pension, there are in fact a number of benefits, funding, and reductions available in the UK, to help alleviate the financial strain of ageing and eldercare for families. Many popular UK businesses and services also offer discounts for their senior customers that can help make savings.

This article will help ensure that you can quickly see what funding, free care or discounts your parents may be entitled to so they don’t miss out.

Attendance Allowance

One non means-tested benefit for the elderly that many are eligible for but aren’t aware of is Attendance Allowance. In fact, according to the charity Turn2Us, as many as 3.4 million people over the age of 65 are not claiming the Attendance Allowance they are entitled to.

Attendance Allowance is for elder people who need help with care needs or regular supervision in the home. Even if your parent is not currently receiving care or supervision, they could still be eligible if they are struggling with day-to-day tasks due to age or ill health.

Because it is non means-tested, this means eligible people can claim it regardless of what income or savings they have. There are also no restrictions on what the payments can be spent on.

To be eligible to apply, your elderly parent or relative will need to meet these basic criteria:

  • Be over state pension age (currently 66 for both men and women)
  • 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

Depending on the elder person’s needs, there are two rates of Attendance Allowance.

From April 2023 to April 2024:

  • Lower rate: £68.10 per week for those who need help either during the day or at night.
  • Higher rate: £101.75 per week for those who need help both during the day and at night or for those who are terminally ill.

The application form for Attendance Allowance can be found here on Gov.uk. The form is 30 pages long and is confusing and time-consuming to fill in, with many pitfalls, so it’s worth getting advice on how to complete it to avoid getting rejected. You can get free advice and support to complete the form by calling The Citizen’s Advice Bureau and Age UK. There are also companies and experienced consultants that will write the application for you for a fee, such as Grey Matters Consultancy, which can save you a lot of time and confusing, and ensure it’s filled out accurately.

Pension Credit

Pension Credit is a means-tested benefit only for people over State Pension age who are on a low income.

It’s calculated based on an individual’s total income, which includes State Pensions, other pensions, income from employment and some benefits.

The benefit tops up a pensioner’s income to a minimum of £201.05 per week for a single person and to £306.85 for couples (the Pension Credit thresholds)– or more if a person has a disability or caring responsibilities.

If your elder parent’s income is low (below the Pension Credit threshold) they may be eligible for this benefit. And if it turns out that they are eligible, then they should be able to claim other means-tested benefits too – including help with housing costs, heating costs, transport to and from hospital, free NHS dental treatment and council tax.  TV licences are also free for people who are 75 years or older receiving Pension Credit.

A quick way to see if your parent may be eligible for Pension Credit or other means-tested government benefits is to use one of these free, online Benefits Calculators: 

You can also pop your parent’s postcode into advice.uk to find a local advisor that could provide guidance on whether they might qualify for pension credit or other means-tested benefits.

Winter Fuel Payment

Winter Fuel Payment is a tax-free, non means-tested annual payment designed to help elder people with their heating costs so they can stay warm and secure during the chilly months.

Assuming your parent was born before 25 September 1957 and receives a State Pension and/or other benefit, they should get anywhere between £250 and £600 annually to help cover the costs of their higher winter energy bills. The amount they receive depends on when they were born and their circumstances between 18 to 24 September 2023 (called the ‘qualifying week).

Winter Fuel Payments are made automatically if your parent is eligible (so they don’t need to apply). They should receive a letter in October or November to say how much they will get. But if they haven’t received it then you might want to investigate. Payments are usually made in November or December.

Note: The Winter Fuel Payment is distinct from Cold Weather Payments, which are separate, one-time payments made when specific weather conditions occur.  Your parent would likely not be eligible for the Cold Weather Payment unless they receive Pension Credit. And the Cold Weather Payment doesn’t apply in Scotland, where there is a separate Winter Heating Payment.

Carer’s Allowance

It’s common for elder people to find themselves spending a significant amount of time looking after a partner with a debilitating health condition such as dementia or arthritis. If that’s the case for your parent, then they may qualify for Carer’s Allowance.

Carer’s Allowance is a means-tested benefit that is currently set at £76.75 per week (for the year running from April 2023 to April 2024).

However, if your parent’s State Pension amounts to more than the Carer’s Allowance of £76.75 per week then they might not be eligible, no matter how many hours of care they provide or the condition of the person they are caring for.

NHS Continuing Healthcare

NHS Continuing Healthcare is not the same as just normal, free NHS healthcare.

Continuing Healthcare is non means-tested health and social care that is funded by the NHS and provided for free to adults living in England and Wales who have significant and complex ongoing health needs. It covers the full cost of the person’s care (and care home fees if they need to go into a care home).

If your parent develops a condition or has an accident which results in their having intensive care needs, then they may be eligible for NHS Continuing Healthcare.

If you think they may be eligible, you should request an initial assessment from their health or social care team.

Be warned however that the process of securing Continuing Healthcare is notoriously difficult and stressful to navigate. Even healthcare professionals struggle, let alone patients and their families.

Be prepared to advocate for your parent and go through a confusing, frustrating and lengthy process.

You might want to consider consulting independent advocacy organisations like Beacon (a non-profit social enterprise) to support you and your parent through various stages of the process. You have to pay a fee for this but it will take away some of the heavy lifting and headache, and greatly increase your chances of getting the funding you need faster.

NHS-funded Nursing Care

NHS-funded Nursing Care is available for elderly people who live in nursing homes and are not eligible for NHS Continuing Healthcare, but have been assessed as needing care from a Registered Nurse.

This means that the NHS will pay money towards the nursing home where the elderly person lives, to pays for the nursing care component of their nursing home fees.

A person’s eligibility for NHS-funded Nursing Care is made after they have been assessed and found to be ineligible for NHS continuing healthcare.

Reablement Care (Care After Hospital Discharge)

Free, short-term reablement care should be arranged by hospital staff if your parent is being discharged from a stay in an NHS hospital (due to an accident, short illness or operation) and needs continuing care afterwards to recover at home , get back to normal and stay independent. 

Bear in mind that this is short-term care only, which people can receive for a maximum of up to 6 weeks. This could include temporary arrangements at rehabilitation centres, home visits by nurses, or provision of mobility aids.

Before your parent is sent home from hospital, it is critical that you speak to the person in charge of their hospital discharge to make sure that this is arranged. If it isn’t, and your parent goes home with no arrangements in place, the hospital will not get involved after your parent has gone home and you’ll have to engage their local social services. This can become complex and distressing as you need to urgently manage care for your loved one.

If your parent’s reablement care is coming to an end, but you or they think they need continued support, you should contact their local adult social services to get a needs assessment. You may need to start engaging directly with a private care provider to get the continuing care they need to get back to normal.

Local authority support and social care

Local councils have a duty of care towards their elderly residents.

If your parent develops a debilitating health condition, or struggles with their mobility, their local social care team can provide or arrange for services to support them, sometimes for free. This could range from home adaptations for better mobility, home help for daily chores, care at home or even residential care.

In order to find out what sort of assistance your parent might benefit from, and be eligible for, you need to contact their local council to get a free needs assessment. This is a thorough assessment that allows social services to determine exactly what sort of health and social support they need.

In England and Wales, following a needs assessment, social services would carry out a means assessment to see whether your parent would qualify for any of the support they need to be funded (in whole or in part) by their local authority.

In Scotland, anyone over 65 who is deemed eligible following a needs assessment can get Free Personal and Nursing Care services, regardless of their financial situation.

In Northern Ireland, social care is primarily managed by Health and Social Care Trusts. Similar to England and Wales, funding for care following a needs assessment largely depends on an individual’s means.

Note on home adaptations: If your parent is assessed as having ongoing care needs when the needs assessment is carried out, they will be eligible for some funding from the local council for any necessary home adaptations, such as putting handrails in the bathroom. Adaptations or equipment of less than £1,000 in value is funded by social services (so your parent won’t need to pay for it).

Discounted and free transport

Public transport is generally free for people over the state pension age in the UK, but there are some variations and limitations and it’s not as straightforward as you might think it would be.

If your parent lives in London and is over state pension age, they will be eligible for an Older Persons Freedom Pass which permits free travel on most public transportation within the city, and free travel on local bus journeys nationally.

If your parent lives outside of London, they can get an Older Person’s Bus Pass when they reach the age of 60 if they live in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or when they reach state pension age if they live in England.  This bus pass allows them to travel on local buses anywhere in the UK, including those in London (but not the London Underground).

For train journeys, National Rail offers a Senior Railcard for people aged 60 or over in the UK, which gets them one third off most standard and first-class rail fares across Great Britain.  Priced at £30 for a year (with a three-year option available for £70), this card is not just about rail discounts. Cardholders can also receive discounts on attractions, theatre tickets, and certain accommodations.

For coach journeys, National Express offers a Senior Coachcard for the over 60s, which gives one third off standard and flexible fares even during peak hours. The card is valid for a year and costs £12.50 plus £2.50 for postage.

Discounted shopping and leisure

As well as state benefits and healthcare funding to support eldercare, it’s worth knowing that several popular shops, businesses and leisure destinations offer benefits and perks for older people, including:

  • Iceland and The Food Warehouse:  On Tuesdays, anyone aged over 60 can get a 10% discount on their shop at Iceland or Food Warehouse stores, with no minimum spend. They just have to show a valid ID, such as Driver’s License or Senior Bus Pass.
  • Boots: The Boots Advantage Card for Over 60s provides extra points on purchases and discounts on glasses and hearing aids.
  • Specsavers: The glasses chain offers discounts of 20% to people aged 60 and over on glasses priced £69 plus.
  • National Trust: The organisation offers a 25% senior discount on its annual membership, allowing pensioners to explore hundreds of historic sites and nature preserves at a reduced rate.
  • English Heritage: Similar to the National Trust, seniors can get discounted annual memberships, granting them access to various historical and cultural sites.
  • Cinema chains: Many cinema chains, such as ODEON, offer “Silver Cinema” sessions or senior discounts, making it more affordable for older individuals to enjoy the latest films.

In summary

Eldercare is costly and can put huge financial strain on families. While help to ease the cost of eldercare is available, many of us are unaware that it exists or don’t know how to access it.

Even if you are aware of the available benefits and services that could help your parent or elder relative, applying for and securing them can be extremely time-consuming, confusing and frustrating. You often need to advocate on their behalf if they are ill or incapacitated in some way, or get outside help from an expert.

Make sure you equip yourself with the knowledge and support you need to secure the help your parent is entitled to, so you and they don’t end up paying for things you shouldn’t have to. 

Not only do these benefits dramatically reduce the financial burden of eldercare, they also help ensure your parent doesn’t miss out on the full-spectrum of care they deserve.

Common questions

  • What benefits do seniors get in the UK?

The UK is home to an array of state benefits tailored for the elderly. These include the State Pension, Attendance Allowance, Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Winter Fuel Payment, and many others. Each is designed to address specific needs, from daily living costs to disability-related expenses.

  • How often are elderly care benefits reassessed?

The frequency of benefit reassessment checks can vary depending on the specific benefit in question. For instance, some might be annual, while others could be after a set number of years or when circumstances change significantly.

  • Are there any tax reliefs or exemptions for elderly care?

Yes, certain expenses, like those related to necessary modifications to homes for mobility purposes or specific medical needs, might qualify for tax reliefs or deductions.

  • Differences between PIP and Attendance Allowance?

While both are designed to provide financial assistance to those with disabilities, they cater to different age groups and needs. Personal Independence Payment (PIP) primarily serves individuals aged 16-64, although it can extend beyond 64 if the claim was initiated before that age.

On the other hand, Attendance Allowance is explicitly tailored for people over state pension age who require assistance due to disabilities, regardless of whether they have a carer.

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