Advisers' guide - how to claim Attendance Allowance
About this guide
Many blind and partially sighted people aged over 65 are missing out on
Attendance Allowance. This guide explains how advisers can encourage them to
claim Attendance Allowance and help with the claims process. The guide is
intended for social workers, welfare rights officers, staff and volunteers in local
societies, and others working with blind and partially sighted people.
Attendance Allowance (AA) is a cash benefit for people aged 65 or over who need
help with personal care. It is worth at least £44.85 per week tax-free. It is not
means-tested and can be paid on top of other income. People can qualify for AA
even if they live alone or don’t receive the help they need. All blind and partially
sighted people aged 65 and over should consider claiming AA. (For people
claiming before the age of 65, there is a similar benefit called Disability Living
Why blind and partially sighted people miss out on AA
There are almost 150,000 registered blind people over 65 in Great Britain and a
further 1.5 million who have serious sight problems but only 61,000 people are
getting AA because of sight problems.
Blind and partially sighted people face many barriers that may prevent them from
finding out about AA and claiming it successfully:
lack of awareness and lack of accessible information
misconceptions about entitlement conditions, eg thinking AA can’t be claimed
because of savings or other income
misconceptions about negative consequences of claiming, eg fear of being
forced into residential care
stigma or embarrassment about claiming
difficulty with finding out where to get advice, using the telephone or visiting
difficulty with the claims process: dialling unfamiliar phone numbers, completing
lengthy claim forms, reading and writing letters, pursuing appeals
some people become discouraged after a previous unsuccessful claim for AA,
not realising that they can appeal or claim again, especially if their sight or
health have deteriorated.
The impact of an AA award
An award of AA can transform a person’s life. For blind and partially sighted
people who live alone, benefits can be crucial in helping them to stay in their own
homes and maintain informal care networks. The benefit may be used to pay for
help with cleaning, shopping and the reading of mail. People who have difficulty
using public transport can use their AA to pay for taxi fares to help them get out
and about. Moreover, AA can sometimes act as a passport to other benefits, in
some cases nearly doubling a person’s total income.
In a survey of people who had claimed AA with help from RNIB, 85 per cent felt
that the award had improved their quality of life a lot. One claimant reported being
able to take a holiday for the first time in 20 years.
Helping blind and partially sighted people to claim
As an adviser, here are some practical steps that you can take to increase take up
of AA amongst blind and partially sighted people.
Learn about the qualifying criteria for Attendance Allowance
RNIB’s Attendance Allowance checklist and guide gives many examples of
care needs which may enable a visually impaired person to qualify for AA. Our
description of relevant caselaw for AA claims (Word 84KB) provides more
detailed information. Don’t feel daunted if you’re not a benefits specialist; knowing
just a few basic points, such as the fact that AA is not means-tested, can enable
you to encourage people to claim. Find out more money for older people.
RNIB also offers a briefing for advisers on helping customers claim AA.
Provide information about AA in accessible formats
RNIB has produced an Attendance Allowance Claim Support Pack to help blind
and partially sighted individuals to claim AA. The pack is available in large print,
tape and braille. Telephone 0845 766 9999 or 020 7388 2525 to order copies,
which you can display on your premises and pass on to clients.
Actively encourage take up of AA and related benefits
Don’t wait for people to ask for advice about AA. If a person’s sight or health has
recently deteriorated, or if they have recently been registered blind or partially
sighted, then it may be worthwhile claiming again, even if a previous claim was
If your organisation has a newsletter, you may want to consider including an
article about AA. Or you may want to arrange a talk, advice surgery or similar
event to raise awareness of AA. RNIB, your local Pension Service or local welfare
rights organisations may be able to help you with this. Other ways of promoting
take up could include targeted mail shots, publicity in local media and outreach
sessions at eye clinics etc. RNIB Welfare Rights Service can offer advice to help
ensure that your campaign is effective in reaching blind and partially sighted
Complete a full benefit check
When someone claims AA it is important to also check whether they are entitled to
other benefits. They may be entitled to Pension Credit, Housing Benefit or
Council Tax Benefit, for example. Sometimes an award of AA can result in
increased entitlement to these benefits, or enable a person to claim them for the
first time. If an AA claimant has a carer who regularly looks after them (eg spouse,
relative, friend or neighbour), the carer may be able to claim Carer’s Allowance.
But it is important to get advice before advising about Carer's Allowance, because
in some cases an award of Carer’s Allowance can reduce the amount of means-
tested benefits paid to the AA claimant.
Offer help with completing AA claim forms
After suggesting that a person should claim AA, make sure you follow up on each
case – people will often give up on a claim if not supported or encouraged.
The AA claim pack is currently 20 pages long and can seem very daunting to a
blind or partially sighted person. Some blind and partially sighted people are able
to complete claim packs with help from family or friends but that is not feasible for
everyone. If possible, offer to help people to complete the forms. Your assistance
could make all the difference.
If you and your colleagues do not have enough time to complete claim forms in
every case, do not let this put you off doing take up work or telling people about
AA. You can still assist people by signposting them to other sources of help such
as those given at the foot of this page.
Tips for completing AA claim forms
Ensure that you allow enough time for completing the form; it can take at least
Our Attendance Allowance checklist gives detailed tips and prompts to help
with completing AA claim packs. Thousands of claims are turned down each
year because people do not put enough detail on the claim pack to explain the
sort of help and support that they need. In most cases, it is necessary to spell
out exactly what help is needed and why, emphasising that help is required on
many occasions throughout the day. Many claimants find it difficult or
embarrassing to describe exactly what help they need. You can use the
checklist as a prompt to discover what help is required.
After completing the form, read back all of the answers so that the blind or
partially sighted person can check them and know what they are signing. Blind
and partially sighted people may need guidance on where to sign the form.
After helping someone to complete a claim pack, tell them to contact you with
the result, whatever it is.
If a claim is turned down
Unfortunately blind and partially sighted people are often wrongly turned down
when they first claim AA. Sometimes they are awarded the lower rate of AA when,
due to the extent of their needs, they should get higher rate. If this happens the
claimant can ask for the decision to be reconsidered, or appeal to an independent
tribunal. The normal time limit for doing this is just one month from the date on the
decision letter. Around 50 per cent of AA appeals are successful, although
successful AA appeals involving a representative are greater.
RNIB Welfare Rights Service can provide advice about challenging a decision or
appealing against Attendance Allowance decisions.
About sight loss
When helping blind and partially sighted people to claim AA, it is useful to have an
understanding of different types of sight loss and of the difficulties that blind and
partially sighted people are likely to encounter. The following links may be helpful:
registering as blind or partially sighted.
Tips for advisers: Providing a good service for people with
When blind or partially sighted people arrive at your office, ask if they would
like help. Some will have enough sight to get around on their own, others will
need to be guided by a member of staff to the waiting area, interview room etc.
Occasionally people may be quite assertive in rejecting any form of assistance
but do remember that many find it useful.
When guiding a blind or partially sighted person try to keep a little ahead of
them – this will normally mean that they hold your arm rather than you holding
theirs. Read more about how to guide people with sight problems.
Talk naturally and don't worry about using phrases such as "nice to see you" or
"see you later".
When talking on the telephone, allow extra time for a blind or partially sighted
person to answer the phone. If you need to pass on information such as a
telephone number or appointment date, ask if they will be able to take down the
details. Offer to send them the information in a suitable format if necessary.
Offer information and correspondence in accessible formats such as large
print, audio tape and braille. RNIB can advise about how to produce clear
print and accessible information. If you have to give hand-written information
to a blind or partially sighted person (eg a message on a compliments slip),
print clearly using a thick pen such as a black felt tip or marker.
Consider whether your premises are accessible for blind and partially sighted
visitors. Make sure that public areas are uncluttered and free of obstacles.
Sources of further information and help
RNIB Helpline (0303 123 9999 / email@example.com)
In addition to advice about benefits for people with sight loss and their carers, we
can also offer advice about planning benefit take up campaigns. RNIB can offer
in-house training or briefing sessions for advisers.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) provides information about
Attendance Allowance and other benefits. Their Benefit Enquiry Line (BEL), on
Freephone 0800 88 22 00, gives general advice on benefits for people with
disabilities but does not deal with specific queries on individual claims.
DWP also has a Claim Form Completion Service for AA - telephone 0800 88 22
00. Someone will call the claimant back to complete the form over the telephone.
When the form has been completed, the claimant will be sent a copy to check.
People with sight problems can get a copy of their answers in large print or braille.
Claimants can ask the Pension Service for a home visit if necessary. This is useful
for people who need help to complete a form but cannot use the telephone form
Many local authority welfare rights units operate consultancy lines for staff from
social services, voluntary organisations and others.
Citizens Advice Bureaux can also help with completing AA forms, although they
may have a waiting list.