PENSIONERS could be missing out on hundreds of pounds a month in benefits.
Attendance allowance is paid to people who've reached state pension age and need help looking after themselves because of a physical or mental disability.
But figures from earlier this year show some claimants could be missing out on cash they should be eligible for.
An estimated £230 million has gone underpaid to claimants in the last year, according to the National Audit Office (NAO).
This means attendance allowance is the benefit with the highest rate of underpayment.
But unlike previous cases of underpayment which have been caused by system errors, the NAO said it found "almost all" the underpayment was caused by "claimant error".
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This means people are missing out on cash that could boost their income during the cost of living crisis by making mistakes in their application.
But there are ways to check how much cash you are entitled to, and organisations that can help you check your application.
What is attendance allowance?
Attendance Allowance helps with extra costs if you have a disability severe enough that you need someone to help look after you.
It's paid at two different rates and how much you get depends on the level of care that you need because of your disability.
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Who can claim attendance allowance?
You can get attendance allowance if you've reached state pension age (currently 66) and the following applies to you.
- You have a physical or mental disability, or both
- Your disability is severe enough for you to need help caring for yourself
- You have needed that help for at least six months (unless you’re terminally ill)
To get the benefit, you must have been in Britain for at least two of the last three years, unless you’re a refugee or have humanitarian protection status.
If you live in a care home and pay for all the costs yourself, you'll be able to claim attendance allowance.
How much is attendance allowance?
The lower rate is worth £61.85 a week, while the higher rate comes in at £92.40 a week.
Over a whole year, the higher rate benefit adds up to £4,804.50, or £400.40 a month – so it's well worth putting in a claim if you think you might be eligible.
If you are entitled to the lower amount, you could be missing out on £3,216.20 a year, or £268.01 a month.
The difference between the higher and lower entitlement is £1,588.30.
If you receive the lower rate, you are entitled to frequent help or constant supervision during the day, or supervision at night.
On the higher rate, you will get help or supervision through the day and night.
You are also entitled to this if a medical professional has said you might have six months or less to live.
There are 57 categories of medical conditions you can claim with, but the most common ones are arthritis and dementia.
You can also claim for mental health conditions and learning difficulties.
How to claim attendance allowance
To apply, you'll need to download the attendance allowance form on the GOV.UK website and then send it by post.
It should be sent to the address: Attendance Allowance Unit, Mail Handling Site A, Wolverhampton WV98 2AD.
If you're unable to print the form yourself, you can call the attendance allowance helpline on 0800 731 0122 and ask for a copy to be sent to you.
It's worth applying, especially as you may get extra pension credit and housing benefit or a council tax reduction if you receive attendance allowance.
The application form is very long and asks for a lot of personal information.
If you think you'll need help filling in the form, you should get a friend, relative or adviser to help you complete it if possible.
Entitledto has a full list of organisations that can help with claiming disability benefits on its website.
How to check if you're getting what you're entitled to
Anyone can check if they are eligible for benefits using a simple calculator tool.
Entitledto's free calculator works out whether you qualify for various benefits, including attendance allowance.
If you run out of time to complete the form in one go you can save your results and come back later but you will need to sign in or register.
You can do this using Facebook, Google or by setting up an Entitledto account.
If you don't want to register, consumer group MoneySavingExpert.com and charity StepChange both have benefits tools powered by Entitledto's data that let you save your results without logging in.
Instead, you're provided with a unique code to note down and use when you want to revisit the questionnaire.
You will also find benefit calculators from Turn2Us and Policy in Practice.
Any calculator you use will give you an idea of what you could get, but you'll then have to make a claim for the benefit itself.
Is attendance allowance means-tested?
The simple answer is no.
Means-tested benefits mean how much money you'll get will depend on your income and capital.
But attendance allowance is not means-tested, so you'll receive one of the two different rates.
What other benefits can I claim with attendance allowance?
Just because you're receiving attendance allowance, that doesn't mean you can't get extra benefits on top.
You might be able to get help with your council tax, even if you're already getting a reduction.
Your local council can check what Council Tax Reduction you should be getting.
If you don't know who your local council is, you can use the government's locator tool.
You might also be able to apply for Pension Credit or Universal Credit ifyou live with a partner under State Pension age as well.
Nor will you be affected by the Benefit Cap if you or your partner get Attendance Allowance.
The benefit cap limits what households can claim per year.
If you want to know whether your specific benefits will be affected by receiving Attendance Allowance, you should contact the office dealing with that benefit.
They will then assessyou to see what other help you might be entitled to.
One thing to note is that you might need to send them a copy of your Attendance Allowance decision letter.
Can I get benefits backdated?
It is possible to get some benefits backdated if you found out you’ve missed out on claiming for them.
It depends on which benefit you’re making a claim for, as different benefits have different rules for back payment.
But a claim for attendance allowance cannot be backdated.
The date of your claim will be the date you call and ask for a claim form – as long as you complete and return it within the time given.
If you download a claim form, it will be the date your completed claim form is received.
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