HEALTH experts are raising awareness of a disability benefit for older people which can help to improve their quality of life.
Many ill or disabled older people in Northumberland are failing to claim a social security benefit which they are entitled to.
Attendance Allowance is a benefit for people aged 65 and over to help them cope with the increased costs they incur because of their disability.
Statistics show that fewer older people in Northumberland claim it than nationally or in neighbouring areas.
And a team from Northumberland Care Trust is aiming to increase the uptake of the benefit, to help alleviate pensioner poverty and to ensure that all older people who need care and support get what they are entitled to.
Keith Thompson, principal welfare rights officer for Northumberland Care Trust, said: "There are many reasons why fewer older people in Northumberland claim Attendance Allowance than in other areas but many people are unaware of its existence, and when people have heard about it they often don't think they can claim.
"Pensioner poverty is a real issue which must be tackled urgently, and benefits such as Attendance Allowance can make a huge difference to the living standards of pensioners everywhere, many of whom are struggling with the soaring costs of basics such as food and fuel.
"But it's not just about poverty any older person who needs care and support has a right to this benefit."
Attendance Allowance is paid at one of two weekly rates, ranging from £47 to £70.
Entitlement is based solely on the disability criteria, which is assessed by looking at the help an older person needs in connection with activities related to their personal care.
The assessment is based on the help the person needs rather than their condition. Importantly, it is not means tested, nor is it dependent on National Insurance contributions.
Keith added: "Attendance Allowance can never have a negative effect on income-based benefits such as pension credit or council tax benefit and often leads to a substantial increase in those benefits, especially for single people or couples who are disabled."
Take-up of Attendance Allowance is already promoted in the county, with training given to social care staff, health workers and staff from the voluntary sector to help them identify potential entitlement.
In addition, people receiving an adult social care service, such as home care, receive benefits advice and support with claims for Attendance Allowance as part of a financial assessment.
Northumberland Care Trust is working in partnership with the County Council and with the Pension, Disability and Carers Service part of the Department for Work and Pensions to raise awareness of the benefit and the number of people receiving it.
To find out more about Attendance Allowance and whether you qualify, visit www.direct.gov.uk or call the Department for Work and Pensions telephone helpline for disabled people and their carers on (0800) 882 200.
The Citizens' Advice Bureau, Age Concern and other advice agencies can also give independent advice about claiming Attendance Allowance.
An event is being organised for health and social care staff, local community groups and other organisations to promote the take-up of Attendance Allowance in Northumberland.
If your organisation would like to find out more or sign up to be involved, contact Keith Thompson, principal welfare rights officer at Northumberland Care Trust, on (01670) 536 488 or email@example.com
The Chronicle (Northumberland), 13 April 2009