Fewer older people are today paid attendance allowance (AA), a disability benefit, despite an increase in the UK’s elderly population.
Government figures show that the number of people over retirement age who receive the benefit has plummeted since 2011.
The figures were released by minister for disabled people Sarah Newton, in a written answer to a question from North Wales Labour MP Chris Ruane,
They say the number of recipients of AA has fallen from 1.6 million in 2011 to 1.435 million in 2017. That’s a fall of more than 10% in just six years.
This has alarmed campaigners because the growing population of older people suggests the number of AA claimants should be increasing.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in 2017 that the share of the population aged 65 or older was growing. It said the sector was “projected to continue to grow to nearly a quarter of the population by 2045”.
ONS added that the 65+ sector rose from 15.9% in 2005 to 17.8% in 2015.
It seems likely that all the controversy over personal independence payment (PIP) replacing disability living allowance (DLA), and the associated reassessments, has prevented much attention being given to AA.
Astonishing dramatic fall
Co-founder of Disabled People Against Cuts, Linda Burnip said: “At a time when we’re constantly told we have an ageing population it seems astonishing that the number of people getting AA has fallen so dramatically.
“The only reasons I can think of to explain this phenomenon are that for the first time in decades people are dying younger due to austerity and that secret changes to the qualifying guidelines have been sneaked through somewhere at some time.”
Charity director of Age UK, Caroline Abrahams said: “Given that longevity is increasing, it is surprising to hear that the number of those claiming attendance allowance has fallen.
“We are concerned that many older people who should be receiving this vital support are missing out and would urge anyone who thinks they may be eligible to get in touch with Age UK to arrange a benefits check.”
A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman said: “The government has made no significant changes to attendance allowance rules over the last few years and has no plans to cut spending on it.
“Expenditure on attendance allowance was £5.6 billion in 2016-17 and is forecast to rise to £5.9 billion by 2021-22.
“The number of people claiming AA can fluctuate due to demographic and other societal changes.
“Also, people over 65 with care needs can continue to receive DLA or PIP, so it’s not right to just look at AA in isolation.”
While that last point is true, I’d say we need to remember that the change from DLA to PIP is also cutting the numbers of people being paid a disability benefit.
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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.
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