Streed woman looking at documents

Feeling The Benefit

Financial help is out there when someone we care for becomes ill. But it’s not always easy to find. This month’s Val for Money looks at how to go about getting help…

Most financial help from the government is means-tested. They take into consideration how much we have in savings, how much we earn or receive in benefits and pensions etc. (To find out what we’re entitled to, we should use an online benefit calculator like the Turn2Us Benefit Checker).

The forms were not easy to fill in, but at least I can do forms. Others may not be as confident but neighbours, friends and family are all usually happy to help.

How much is too much?

In our case, we had saved for years, so it felt like we were expected to fund some things ourselves. We were not very well off but we had more set aside than their cut-off amount for financial help. The Occupational Therapist (OT) sorted the delivery and fitting of many items which were council funded. This included things like grab rails, toilet seat raisers and a pendant alarm, for no charge. But that was the extent of our OT help and our case was closed.

I began to realise that it was going to be a “two steps forward and one back journey”.

It became clear that financial help was not possible for crucial adaptations in the bathroom and up the stairs. So I set about finding local well-established firms to come to do the work we needed. There are many out there. I managed to find one company that were experts in adaptations, rather than refurbishment. The final result was just what John needed and it took away a lot of stress for us both. However, the final bill was huge and seriously depleted our savings.

Council tax reduction

My friend at the council asked if I had Council Tax reduction. Anyone living on their own or that has a disability is entitled to a reduction or even exemption. In our case, we were entitled to 25% off our Council Tax, backdated to the diagnosis. As we pay by direct debit monthly, and only had 4 months left, we paid a very small amount each of the remaining months through to the end of the year. Our reduction will start in the new financial year in April. (More info on Council Tax Reduction from Citizen’s Advice at this link)

Carer’s Allowance

As I was the sole carer, I also applied for Carer’s Allowance. However, this is means-tested, (where what we receive is based on how much we have in savings or coming in month to month). The council provides care according to the person’s needs. There is a Carer’s Allowance for the person who has the condition and another one for the carer. We don’t qualify for either because of our savings, although I’m glad I checked because you never know. We would have to fund it ourselves.

As John continues to improve, we actually do not need help with that, so this means looking for companies who provide care locally. Be very careful to choose reputable companies. However, good ones do not come cheap. This is where the Attendance Allowance helps though. (More info on Carer’s Allowance at Carers UK website here)

A lot of allowances depend on a “Permission to share” form which means that a doctor would be consulted. Make sure all your paperwork is up to date, with times, dates and names of doctors you have seen. This makes filling in the forms a lot easier. I have a file marked “Parkinson’s”. All the appointment letters, addresses, telephone numbers and other information leaflets etc are in the file. It helps to be organised and takes a lot of the stress out of the process.

Attendance Allowance

I began to think about the cost of everything mounting up. I got talking to friends, and one who works for the Council asked me if I had applied for Attendance Allowance. This was something I had just found out about and I had already gone online to fill in the form. Once filled in, I sent it off.

Attendance Allowance is not means-tested. You have to have been looking after someone for six months before you can claim. I put on the form that I had been looking after John since March. That meant I would qualify for help in around September. The application takes a while so I had to be patient. We were granted the allowance, which is paid four-weekly and was back-dated to September. It is £350.60 every four weeks and really helps with expenses. (Find more info on Attendance Allowance at the NHS website, here.)

Finding there’s extra money we’re entitled to was a godsend but that’s not the end of the story. People want to help, too. I started to uncover the things people would share for free as well as help with things like transport. This was going to be a really steep learning curve.

Next month: Getting over the shock of a diagnosis and suddenly becoming a carer, Val and John start to explore a new world where others just like them could share their experience. Maybe they wouldn’t need to learn everything the hard way…

Read part one of Val for Money here.

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