At the end of last year, ministers outlined plans for the transfer of the for Attendance Allowance budget from the DWP to local authorities.
Critics are concerned that the proposal is an attempt to address funding problems in the social care sector and that by moving the £5bn social care benefit to councils will ultimately lead to a reduction in the support available to maintaining independence for older people.
If the money does go into councils’ general pot of funding, it is feared the benefit could be restricted or capped. Councils have tightened up their social care eligibility criteria, with only those requiring critical care entitled to support. If the same criteria are applied to the attendance allowance, there is concern that this could push older and disabled people into residential care or hospital.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman said: “The current systems of care and support for older people are fragmented and often confusing. That’s why we will consult on the option of devolving more responsibility to local authorities, who we believe are in a better position to know the needs of their local population. This is all with the aim of ensuring the best possible support for older people with care needs.”
Local government has not welcomed the proposal, raising concerns about the additional costs they would incur in administering the scheme.
Carers UK suggested the proposals would “create a lottery of support for older people and carers”. She added: “Attendance allowance should not be seen as a way of shoring up the cash-strapped adult social care departments.”
There have been a number of suggestions that Attendance Allowance would be reviewed as part of the Care Act implementation but this is the first formal confirmation.
The government has not yet set a date for the consultation but has assured that people already claiming benefit would not be affected and any changes to the Attendance Allowance regime would not start until April 2018.
We will therefore need to keep an eye on the terms of the consultation once it becomes available.