The first part of the form deals with information about you. This includes questions about your presence in the UK. In order to claim AA you usually need to have been living in the UK for at least 2 out of the last 3 years. You also must be habitually resident in the UK.
Question 12 mentions the special rules. These only apply to terminally ill people; this is defined as someone with a progressive illness whose death could be reasonably expected in the next 12 months. The notes that are sent with the claim pack about the special rules are very clear.
If someone is claiming AA because they are terminally ill, they don't have to fill in questions 22 to 44. Just go straight to question 45. They should get a form called a DS1500 from the doctor instead which confirms the terminal illness. They will automatically qualify for AA without having a waiting period.
Question 14 asks about your illness and disabilities and what treatment and medication that you are receiving. Write down everything that is wrong with you, not just the main problem. Give as much information as you can, particularly the medical name for your condition if you know it. It is also important to list the medication you take, what strength or quantity it is, and how many times a day you take it. The Decision Maker who decides your claim can learn a lot about your condition from these facts.
Questions 15 to 17
Questions 15 to 17 ask you to give details of the health professionals involved in your care. There is an expectation that you are receiving extra help because you are severely ill. It is important that anyone you put down on the form such as your GP, consultant or nurse is aware of what help you need at home in case they are approached for supporting evidence.
Question 18 asks you for your consent to request information from the professionals involved in your care. It is important not to assume that the DWP will contact them, it is much better that you approach your own GP or specialist for help and explain how much help you now need to look after or supervise yourself.
Question 19 deals with reports from doctors and other health professionals. If you have any reports from someone like a social worker or occupational therapist which confirms your care needs, you can send these in with the form. Often these reports identify ways of sustaining independence. However, it is important that you highlight the needs that you still have even though you may have been given aids and adaptations to help.
Questions 26 to 39
Questions 26 to 39 deal with care needs during the day
This is the most important part of the form: where you can say just how your condition affects you.
- remember that the person who reads the form has not met you, so try to give a clear and detailed word-picture
- it is very important to try and write something in every box that applies to you
- don't assume that the decision-maker knows about your condition or its symptoms
- give lots of description and detail, even about things that you think are embarrassing or that seem too trivial
- you can always add additional pages if there is insufficient space
Help that you need during the day
You need to help the decision-maker to understand how things are for you on average.
In our experience, thinking about what you can’t do without serious problems on the bad days will help you to give a more balanced picture. If you focus on what you can do on a good day, you will tend to understate your problems.
Obviously, you stand much more chance of your claim succeeding if you can show that you need help on most or all days of the week.
You may not need help with all of the activities but remember: if you are claiming AA because you need help with your bodily functions, you will have to show that you need help with at least 3 or 4 of the activities, on most days of the week, throughout the whole of the day.
Make sure you give lots of information and detail about the help you need, even if it is repetitive or embarrassing.
Try and give an idea of what might happen if you didn't have that help and include examples of past events if you can.
Sometimes people need help or supervision, even though they don't always get it. Many people, who live alone receive Attendance Allowance, so don't be put off claiming.
You may be very independent and manage to carry on doing things when others would have asked for help.
It is quite reasonable to describe how painful and slow something is, and to say that although there is a need for help you prefer to maintain your independence and therefore do not ask for help. You qualify for this benefit if you have a need for help – there is no requirement that you accept the help. If you are not being help, you must show how you manage, you might say that you cannot do things properly or it takes a long time, or you only do part of the activity.
Make sure you describe your needs fairly: do yourself justice. Describing your needs in detail is helpful to the decision-maker. It may feel like exaggeration to you - you aren’t used to thinking about yourself like this - but it is the only way that others can appreciate your problems.
Indicate how long it takes you to do things, such as getting dressed or having a bath. You might have worked out a way of doing these things yourself, but they might still take you a long time or be a painful struggle that leaves you feeling very tired. Make sure you write this down.
On the form you should stress that you need the help, even if you don’t receive any. Explain that if you had a carer, they would always have to help you do things that you currently struggle to do yourself.
For example, someone might help you have a bath twice a week. This does not mean you only need help to bathe twice a week. If you cannot have a bath on your own, it is reasonable to say you need help with this activity seven days a week.
Keeping safe during the day
You need to make it clear what you think might happen if you didn't have someone keeping an eye on you. Describe any past incidents that could have had serious consequences if you hadn't had help.
Sometimes nothing bad has happened because the person keeping an eye on you does such a good job! Put down on the form what you fear might happen if you were left alone for long periods.
If you have fits or falls, describe what happens as vividly as you can, and how you cope afterwards. Say how your carer or friend has helped you in the past after a fit or a fall.
Questions 40 to 43 deal with help that you need during the night
If you can show you need help during the night, perhaps 2 or 3 times, for at least 10 minutes or so each time, then you might be able to get Attendance Allowance for night-time care.
Always describe in detail what happens to you during the night and how you have to be helped.
For instance, needing to be helped to the toilet might involve being helped out of bed, helped to the toilet, your carer waiting outside the toilet while you use it, and then helping you back into bed and making sure you are comfortable.
This can take quite a few minutes each time, so make sure the decision-maker knows as much about your case as you do!
If you need help with medication during the night, describe what might happen if you did not get it.
For instance, someone with bad asthma who did not get help with the correct inhaler during the night might develop an acute asthma attack.
Keeping safe during the night
To get Attendance Allowance for needing ‘supervision’ during the night, you must show that someone is awake for quite a bit of the night "for the purpose of watching over you". For instance, if you are inclined to wander off during the night, your carer might have to stay awake to stop you falling down the stairs or going out of the house.
It is quite difficult to qualify under this part, so make sure the decision-maker knows exactly how much danger you might be in if you were not supervised during the night.
Remember that you must have needed help for 6 months before you can be paid, and the DWP have to be satisfied that you will need this help for at least the next 6 months.
Question 53 - Supporting statement
Someone who knows you can put their views about how your illness or disability affects you.
In most cases, your GP is the person who is most familiar with your medical history and it is best to approach them if possible. Ask them to give as much detail as they can about the help or supervision that you need. If they want to write a letter as well to support your case, that can be very helpful.
It is important that they are aware of your circumstances and don’t inadvertently write something unhelpful.
Most GPs are used to filling in their part of the claim form and should not charge you for doing so.
If you think that you cannot approach your GP, you could ask someone like your carer, home help, social worker or a relative to complete the box.