Older People Rely On Disability Benefits, Study Finds

Older people more likely to receive welfare payments than council-funded services or support by carers.

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Older people rely on disability benefits, study finds” was written by David Brindle, for theguardian.com on Thursday 27th November 2014 12.13 UTC

What makes the biggest contribution to keeping older people living independently? Perhaps surprisingly, the answer is not council-funded social care, nor support by unpaid carers, but disability benefits.

According to a new analysis that looks for the first time across a range of different data series, far more older people receive attendance allowance or disability living allowance (DLA) than receive council care. And more receive one of the two non-means-tested benefits than receive informal care and support at home.

The finding throws a fresh spotlight on the value of the two benefits, which cost about £20bn a year but are rarely considered in debate about state support for older people. The Dilnot commission did take them into account in its 2011 review of care funding, which led to reforms in the new Care Act, but said little more than that they should remain in place. Ministers are replacing DLA with the new personal independence payment.

James Lloyd, who has carried out the new analysis for charity Independent Age and thinktank the Strategic Society Centre, where he is director, said: “About half of the older population who have some limitation of day-to-day activities receive disability benefits, which really does show the enormous scale of these benefits and the apparent reliance upon them.”

The analysis brings together data from the census, the Department for Work and Pensions, the Health and Social Care Information Centre and the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. It suggests that of 4.3 million older people living with limited activities in England in 2011, 2.3 million (54%) received disability benefits. This compares to 570,000 who received some council-funded community services, including 310,000 who received homecare, and just over 2 million who were supported by unpaid carers. Some people had a mix of two or all three different forms of support.

A regional breakdown shows that more than 50% of all people aged 65 or over in the north-east, north-west and West Midlands receive disability benefits, while the proportion in the wealthier south-east is only just over 40%.

The contrast between numbers receiving disability benefits and those getting social care funding is likely to reflect different eligibility criteria, the study suggests. But it may also stem from stigma associated with council support or the complexity of assessment procedures.

The analysis also points to the extent of the shortfall in care and support for older people, looking at the needs of, and provision for, a smaller group of about 2 million who report having difficulty with aspects of their own care, such as bathing or dressing.

Of this group, it is estimated that 70,000 people who report difficulty with three or more such “activities of daily living” do not receive any paid or unpaid care. This is despite the fact that their reported level of impediment would very likely qualify them as having “substantial” needs under the framework used by councils to assess eligibility.

Of those who do receive care and support, either paid or unpaid, 160,000 say it “sometimes” or “hardly ever” meets all their needs.

Simon Bottery, director of policy at Independent Age, said the research highlights “alarming” gaps in care provision. “Councils need to be acting now if the promises of the Care Act are to be fulfilled, but national government also has to ensure there is enough funding to properly implement it.”

Lloyd added: “We will need a revolution in how councils, communities and families support older people who struggle with different aspects of living independently.”

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  1. Tetchily speaking, under this regime – I am not old. However I would be stuffed – and dead – were it not for disability benefits

  2. The rise in retirement age coupled with the ever greater lost of disability benefit, plus the idea of taxing it when it is far far below the basic tax allowance, will only get worse as the flat rate pension will leave many women born form 1953 and men born from 1951


    after 6 years of no payout for women since 2013 and 1 year for men,

    and then granting to the three quarters of those new claimants after 2016
    far far less state pension already lowest of all rich nations bar poor Mexico.


    Despite medically diagnosed as chronically ill and disabled, never got disability benefit, and knew could not comply with JSA so never applied for it.

    A mobility scooter came with payment protection misseling money, but then have to live off that money for 6 years (unlikel) and having to find cheap ways to get the scooter in and out my old rust bucket of a car (eating up funds fast, as a tax cash cow to government).

    All main parties do not offer to repeal the Pension Bills 2010-2014, especially the flat rate pension, that even takes money from disabled person turning 80 in 2016 by not granting the tiny top up to an even tinier part basic state pension.


    The Greens’ new and unique policy replaces all this cruel benefits regime and the waste on benefit admin, and solves the 70 per cent rise in starvation since 2010:

    – universal, automatic Citizen Income, non-withdrawable

    to the level of basic tax allowance

    – Bettered State Pension, granting all citizens a full state pension

    whatever their National Insurance contribution / credit history, so

    leaving no citizen as is coming with the flat rate pension

    with no food and fuel money forever in old age.


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