Column: There’s no shame in claiming

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There’s no shame in claiming – and get claiming while you can.

That’s my message to older people in Sheffield and beyond.

We’re a proud nation, and many older people don’t like to consider supplementing their income with benefits, fearing becoming a ‘burden’.

But it is alarming to see the number of older people who can’t afford to turn their heating on visiting Age UK Sheffield’s city centre shop in Castle Square who are entitled to benefits they simply aren’t claiming.

We think thousands of older people in Sheffield are entitled to claim more, and in extreme cases, four or five extra benefits could add up to more than £200 per week.

Indeed, in 2015/16, our charity helped more than 550 people claim an extra £2.5 million in total.

It’s money older people are entitled to for a reason. As we get older, many of us will find ourselves having to cope with illness and disability. All too often this comes with a higher price tag for necessities like specialist food, equipment, clothing, and transport.

Attendance Allowance is a weekly benefit payment that helps disabled people aged 65 and over meet some of those extra costs.

It’s a vital means of support which helps hundreds of thousands stay healthier and independent in their own homes for longer, without having to turn to local authority social care for help.

Like other disability benefits, Attendance Allowance is managed nationally by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

But the Government is proposing passing the responsibility to councils, which could create a postcode lottery of support – and may put the future of the benefit under threat.

As well as taking away the freedom for older disabled people to decide what help they need to maintain their independence, it’s likely council budgets won’t be able to keep pace with the needs of their ageing populations.

This will mean many older people who become disabled could be left to struggle by with less help or even no support at all.

I have already joined my colleagues throughout the Age UK network in opposing Government proposals to make this change and today I am also asking readers of The Star to do the same. You can sign our letter by visiting the Age UK or Age UK Sheffield websites.

In the meantime, if you or a loved one may be entitled to Attendance Allowance, but aren’t receiving it, Age UK Sheffield can advise on eligibility, and help you to claim.

Call 0114 2502850 .