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2016 National Retired Members Conference
3 June 2016
Carried as Amended

Conference will doubtless be aware of the proposals by the government to devolve Attendance Allowance (AA) to local authorities. This would shift the responsibility for welfare policy from central to local government, representing one of the biggest shifts of resources within the welfare state for 25 years.

At present AA is paid to 1.5 million people over 65 whose ability to keep safe or look after their own personal care is affected by physical or mental illness or disability, regardless of their personal means. The fact that Attendance Allowance is not means tested and is tax free means it is a relatively easily accessible allowance. This is seen as a vital support for people who live independently, but who might otherwise need to go into residential care. In fact, evidence shows that just one in seven AA recipients also gets funding for social care, so whilst the two are linked into wider questions regarding the care of older people in the community, this shows that AA plays a specific and distinctive role in enabling individuals to maintain their independence within their homes rather than experiencing unnecessary or early entry into the residential/nursing home sector.

Local authorities are already cash strapped. There are dangers that different councils will ration benefits and create widespread variation between areas of the country but also that the money will not be set aside to pay this essential allowance but used to fund other badly funded council services. Another postcode lottery is likely to emerge.

Attendance Allowance is a vital support for those who want to continue to live and be cared for in their own homes. Unless this is made a statutory service, with clear and explicit criteria for payment and eligibility, there is a strong possibility that AA could be subject to rationing similarly to present social care. Vicky McDermott, the disabled chief executive of Papworth Trust, described AA as “a lifeline which allows many of our older disabled customers the opportunity to live independently… with low level practical support in their homes”. She said: “Many of our older disabled people who are eligible for attendance allowance are not eligible for social care…… Attendance Allowance is for early intervention and prevents disabled older people from requiring higher level social care needs…..We would have significant concerns about a merger of social care and AA budgets as the applicants to these two funding streams have very different care needs. Monies that are currently allocated to disabled older people who are in receipt of Attendance Allowance must not be diverted into social care at the expense of these individuals.”

Conference therefore instructs the National Retired Members’ Committee to:

1. Liaise with the National Executive Council (NEC), National Pensioners’ Convention, Scottish Pensioners’ Forum and other relevant bodies and campaign vigorously to ensure that Attendance Allowance remains accessible to those who need it;

2. Liaise with the NEC to bring this matter and its possible consequences to the attention of all UNISON members, retired and otherwise and encourage them to sign the online petition;

3. Ask retired members and their working counterparts to write to their MPs opposing this potentially disastrous move;

4. Liaise with the NEC to work with Labour Link to oppose the government and to seek to ensure that Labour Party policy reflects retired members’ concerns about the future of Attendance Allowance;

5. Keep up to date with developments on the issue and ensure retired members remain informed.

Paragraph 2 Line 3 after “personal means.” Add “The fact that Attendance Allowance is not means tested and is tax free means it is a relatively easily accessible allowance.”