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Our latest report recommends that Welsh Government should start preparing for the devolution of Attendance Allowance now, to maximize the funding settlement if it were devolved.
Attendance Allowance – a non-means-tested benefit for people aged 65+ with a disability – is claimed by approximately 17% of older people in Wales, at a cost of around £400 million a year. It is already devolved to Scotland, and the UK Government announced it was looking at devolving it to Wales for new claimants last December.
Working in partnership with the Welsh Local Government Association, the Bevan Foundation has looked at the future of Attendance Allowance in Wales. It warns that if the benefit were devolved to local authorities in England, as proposed, it is highly unlikely that it would not also be devolved to Wales. Therefore, the Welsh Government should be taking steps now in preparation, such as encouraging all those who are eligible to claim it.
The Bevan Foundation recommends that the Welsh Government should establish an advisory group of experts on social care, welfare benefits and disability, ahead of the proposed UK Government consultation on the devolution of Attendance Allowance. It should also explore devolving the benefit for all claimants, not just new claimants, to prevent a two-tier system emerging.
Nisreen Mansour, the Bevan Foundation’s Policy and Research Officer, said: “Attendance Allowance is a very important benefit to tens of thousands of people in Wales, and the proposal to devolve it should be taken a warning by Welsh Government that this is on the cards. They need to be doing the groundwork now so that Wales is in a good position to arrange an adequate funding settlement, were it to be devolved.
“While there has been plenty of talk about how the benefit could be used to top up the social care budget or abolished altogether, our research has found that there is a definite appetite for a version of Attendance Allowance to be maintained in Wales. However, there is considerable disagreement about what this benefit should look like and whether it should be means-tested, which is why we think that this is a good opportunity to consider the sort of principles which should underpin social security in Wales.”
Steve Thomas, Chief Executive of the WLGA, said that “This report is a welcome contribution to the debate on devolving welfare benefits in Wales. Past experience has shown that this is fraught with difficulties and will need careful consideration about how a new system would operate. This benefit is inextricably linked to social services and other benefits administered by local government. We should be thinking boldly about the potential for further devolution and how that might impact on claimants. We should not be on the back foot if the UK government decides to devolve any welfare benefit.”
The Bevan Foundation’s five recommendations on the future of Attendance Allowance in Wales are:
- The Welsh Government should set up an advisory group of disability, social care and welfare benefits experts ahead of a UK Government consultation on devolving the benefit for new claimants.
- If it were devolved, the Welsh Government should consider the devolution of responsibility for existing claimants to avoid a two-tier system emerging.
- The principles of Wales’ social security system should be determined before the new benefit(s) is designed.
- Funding for the devolved benefit should replicate Scotland’s settlement, which is based on previous year’s expenditure and an additional transfer for administration costs, and is then ‘Barnettised’ for future years.
- A take-up campaign should be run to maximize the number of Attendance Allowance claimants in Wales to give a more accurate picture of all those who are eligible to claim Attendance Allowance.