With an ageing population and advances in medical technology, increasing numbers of people in the UK are reliant on disability benefits.
Two of the most important benefits, both of which are not means-tested, are attendance allowance and disability living allowance. Attendance allowance is paid to the over-65s and disability living allowance to those under 65. Attendance allowance is available at one of two rates (currently £62.25 or £41.65 depending on the severity of the disability). A recent case dealt with a claim for attendance allowance, which was on the basis that the claimant had the need during the day ‘for attention in connection with (her) bodily functions’.
The Social Security Commissioner had ruled that the words ‘attention in connection with bodily functions’ could be taken to include the need to bring drinks to an incapacitated person, an elderly woman who was not able to obtain them herself. The Secretary of State appealed against this decision, which was more liberal than previous rulings.
The Court of Appeal felt that this interpretation of the rules was too broad and judged that they were not meant to include bringing drinks to someone. Had the woman needed help in lifting a cup so that she could drink from it, that would have met the definition.