Getting older, and looking after people as they get older, particularly if they have mobility problems, can be expensive for everyone. Did you know, though, that there are many schemes that can help from paying towards utility costs to enjoying a trip to the cinema or days out with the National Trust?
Planning a trip? There are two options here – a Senior Railcard (for over 60s) or The Disabled Persons Railcard which allows you to get up to a third of the price of rail tickets for yourself and another adult if you meet certain criteria (one of which is the receipt of Attendance Allowance). www.disabledpersons-railcard.co.uk
Fancy a trip to the cinema? The Cinema Exhibitors Association card is a national system giving disabled people one free ticket for somebody accompanying them to the cinema. You need to be in receipt of the Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance or to be registered blind. The card costs £5.50 per year. www.ceacard.co.uk
3. Save on council tax
If you need additional space – including an extra room – because of your impairment, you may be eligible for a council tax discount. Check with your local authority for more details.
4. Thinking about some home improvements ?
Whether you rent or own your own home, you can get support to make it more accessible – for example by adding a lift or widening internal doorways. Disabled Facilities Grants (which are generally means tested) are provided through local councils in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The council must agree (usually on the advice of an occupational therapist) that the changes are necessary, reasonable and practical. A different system of grants operates in Scotland. www.direct.gov.uk
5. The VAT man can be your friend
With VAT likely to rise, this might make a real difference to you or someone for whom you care. Essentially, you shouldn’t pay VAT on any product required for your use – such as a wheelchair or wheelchair accessible vehicle. This includes repair and maintenance charges. Eligibility criteria and copies of the relevant forms are available from HM Customs and Excise. You might also be able to recover any VAT you have paid unnecessarily in the past. www.hmrc.gov.uk
6. Keep warm
All energy providers are required to offer social tariffs to meet the needs of their most vulnerable customers. Talk to your provider to see if you or the person you care for can be moved to a cheaper tariff www.ofgem.gov.uk
7. Get motoring
Motability is best known for enabling those in receipt of certain benefits to buy a suitable car or powered wheelchair or scooter. However, the charity also administers the cost of more complex and expensive vehicle adaptations – www.motability.co.uk
8. Days out with the National Trust
The National Trust admits an essential companion or carer of a disabled visitor free of charge and has just published a new Access Guide for 2010 http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-vh/w-visits/w-visits-essential_info/w-visits-essential_info-disabilities.htm
9. For bookworms
Listening Books is a UK charity whose patron is Stephen Fry which provides a fantastic selection of high-quality audiobooks to over 7000 people across the UK who find it difficult or impossible to read due to illness or disability from as little as £20 per year. They send audiobooks through the post on CD or they can be downloaded or streamed via the internet. Members can choose from a range of options to find the service that best suits their needs. http://www.listening-books.org.uk/
Lastly, it is worth checking that everyone is receiving all the benefits to which they are entitled. www.direct.gov.uk includes a useful on line benefits advisor.