All posts by Simon Crooks

Can I have a Personal Health Budget if I receive NHS Continuing Healthcare?

From 1 October 2014 if you have been awarded NHS Continuing Healthcare you have a right to a personal health budget set up to fund your ongoing care needs.

This gives you greater choice and control over the manner in which your assessed needs can be met.  If you have a fluctuating health need, which means you move in and out of NHS Continuing Healthcare funding, the right to have a personal budget is not available but you retain the right to ask for a personal budget.

As always there is some small print which means that personal health budgets are not appropriate for all types of healthcare so reviews are undertaken on a case by case basis.  This means there might be parts of your care for which a personal budget is suitable but other parts where it is not.  For example there may be cases where the Clinical Commissioning Group (“CCG”) does not consider a personal health budget to be appropriate.  This could be due to a specialised element of care or it would not be value for money.  Your case will be considered on its merits.  What this does mean is that your budget can be used not just for care but for the purchase of alternative therapies and equipment and will enable you to purchase care in a way which works best for you.

The budget will be the amount of money that is identified as needed to support your identified health and wellbeing need.  This budget is agreed with you and the local NHS team.  The budget could be:-

  • a notional budget – held by the commissioner but used to secure services for you;
  • a third party budget – where an independent organisation manages the budget on your behalf; or
  • a direct payment – where money is transferred to you or your representative who purchases the required services

All three options should be explored and considered when looking at the best ways to manage a personal budget as part of the care planning process.

Just because a personal budget is implemented it does not mean that is it.  The management of the budget will be reviewed and the care plan detailing the care required will be reviewed to ensure it is achieving the outcomes established for you.  The first review will take place three months after the first direct payment and thereafter at least once a year.

If you have a right to have a personal budget and this is turned down the CCG must set out in writing the reason why it has been refused and can be asked to reconsider.  This must be in a timely manner with an acknowledgement being made by the CCG for the request for a review within ten days and the completion of the review 28 working days from the date of the original request.

The right to have a personal budget is not limited to care at home.  The Regulations do not expressly prevent personal health budgets from being used for care home funding.  Where a request is made for a personal NHSCC budget for a person living in a nursing home the CCG must be certain that providing care adds value to the person’s overall care.  The funding of nursing care in this way was not subject to the recent pilot schemes which have taken place so the CCGs will exercise caution in granting personal health budgets in this way.

If you need any help, support or advice in relation to personal health budgets please do not hesitate to call our team……

T: 01227 700 702

E: info@argolifeandlegacy.co.uk

W: www.argolifeandlegacy.co.uk

Published by Kelly Duke 10 November 2016

Where’s the fun in making a Will?

An independent financial advisor and I were discussing the reluctance of many clients to commit to making a Will. Both he and I have found that when we talk with people about Wills they readily accept they should do it and agree they will do it.

Yet it can sometimes take months, or in some cases years, for them to make the call and set a date to actually do it.

Generally I put this down to life getting in the way, there is always something more immediate, more pressing, that grabs our attention pushing the Will writing down the pecking order on the to do list (not unlike cleaning the gutters).

The IFA’s take on it was that there’s no fun in making a Will. He felt that clients more readily sit down with him because there’s some fun involved whereas writing a Will is all doom and gloom. It is not, alas, a luxury purchase. It is more like insurance – you don’t want to do it but you know you should.

So is this right? Is there really no fun in making a Will? I am clearly biased and can wax lyrical on the benefits that accrue once you have got one in place – even if it is simply a case of being able to tick a job off the never ending to do list! So where is the fun?

The problem is I see the other side of things when people don’t get round to writing their Wills or planning ahead for the ‘what if’s’. I guess the fun is actually the re-assurance that if it all goes badly south at least you have put the documents in place to ensure your loved ones will have an easier time of it. Cheering isn’t it? No, not particularly yet far better than not doing it.

Nope, writing a Will is not about fun. It’s serious. Not having a Will can be disastrous. Even if you think it will be fine without one isn’t it better to be sure? An initial call costs nothing and you’ll get the information you need.

T: 01227 700 702

E: info@argolifeandlegacy.co.uk

W: www.argolifeandlegacy.co.uk

Published by Simon Crooks 10 November 2016

Hug Your Hound Day!

Hug Your Hound Day (3)

At Argo, we love our dogs who keep us entertained with their quirky personalities and mischievousness.

Dogs, like any other pet become a huge part of your lives and your family and hold a special place in your heart. In your will you make provision for the loved ones, have you considered your pets?

You may wish to think about including provision in your will to ensure that your pets are looked after when you pass away.

If you would like to discuss this further, please do not hesitate to contact one of the team – we would love to hear all about your furry friends! Tel – 01227 700 702

Bereavement Benefits

Did you know you might be eligible for bereavement benefits?

You might be eligible for additional benefits if you lose your spouse.

If:
•    you were under the state pension age; or
•    your spouse was under the state pension age; or
•    your spouse was over the state pension age when they died but was not entitled to a basic pension based on their contributions

you could receive a lump sum Bereavement Payment.

You might also be able to receive a payment of Widowed Parent’s Allowance if:

•    you are entitled to child benefit for one of your children or children of your spouse; or
•    you are entitled to child benefit but do not receive it as your spouse was within the High Income Child Benefit bracket; or
•    your spouses was receiving child benefit; or
•    you are pregnant

If you are entitled to Widow’s Parent Allowance the amount you could receive will be based on the National Insurance contributions of your spouse.

You may also be eligible for Bereavement Allowance if you were over 45 when your spouse died, if they had paid enough National Insurance contributions.  If you are between 45 and 55 you will not receive the full amount of the allowance but if you are over 55 the full amount could be paid to you.

For more advice, support and guidance on Bereavement Benefits contact us – it’s what we do.

T: 01227 700 702

E: info@argolifeandlegacy.co.uk

W: www.argolifeandlegacy.co.uk

Published by Claire Godwin 5 September 2016

Maidstone Health Plan

Did you know that Maidstone Borough Council has an Action Plan to address inequalities in Maidstone health?  This was put together in 2012 and adopted by the Council in July 2014.  The Council has taken an opportunity to review progress so far.

The purpose of the action plan is to reduce health inequalities across the borough of Maidstone because they have a detrimental effect on the social and environmental factors which affect our lives.  Targeted partnership working is a key driver behind the project so you should expect to see a more joined up approach in the future.

So what does this mean for you if you are over 65?

Whilst the borough of Maidstone is a thriving community there are great differences within the smaller localities.  We have some of the most affluent communities in England but sitting next right next to them are some of the most deprived.  It is a well documented fact that deprivation and social exclusion will adversely affect health and statistics show that this leads to a shorter life expectancy.

Maidstone Borough Council has set up a Health and Wellbeing Group to tackle this.  I sit on a sub group of this board – the Maidstone Health and Ageing Well Board.

Maidstone Borough Council want to develop their health inequalities action plan by:

•    Developing a joined up approach to health improvement by tackling the underlying causes of ill health, improving housing, creating employment and a safe, healthy and sustainable environment;
•    Delivering short, medium and long term actions which result in sustainable health improvements; and
•    Targeting areas and priority groups (such as the elderly) to empower their communities

The statistics that the Council have provided are startling.  The average life expectancy across Maidstone varies from 85 in Downswood and Otham to 76 in Sutton Valence and Langley.

What is rather surprising is that in all of the reports and documents there seems to be a surprising lack of attention paid to our older communities.  The Council want to ensure that every child is given the best start in life and have made a number of recommendations in relation to this.  They want our middle ages to have control of their lives but only seem to want to make our older generations live long, provide help with dementia and prevent falling.  In reviewing the Action Plan of twenty three pages we have only found the following information relating to the over 65s.

What facts have come out of the Action Plan:

•    there are over 7000 people aged over 65 in Maidstone
•    fewer than 3000 report their health as being bad or very bad
•    there are 2118 people living with dementia in Maidstone
•    those living with dementia will double over the next 30 years
•    falls for older people have increased by 53% over the last five years in West Kent

These figures are very helpful but do not take into account those who do not report ill health, or those who live with dementia but remain undiagnosed and outside the system, or those who do not report when they fall over or have other issues which are never reported.

What targets have been set for our older communities:

•    Reduce the numbers of hip fractures in 65+ by 2% by 2020
•    Reduce excess winter deaths by 2020
•    Reduce inequality in male life expectancy by 2020
•    Reduce inequality in female life expectancy by 2020

Whilst the recommendations across the board in the Action Plan will have an impact on the older members of our communities there are few specific recommendations to help with the issues experienced by our older generations.  Focus has been made on dementia, falls and life expectancy but little is said about how this can be achieved other than by working together.

Surely the ageing process does not just focus around these issues?

•    There is no mention of how joined up working can help.  The Action Plan revolves around local and health authorities and the voluntary sector working together.  It does not mention pooling resources with the private sector who can also contribute towards a better quality of life.
•    What about loneliness and isolation.  By making sure that a lonely older person is seen as often as possible by others we would reduce loneliness.  We can all do this by popping in to see if our neighbour wants some shopping, or delivering a cake if we are baking at home, or making a telephone call.
•    What about looking at what communities do well and replicating that elsewhere.  If we know that a local community has a great lunch club lets go and talk to them and see how this could be replicated in another village.
•    If one organisation does something really well like providing a falls clinic why are they not in charge of the provision of falls support across the borough to ensure that they receive the funding because they provide the best care.

Perhaps we should spend much more time looking at the easy wins that make a huge difference rather than trying to fix the world.  Is it not better to start with the smaller achievable goals than those which will take forever to plan and action?

Do you have any suggestions that I can take to the Health and Ageing Well Board?  Are there events in your community that are successful that could be replicated elsewhere?  Is there anything you want to see in your community that would improve quality of life.  Email me at kelly@argolifeandlegacy.co.uk or call me on 07732 165657.

Published by Kelly Duke 22 August 2016

Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

I keep hearing about PIP but what is it?

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) has replaced the well known Disability Living Allowance. All new claimants from 8 April 2013 will be assessed for PIP.

Existing claimants will be phased over to the new payment from 8 April 2013.  The payment will help with additional costs incurred if you have an illness or disability which makes your life difficult on a daily basis.

To claim you must be between 16 and 64.  Your long term health condition or disability must cause you difficulties with daily living and mobility and have been in existence for three months.  The condition or disability must be expected to last for at least nine months.  If you are terminally ill apply immediately.
If you have additional needs and are over 65 you must claim attendance allowance.

Daily living activities will be things like:

•    Preparing and eating food
•    Washing, bathing and using the loo
•    Dressing and undressing

•    Reading and communicating
•    Managing medication
•    Helping with decisions about money
•    Socialising with others

The amount of the payment which is made will depend upon how your condition affects you, not the condition itself.  An assessment is undertaken to work out how much help you need and this will be kept under regular review to make sure you are receiving assistance at the right level.  The assessment will be conducted by an independent healthcare professional appointed by the DWP and may take the form of a face to face meeting.

The movement of individuals to PIP is proving very problematic for a large number of families.  Local Citizen’s Advice Bureaux have become rather good at wading through the assessment paperwork and helping appeal decisions that are considered incorrect.

Do not be put off claiming PIP or challenging an assessment if you do not think it is correct.

For more advice, support and guidance on PIP contact us – it’s what we do.

T: 01227 700 702

E: info@argolifeandlegacy.co.uk

W: www.argolifeandlegacy.co.uk

Published by Claire Godwin 11 August 2016

Pension Credit

Do you find that your income does not stretch far enough?

If you find that your state pension and private pension do not cover your monthly outgoings it may be that you are entitled to pension credit.  There are two types of pension credit; the guarantee credit and the savings credit.

Guarantee credit will top up your weekly income if it is below £151.20 a week for a single person and £230.85 for couples.  Savings credit is an extra payment for people who have worked and saved hard for their retirement.

You must remember that pension credit is only paid if you are of pensionable age.  This, at the moment, is very confusing as the eligibility dates are changing.  Here are the new claim dates for you:

Date of birth                             Eligibility begins
06/02/53 to 05/03/53        claim now!
06/03/53 to 05/04/53        6 March 2016
06/04/53 to 05/05/53        6 July 2016
06/05/53 to 05/06/53        6 November 2016
06/06/53 to 05/07/53        6 March 2017
06/07/53 to 05/08/53        6 July 2017

If you are not sure whether you are eligible visit the government’s calculator at www.gov.uk/pension-credit-calculator.

If you are a carer, severely disabled or having housing costs you may be eligible to receive more.

Eligibility is assessed for periods of time so you do not need to continually report changes to your pensions, savings or investments.  Pension credit is paid into a bank account on a weekly or monthly basis according to your preference.

For more advice, support and guidance on Pension Credit contact us – it’s what we do.

T: 01227 700 702

E: info@argolifeandlegacy.co.uk

W: www.argolifeandlegacy.co.uk

Published by Claire Godwin 8 August 2016

Attendance Allowance

Do you incur extra costs for help around the home because of illness or disability?

If you are over 65 and incur extra costs to live on a daily basis because of illness or disability, you might be eligible for extra funds to help meet this additional financial burden.

Attendance allowance is a non means tested benefit. It is paid to individuals who need help during the day or night to care for themselves, who need supervision with daily activities or need assistance to prevent them from putting themselves in danger.

If you have needed assistance for at least six months you may be eligible for financial support.  If you have been diagnosed with a terminal illness and you are not expected to live for more than six months you will be eligible for a payment.

Attendance allowance covers assistance with things like:-
•    Washing
•    Dressing
•    Getting in and out of bed
•    Using the loo
•    Moving around at home ie climbing the stairs, getting in and out of chairs
•    Eating or drinking and preparing food
•    Taking medication
•    Dealing socially with other people
•    Keeping an eye on you to make sure you are safe

Whilst attendance allowance is paid when you stay at home you can also claim this benefit if you live in a residential or nursing home.  If you pay for the costs of your care, in full, with no help from the local authority you can still receive attendance allowance.

This benefit is not claimed by everyone who is entitled.  It should be.  You have not asked to have an illness or a disability that makes it difficult to manage each day.

Apply for attendance allowance now so you can begin to get the help and support you need each and every day.

For more advice, support and guidance on Attendance Allowance contact us – it’s what we do.

T: 01227 700 702

E: info@argolifeandlegacy.co.uk

W: www.argolifeandlegacy.co.uk

Published by Claire Godwin 18 July 2016

Carer’s Allowance

Do you spend your life caring for someone?

Did you know you could claim carer’s allowance if you help to look after a family member or friend with substantial caring needs.  As long as you are over 16 and help for at least 35 hours a week you may be eligible for a weekly payment.

If you receive carer’s allowance you may also be able to claim other benefits but sometimes this might result in a reduction to existing benefits.  The government provide a benefits calculator which will let you know whether you can claim, how much and the effect on other benefits.  You can find this at www.gov.uk/benefits-calculators.

Carer’s allowance can also affect the benefits of the person you care for.  If they are in receipt of a severe disability premium this will stop if carer’s allowance is paid so caution is needed before an application is made to prevent loss of benefits.

Few people also know that you can receive a carer’s credit if you are caring for someone at least 20 hours a week.  This is a National Insurance credit that helps with breaks in your National Insurance contribution record.  This will help to ensure you maximise your entitlement to state pension as you get older. To obtain an application form you can download information from www.gov.uk/carerscredit/how-to-claim.

If you cannot access the internet and would like more information about these entitlements call the carer’s allowance team on: 0345 608 4321

If you do not know where to go or what to do call us for advice, guidance and support – it’s what we do!

T: 01227 700 702

E: info@argolifeandlegacy.co.uk

W: www.argolifeandlegacy.co.uk

Published by Kelly Duke 15 July 2016