Cost of living crisis: what support is available if you are visually impaired?

Posted: Thursday 25 August 2022 at 00:00

Many people living with sight loss already face additional, unavoidable costs. So, when the country is facing a cost of living crisis, this undoubtedly has more of an impact on anyone living with a visual impairment.

While it is a worrying time, there is some support and advice which can help offset these costs. 

Our Working Age and Young People’s Service manager, Colin Daniels, has taken a look at the options available from disability benefits to considering registering as sight impaired. 

Disability benefits 

“When macular disease starts impacting on day-to-day tasks you could be entitled to additional disability benefits,” Colin said. 

“For example, if you are using more aids, making adaptations, asking for more help from someone else or simply taking more time to do simple tasks than you used to, you could qualify for these benefits.”

So, what are they?

  • Attendance Allowance

“For people over pension age you may be entitled to Attendance Allowance. This benefit is non-means tested and pays for the additional costs of living with a long-term health condition or disability such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

  • Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

“For people aged 16 and up to pension age they may be entitled to Personal Independence Payment. Again, this helps to pay for the additional costs of living with a long-term health condition or disability. It is also non-means tested.”

To find out whether you could be entitled to either benefit contact the Macular society Advice and information service on 0300 3030 111.

Registration as Sight impaired or Severely Sight Impaired

Colin said: “Being registered as Sight Impaired or Severely Sight Impaired can always come as a bit of a shock, but depending on the level of registration, it could come with some statutory entitlements.

“The Macular Society has a leaflet on the benefits of registration which lists what these entitlements are. If you are registered as Sight Impaired and you feel that your vision loss has progressed further, you can ask at your eye clinic if you reach the criteria to be registered as Severely Sight Impaired. Similarly, if you are not registered and are struggling to see the letters on the eye chart, it may be worth asking if have you reached the point where you could be registered.

“Registration does not guarantee that you will make a successful claim for either Attendance Allowance or PIP, but it can be used as really good evidence to support your claim.”

Blind Person’s Tax Allowance

If you are registered as Severely Sight Impaired, you can claim Blind Person’s Tax allowance.

“This means you can earn more money before starting to pay tax on your income,” Colin said.

“This income includes pay from a job, pension income and even tax paid on interest on savings. If you are not working but you are registered you can pass this allowance on to your spouse or civil partner.”

Read more information about Blind Person’s Tax Allowance.

Pension credits

When you reach pension age you may be entitled to claim pension credits based on your income.

Colin added: “The Government says people of a pensionable age who live on their own and who live as a couple need a minimum amount of money coming into the household to live on. This is known as the minimum pension guarantee. Both pension income and savings are considered and if the threshold of the minimum pension guarantee is not met, pension credits can be used to fill the gap.

“Minimum pension guarantee can be increased by making a successful claim for Attendance Allowance. Any pension credit is considered a means-tested benefit and therefore can open the door for other benefits, such as support with council tax and housing benefit.

For additional support with pension credits talk to the Pension Service.

Smart meters

“With soaring costs, we are all becoming more and more conscious of our energy usage, especially as we head into the colder months of the year,” Colin commented.

“The easiest way to do this is with a Smart meter, as they enable you to see how much gas and electricity you are consuming in real time.

“However, these screens are often very small and not easily accessible if you have sight loss. But, if you speak to your energy supplier and make them aware that you have macular disease they may be able to provide a larger screen, to make it easier to see.

Colin added: “While you are speaking to them update your records to state that you have a disability and you will get priority support if event of a power or gas outage.”

Other savings and general support

  • TV License savings

If you are over the age of 75 and are in receipt of pension credit, you are entitled to a free TV License. People living with Age-related Macular degeneration do not have an automatic entitlement to a free TV license. This is another reason to look into making a claim for Attendance Allowance. Making a successful claim could entitle someone to pension credits and therefore, if over 75, entitled to a free TV License.

If anyone in a household is registered as Severely Sight Impaired, put the TV license into their name. People registered Severely Sight Impaired are entitled to an half price TV license. 

For more information visit the TV licensing website

  • Government support with energy bills

From October, the Government is giving a grant of £400 to every household in the UK to help with the increasing costs of energy bills. The grant will be paid directly to your energy company and credited to your account.

Find out more about the Energy Bill Support Scheme

  • UK Government Cost of Living Payment

Depending on your income and who lives in your household you may be entitled to further support from the UK Government. If you have a disability, are of pension age or claiming certain benefits or tax credits you may be entitled to some additional support.

Find out whether you are entitled to the Cost of Living Payment.

  • British Gas grant

If you really struggle with paying your energy bills there is more support out there. British Gas created an independent charity a number of years ago to support people who find themselves in serious fuel poverty. You don’t need to be a British Gas customer to access this fund. 

Find out more about British Gas' support.

The Working Age and Young People’s service offers specific advice around all aspects of people’s lives. For more information about the service contact the Advice and Information line on 0300 3030 111, or email Colin Daniels at colin.daniels@macularsociety.org