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Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) can help with the extra costs of bringing up your child. Claim DLA if your child is under 16 and:

  • has difficulty with mobility
  • needs more care than a non-disabled child of the same age

DLA is based on the support your child needs, not their condition or impairment. You can apply even if your child does not have a formal diagnosis.

Warning Call to start a new DLA claim

Your claim starts from the date you call the Disability Living Allowance helpline (GOV.UK).

You have 90 days to complete the form and post it to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). This means that if successful, you will get money for those 90 days.

If you download the DLA form (GOV.UK), your claim will start from when the DWP receives your form.

DWP will pay you for up to 3 months before the start of your claim. This date is either from when you call for a claim form or from when the DWP receives your printed form.

Calling the DWP starts your claim period earlier.

DLA eligibility criteria

The DLA form asks for descriptions of how your child’s condition affects daily life. It’s up to you to provide examples to show your child is eligible. This can be a challenging experience for parents.

DLA eligibility criteria (GOV.UK) 

DLA components

DLA has care and mobility components. Your child may be eligible for one or both. Each component has different rates of payment. The DWP decides the amount you receive based on your child’s needs. DLA does not have a points system.

Your child will either get:

They are more likely to get a fixed award if they have a condition that is temporary or may change over time.

Care component

If your child needs:

  • 1 hour’s extra care during the day or night, they will get the lowest payment.
  • frequent help of 20 minutes or more during the day and night or extra supervision during the day and at night, they will get the middle payment.
  • regular help day and night or if they are terminally ill, they will get the highest payment.

Mobility component

If your child:

  • is aged 5 or above and can walk but needs help outdoors or when somewhere new, they will get the lowest payment.
  • is aged 3 or above and cannot walk, can only walk a short distance, could become very ill trying to walk or has a severe sight impairment, they will get the highest payment.

Children under 3 are not eligible for the mobility component.

Completing the DLA form

The information booklet and form for claiming DLA is over 60 pages.

If you cannot access the form, ask the DWP for another format.

About 40 pages are the form you need to complete. Half the questions are tick boxes or personal information.

Give yourself plenty of time to complete the form. It can help to gather evidence first so that you have ideas of what to write. You could also ask family, friends and professionals who know your child well for ideas on describing their needs.

If you make a mistake, cross it out and carry on. You can also ask for another form if needed.

If you need more space than the form allows, you can include extra information on separate sheets of paper.

Tips on completing the DLA form (Contact)

Warning Get help with your DLA form

It can be emotional describing details of your child’s condition. Ask someone to help with this, such as a health professional, support worker or teacher, friend or family member.

You can also get support from:

Describing your child’s condition and needs

Try to keep a diary of how your child’s condition affects them. This could be a notebook or piece of paper stuck to the fridge. It should be something that’s easy to find, fill in and refer to. Use the diary to help you complete the form. Do not send it as evidence.

DLA diary (Word template) 

Write down everything your child needs during a day in as much detail as possible. Talk about both your child’s emotional and physical needs.

Think about how your child:

  • eats
  • sleeps
  • dresses
  • uses the bathroom
  • moves about
  • concentrates at school
  • gets on with teachers and therapists
  • takes medication
  • interacts with you, brothers and sisters, family, friends and strangers

Speak with anyone involved in your child’s care, such as their therapists, doctor, social worker or teacher. Everyone will have a different perspective.

Provide detail

Think about the everyday things you do. It may seem obvious to you, but it may not be to the assessor. Give detail and say if things happen sometimes, a lot or all the time.

Do not write: “Cannot dress himself.”

Do write: “My child needs help getting dressed every morning. He cannot put his arms through the sleeves of his t-shirt without my help. Every night my child needs help to take off his t-shirt and to put on his pyjamas.”

Explain your child’s needs

Do not write: “I help my child go to the toilet 5 times a day.”

Do write: “My child needs help going to the toilet 5 times a day. She needs help removing her underwear and I have to clean and wash her after every visit to the toilet.”

The person making the decision is not a medical person. Use simple language in your answers. You should describe your child’s condition, but you do not have to use medical terms. The important thing is to describe how the condition affects your child’s daily life.

The DWP will compare your child with a non-disabled child of the same age. Concentrate on your child’s additional needs. The assessor knows that most children aged 3 need some help eating. If your child is unable to eat without you feeding them and they get frustrated or upset, explain this.

Warning Think about your bad days

Do not exaggerate but provide examples of your child's bad days. What seems normal or easy to you might not be to others, especially if you have adapted to your child’s condition. Make sure you include everything your child finds difficult or impossible to do, even if it’s not every day. And explain why it’s difficult or impossible.

Gather evidence

Include as much evidence as you can, such as:

  • prescription details
  • reports and letters from healthcare professionals or social workers
  • an education, health and care plan (EHCP), Special Educational Needs (SEN) plan or other school plan

Do not include:

  • a diary you made documenting your child’s condition
  • long descriptions of your child’s conditions
  • anything that does not support your child’s additional needs

Warning Make copies

Sometimes post goes missing, so it’s a good idea to make a copy of the form before you send it.

It can also be useful for reference if you need to reapply in future. Or if your child moves from DLA to Personal Independence Payment (PIP) when they turn 16.

You could send the form by tracked delivery so that you have confirmation when it’s delivered.

Reporting a change in circumstances

Contact the DLA helpline as soon as possible to let the DWP know of any changes in circumstances.

You should tell them if:

  • your child's condition changes or they get a new diagnosis
  • they need more or less support
  • they go into a residential school or residential care

Their age can affect their claim too. When a child turns 3, they may be eligible for the higher mobility component rate. When they turn 16, they'll receive a letter about moving from DLA to PIP.

The DWP might ask for more information to decide your child’s claim. For example, if their condition is worse, you may need to show medical reports.

If you disagree with the new decision, you can appeal it.

Appealing a benefits decision

Overpayments and backdating

If you do not report a change in circumstances, you could receive an overpayment which you’ll need to pay back. You can also be fined.

If you report a change within 1 month of it happening, any extra money should be backdated to the date you reported the change. If you report a change late, explain why. It may still be backdated if you have a good reason for reporting it late.

Warning Report changes as soon as possible

If you're not sure if a change affects your child’s claim, it’s best to report it to the DWP.

Appealing the DWP decision

Once the DWP has assessed your form, they could:

  • award your claim
  • reject your claim
  • ask for more information

This could include a physical assessment (The Health Assessment Advisory Service).

If you disagree with the DWP’s decision, you can appeal it.

Appealing a benefits decision

Last reviewed by Scope on: 09/05/2022

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