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Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for a child under 16

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for a child under 16

What is it?

DLA is the main benefit for disabled children. It is usually paid every four weeks and is not means tested - it does not depend on family income or savings. DLA has two parts and either or both parts can be claimed.

Claiming DLA can be a daunting and exhausting experience, with a long and detailed application form to fill in. It might be useful to get help with this, for example from someone at the Children’s Centre or Citizens’ Advice Bureau. HemiHelp’s Family Back Up service and some other charities can also offer support with this (see useful addresses below). Having someone help you doesn’t just mean practical assistance with the form, but emotional support as well, since you will have to be thinking hard about your child and the difficulties he or she faces in everyday life and this may not be easy.

Some children are immediately awarded DLA until they reach the age of 16, but in most cases it is given for two or three years and then parents/guardians need to reapply if they feel their child still needs extra help (remember to keep a copy of your completed form to help the next time). It is worth persisting, and if necessary appealing, because receiving any rate of DLA can open the door to other benefits.

1. Care Component

If the child needs a lot of looking after or help with personal care, he or she should qualify for the care component. This is payable at three rates, depending on how much extra care the child needs compared with other children of the same age. It can be paid from the age of 3 months, and it also gives families access to other financial help.

  • Getting DLA can lead to extra amounts on other benefits such as Income Support, income based Job Seekers’ Allowance and Housing or Council Tax Benefit.
  • It can also lead to increased payments of Working Family Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit
  • If you care for a child receiving the middle or high rate care component you may be able to get Carer’s Allowance (see below)
  • If a child has complex needs, you may also be entitled to direct payments. This could be where they are replacing social services support that your child has been assessed as needing, or where you yourself need extra support in your caring role, for example to pay for domestic help or driving lessons.
  • Parents/guardians have slightly improved rights at work regarding Parental Leave and the Right to Request Flexible Working.

2. Mobility Component

If the child needs help getting around he or she may qualify for the mobility component.

The lower rate of mobility component is for children who can walk but who may need someone to supervise or guide them. The earliest this can be paid is from the age of 5 years.

The higher rate is for those who may be unable to walk or have severe difficulties in walking. The earliest this can be paid is from the age of 3 years. Getting the high rate for mobility also means

  • you automatically qualify for a Blue Badge, which gives you

o free disabled parking

o a parking bay

o road tax exemption.

  • You can apply to your local authority for a Blue Badge as soon as your child is two years old, or earlier if he or she needs bulky ‘medical equipment’ which cannot be carried around easily – this could be a special car seat, for example.
  • as a Blue Badge holder, you also do not have to pay the London Congestion Charge, but you must register with Transport for London (TfL) at least 10 days before your journey and pay a one-off £10 registration fee. For more information phone 0845 900 1234 or download a registration form from the TfL website www.tfl.gov.uk/assets/downloads/cc-discount-blue-badge.pdf
  • a parent can apply to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to become their child’s appointee –a person legally appointed to act on their behalf – and lease or hire purchase a car through Motability www.motability.co.uk, an independent charity set up as a partnership between the government, charitable and private sectors to help disabled people become mobile
  • children receiving high rate can become the envy of their friends by taking their driving test at 16, although if they have epilepsy they need to have been free of seizures for a year.

You may still apply for a blue badge if your child does not get the DLA mobility component at the high rate. You then have to persuade your local authority of your need.

What doesn’t matter when planning to claim DLA?

1. About your child

It doesn’t matter if you don’t consider your child to be ‘disabled’. For the purposes of DLA, ’disabled’ simply means that your child has a long term condition which affects their everyday activities. It also doesn’t matter if you’ve been told by anyone (including the Department for Work and Pensions, your GP, a nurse, social worker etc.), other than a professional welfare rights worker, not to make a claim because your child is not disabled enough. The question of entitlement is a legal one, not a medical one. If in doubt, make a claim.

2. About you (and your family)

When considering whether to award DLA the Decision Maker is only interested in your child and the way their health problems affect them. Your circumstances are not taken into account in any way. So it doesn’t matter whether:

  • you’re working
  • you’re unemployed
  • your partner works
  • you don’t have a partner
  • you’ve never paid national insurance contributions
  • you, or anyone else in your family, is claiming any other benefits (e.g. Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Jobseekers Allowance or DLA)
  • you have savings

DLA and overnight stays away from home Frequent and regular stays away from home can affect the care component of DLA. This might apply where a child is in hospital, residential school or respite care. The rules are complex and it is very important to seek advice.

HemiHelp has an information sheet entitled “Guidelines for Completing DLA Forms”. 

Cerebra publish a very useful guide to filling in the DLA form, available from their website at www.cerebra.org.uk or you can phone 01267 244200 or email them with your postal address for a copy at info@cerebra.org.uk

Carer’s Allowance (CA)

If your child receives the middle or highest rate of DLA care component, you may also be entitled to receive CA as their carer. To qualify for this you need to be:

  • caring for your child at least 35 hours a week
  • if working, not earning more than a certain amount per week (£100 in 2012/13) after income tax and subtracting certain childcare costs and other expenses
  • over 16 years of age
  • not in full-time education (21 hours or more a week)
  • satisfying UK presence and residence conditions

CA is not a large sum, and may affect other benefits, but the carer is also credited with National Insurance contributions. If you don’t qualify but someone else helps care for your child, they may be able to claim instead, e.g. you may have a relative who helps while you are at work.

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