On this page you’ll find tonnes of information about the Disability Living Allowance for children under 16 (DLA). Don’t forget to check out our other Sky Badger pages to find out about other benefits for disabled children as well as grants, respite care and much more.
If you want to jump straight to the section that's relevant for you then use these quick links.
What is Disability Living Allowance (DLA)?
Disability living allowance is the main benefit for disabled children under 16. DLA is designed to help you cover the extra costs that you might face because of your child’s disability. The range of levels is wide, from a little extra help for children with learning disabilities to severe disability both mentally and physically.
What’s really important to remember about the DLA, is that it is about how much extra care and support your child needs not what their diagnosis is. In fact even if your child doesn’t have a diagnosis yet, you can still claim DLA. You will of course need good evidence of how their needs impact them day to day life. The key issue is that they have extra needs that other children their age don’t have.
To claim DLA, you have to fill in this form BUT please read the rest of this article first before you start!
This part is designed for children that need extra help day to day including their personal care. It comes at three levels. For the lower level, your child will need at least 1 extra hour of help in 24 hours. For the higher rates, your child will need help both day and night care.
Lowest rate - help for some of the day or night
Middle rate - frequent help or constant supervision during the day, supervision at night or someone to help while they’re on dialysis
Highest rate - help or supervision throughout both day and night, or they’re terminally ill
This part is designed to help your child if they have trouble getting around. It comes at two levels of support, lower rate and higher rate.
Low rate mobility DLA
If your child needs lots of extra help in getting around and staying safe but isn’t necessarily physically disabled, then your child might qualify for the lower rate. You’ll need to be really specific about what this extra help is.
Higher rate mobility DLA
High rate criteria…
- unable to walk
- virtually unable to walk
- the exertion required to walk would constitute a danger to their life or would be likely to lead to a serious deterioration in their health
- have no legs or feet (from birth or through amputation)
- severely mentally impaired and show extremely disruptive and dangerous behaviour
- or have a severe visual impairment; or be both blind and deaf and need the assistance of another person to walk out of doors.
Children with Autism and DLA
Children who don’t necessarily have a physical disability but need extra “guidance or supervision” to help them get around may be eligible for the lower rate. However, some children with Autism could also qualify for higher rate depending on their specific needs.
To be eligible for the higher rate, your child must have ‘a severe mental impairment and behavioural problems’ or be ‘virtually unable to walk’.
These phases are horrid but they are only words so please don’t take it to heart. This is after all about getting the help your child needs to allow them to live as full a life as possible.
More detailed advice about applying for DLA for an Autism Child
There are a couple of fab guides that we’ve linked to here that will help you work through your application for DLA if your child has learning disabilities or Autism…
To qualify for DLA your child must….
- be under 16
- need extra looking after or have walking difﬁculties
- be in Great Britain, another European Economic Area (EEA) country or Switzerland when you claim - there are some exceptions, such as family members of the Armed Forces
- have lived in Great Britain for 2 of the last 3 years, if over 3 years old
- be habitually resident in the UK, Ireland, Isle of Man or the Channel Islands
- not be subject to immigration control
- There are some exceptions to these conditions if the child is living or coming from another EEA country or Switzerland.
This depends on lots of things but you can get higher rate mobility for your child from the age of 3 and the lower rate from the age of 5. There is not a set lower age limit for the carer’s component. However If your child has a life-limiting condition, DLA is payable for the age of 3 months.
A Step-by-Step Guide to filling out the DLA Form
Click here to get a guide on each question, terminology used and some excellent top tips!
It costs three times more to raise a disabled child as it does to raise a non-disabled child….
So find your child a grant and other help here!
Other things DLA allows you to apply for…
If you qualify for DLA higher rate mobility, then you can also use the Motability Scheme and automatically qualify for a Blue Badge from your Local Authority. You should also check out the Sky Badger website to see if you can claim carer’s allowance, young carer’s support, help with your bills, Council tax reductions and much more.
DLA and how it affects other benefits
Getting DLA can lead to an increase in other benefits or help you qualify for other entitlements. Even if you get DLA for your child already, you may find that getting an increased rate will lead to something else.
The following is a checklist of benefits and entitlements which may become available following an award or increase of DLA.;-
Carer‘s Allowance (CA)
If your child gets the middle or the highest rate of the DLA care component, you may be able to get Carer’s Allowance (CA). You must be caring for your child for at least 35 hours of each week. To get CA, you must not be treated as a full-time student and not earning more than a set amount, after certain deductions.
Carer’s Allowance can be backdated in line with the DLA award, as long as you apply within three months of getting the DLA decision. If you apply later, Carer’s Allowance can only be backdated for three months.
CA can affect entitlements like Income Support and tax credits. In most cases you will still be better off. If you get Incapacity Benefit, or contributory Employment and Support Allowance, it could also be in your interest to apply for CA, even though it can’t be paid on top of these benefits.
Child Tax Credit (CTC)
Child Tax Credit is assessed more generously when a child gets DLA. Families will qualify for an extra disability element (and a severe disability element if your child is on the highest rate DLA care component). The disability and severe disability elements can be backdated in line with the DLA award if you tell the tax credit office within one month of a decision to award DLA.
If you have previously been refused or never claimed tax credits because your income was too high, you may find that you qualify for the first time as a result of your child being awarded DLA (or having their care component increased to the highest rate.
Income Support (IS)
For families still getting payments for their children in their IS, getting DLA will lead to extra money being added to your IS, known as a disabled child premium (and an enhanced disability premium if your child is awarded the highest rate of the care component).
You will need to let the office dealing with the IS claim know about the DLA award.
If your child gets Employment and Support Allowance in their own right, an award of the highest rate of the care component of DLA may lead to an increase in this benefit. Let the office dealing with these benefits know about a new award of DLA or any change to the existing award.
If your child gets Income Support in their own right, then an award of DLA can lead to an increase in their benefit. This is because they will qualify for the disability premium (and the enhanced disability premium if they’re awarded the highest rate of the care component).
Help with rent and council tax If you get Housing Benefit or support with council tax, then getting DLA for your child may lead to extra benefit if you are not already getting your rent and council tax met in full. If you don’t get these benefits but are liable for rent or council tax then you may find that getting DLA will help you qualify for the first time. If your disabled child cannot share a
bedroom and because of this your Housing Benefit is reduced under the bedroom tax or local housing allowance rules, getting DLA care component at the middle or highest rate for them may help you get more Housing Benefit.
Both Housing Benefit and support with council tax are means-tested and any award will depend on your income and circumstances.
There are other ways of getting help with council tax which don’t depend on income or savings but do depend on there being a disabled occupant within your household.
Universal Credit is a new benefit that will replace tax credits and other means-tested benefits for people of working age. If you receive Universal Credit and a child who is included in your Universal Credit claim gets DLA, you will qualify for extra Universal Credit payments.
In most parts of the UK Universal Credit does not yet apply to families with a disabled child. However, families with a disabled child will be asked to claim Universal Credit if they live in a postcode area where the full Universal Credit service has been introduced and they try to make a new claim for one of the means-tested benefits or tax credits that Universal Credit is replacing, At the time of writing the full Universal Credit service only applies in a small number of postcode areas in England and Scotland, however it will gradually be extended to many more areas and is expected to cover the whole country soon.
Things to be aware of that may affect your DLA Claim….
Going into hospital or a care home
DLA can be affected by your child having overnight stays away from home. There are different rules for this depending on whether your child goes into hospital or a care home.
Stays in hospital
If your child is under 18 when they enter hospital, their DLA can continue to be paid for the whole time they are there.
Stays in a care home
If your child is in a care home (which usually includes residential schools), generally payment of the care component will stop after 28 days. However, they can be paid the care component for any day they stay in your home, including the day they leave and the day they return. The mobility component is not affected by stays in a care home. The rules differ if your child’s stay in a care home is funded by NHS continuing healthcare, or if you pay for the care home yourself.
Other DLA Advice...
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