Disability Living Allowance

Young girl in wheelchairDisability Living Allowance (often called just 'DLA') is the main government-issued tax-free benefit for children who need extra help with personal care or mobility problems. DLA is not means-tested.

What changes are going to be made to DLA under the new welfare system?

There will be no change to DLA for children under the new welfare system, but after the age of 16 they will have to apply for the DLA replacement - the Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

If your child is receiving DLA at the moment, they will receive an invitation to apply for PIP when they approach their 16th birthday.

What is DLA?

The DLA has two components:

  1. Care component - if your child needs extra care or supervision (compared to a child without disabilities)
  2. Mobility component - if your child needs help getting around (the higher rate of the mobility component can be used towards Motability schemes to help hire or buy a car or similar transport)

Some people may be entitled to both components; others will be entitled to just one. The components are paid at different rates, depending on how the disability affects your child's (and your) life. 

Of course, all children need a lot of supervision and care, but when it comes to DLA, you may be entitled to claim if your child needs significantly more care and supervision than a child of the same age who does not have a disability.

Who is eligible?

  • Children with a physical or mental disability or a neurodevelopmental disorder (such as autism) that means they need more help being cared for than a child of the same age who does not have a disability.
  • Children who have trouble walking or moving around.

When can I claim?

  • Care component

You can claim for care needs before a child is aged three months, although the benefit will only be paid after the child reaches the age of three months (there are exceptions for children with terminal or progressive terminal illnesses).

  • Mobility component

The higher rate is given to children over three who meet the criteria for severely impaired mobility and the lower rate goes to children aged five and over who can walk but may need extra guidance or supervision when walking out of doors.

How do I apply?

You need to get yourself a copy of the DLA Claim Pack for a Child under 16. It's available from:

  • The Benefit Enquiry Line on 0800 882 200
  • Your local Jobcentre Plus or local social security office
  • Or you can download it from www.dwp.gov.uk/eservice/

You can fill it in online but this affects the backdating of payments, so it is best to phone and request a copy as your claim will then be backdated from the time that you called.

Getting your paws on the DLA claim pack is just the beginning, however. The real challenge is completing it correctly. The form is complicated and will need a lot of careful thought and planning. Set aside some time to complete the form - failing to get this right may mean that you miss out on benefits you're entitled to.

Make sure you keep copies of everything, because you will need to reapply at intervals (every year until they are five, and then at regular intervals, is usual).

You may be asked to reapply even if your child's condition does not change at all. And it is worth keeping a copy of the entire form just in case it gets lost in the post, and to use as a template for any future submissions.

There are some useful guides to completing the DLA claim pack, but the one most Mumsnetters swear by is the Cerebra Guide to Completing the DLA Form Package.Also have a look at Mumsnetters' tips on completing the DLA form.

DLA and other benefits

If your child is awarded DLA, it may mean that you are entitled to extra benefits such as Carer's Allowance or an extra carer's element if you are receiving universal credit.

  • Have there been any changes to Carer's Allowance under the new welfare system?

Carer's Allowance can be awarded to parents of children who receive the middle or higher rate care component of DLA (as long as they earn less than £100 a week after certain deductions). It will only be affected by changes to the welfare system if the person who receives it is also on other benefits.

In this case, the Carer's Allowance will be awarded as part of the carer's element of Universal Credit.

  • Will my child's DLA affect the cap on benefits for households under the new universal credit scheme?

It appears that a household that includes someone who receives DLA will be exempt from the benefits cap. Once your child turns 16 though, they will count as an adult with a disability and will be classed as a household in their own rights, so even if they still live at home their parents would not be exempt from the benefits cap.

  • What about the disability addition to Child Tax Credit?

Parents who receive Child Tax Credit get an extra payment called the 'disabled child element'. This will be replaced by a two-tiered addition to universal credit.

Those with more severe disabilities may be slightly better off, but those who have the middle or higher rate of DLA will only qualify for the lower rate and may be about £30 a week worse off.

  • Will households with children who receive DLA be affected by the bedroom tax?

The 'bedroom tax' refers to the changes in the size criteria of housing benefit. Households that are seen as under-occupying their home will have their housing benefit reduced if they are deemed to have 'spare' bedrooms (by 14% for one spare bedroom and 25% for two or more).

Children of different gender who are under 10 must share a room, and those of the same gender must share until they are 16. Severely disabled children who are unable to share with their brothers or sisters are allowed to have their own room.


Last updated: 10 months ago