DLA is available for children under the age of 16 if you can provide evidence that they have had care or mobility needs for at least three months and will continue to have them for at least six months. There is no lower age limit for the care component, though the mobility component is only awarded to children over the age of 3. If your child is over 16, they will have to make a claim for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) which is a disability benefit for adults.
DLA for adults has now changed to Personal Independence Payment (PIP). Most adults who were on DLA will now have been moved to PIP. Please see our PIP guide for further information.
Making a claim
To claim DLA for a child you need to be their parent or guardian.
To apply you can either:
- Print off and fill in the DLA claim form. This can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/disability-living-allowance-for-children-claim-form
- Phone the Disability Living Allowance helpline on 0800 121 4600 and ask for a printed form
The form asks different questions about your child’s need for help when completing different tasks. There is no time limit to return the form.
DLA is not means-tested and is tax free. Claiming DLA on behalf of a child should not affect any other benefits you may be getting, and it is paid on top of earnings and income. DLA is split into two parts: a mobility component and a care component. You can apply for both or either one of these as long as the child you are applying for satisfies the eligibility criteria.
If successful, DLA will be paid to you since the start of your claim. Your claim started on the day you rang the enquiry line, if you then return the form within 6 weeks, or the date the form is received by the DWP. A decision letter is usually sent about 8 weeks after your form is received.
DLA is awarded for a fixed time period, or indefinitely. If a child has been awarded either component for a fixed time period, the DWP should contact you before the application expires to renew your claim. When renewing DLA, it is best not to presume that the DWP has any prior knowledge of your child’s condition or their needs. It is important to provide as much detail as you did on your initial application when completing a review and including the most recent medical evidence you have that represents your child’s current circumstances if their condition is progressive.
The claim form which you need to fill in will ask different questions about your child’s need for help when completing different tasks. The rate which your child will be awarded depends on the level of care they need and/or the level of help they need getting around.
DLA is split into two main parts, the care component and the mobility component. Each component has different award rates based on the amount of support your child requires.
You will need to satisfy the DWP that your child meets the following criteria in order to qualify for DLA:
- Lowest rate – The child needs help for some of the day.
- Middle rate – The child needs frequent help or constant supervision during the day or at night.
- Highest rate – The child needs help or supervision throughout both day and night, or they’re terminally ill.
- Lowest rate – the child can walk but needs help and or supervision when outdoors. This rate can only be awarded to children over 5 years old.
- Highest rate – the child cannot walk, can only walk a short distance without severe discomfort or could become very unwell if they try to walk. This rate can only be awarded to children over 3 years old.
To see how much the weekly payments are for each rate, check the GOV.UK website - Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for children: DLA rates for children - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).
Strengthening your application
On your child’s application form, it is important to give as much detail as possible to illustrate how they meet the criteria. Your child’s GP, neuromuscular consultant or other health care professional can complete part of the application and could provide a letter of support. Explain to your GP or health care professional how the condition affects your child’s daily life so that they can support the application.
Supporting letters should describe your child’s need for help and supervision, relate specifically to your child’s condition and explain what would happen if this help and support is not available. A supporting letter can be provided by anyone who is involved professionally with your child’s care. This could include physiotherapy, occupational therapy, social work and a professional from a neuromuscular team such as a nurse specialist or care advisor.
Often applications are rejected because people do not provide enough detail regarding a child’s care or mobility needs or they do not provide supporting evidence such as hospital letters with the application. It is important to make sure you go into adequate depth about any difficulties your child may experience and how this is different to other children of their age. There is the expectation that children, especially younger children, would require a lot of assistance anyway. Therefore, you must specify how
Remember that the person reading the application form may have no experience of neuromuscular conditions and their complexity, so provide as much helpful information as you can, and clearly explain if there are times when a child can do something and times when they cannot. If the application does do not get the outcome you think it should, you can appeal the decision. This is called requesting a mandatory reconsideration. A mandatory reconsideration needs to be requested within one month of receiving the decision letter.
The Information, Advocacy and Support team at Muscular Dystrophy UK can provide advice and support when applying for DLA and other benefits and can assist with challenging decision outcomes.