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Disability living allowance (DLA)

Disability Rights UK Factsheet F23

This factsheet is free for you to download. We are committed to providing free information on our website but we are a small charity and if you are able to make a donation to help cover costs of research and updating it would make a big difference.

What is disability living allowance?

Your child can claim disability living allowance (DLA) if he or she is under 16, disabled and needs help to look after themselves or has difficulty walking or getting around. DLA is not means tested.

There are two components to disability living allowance, the care component, which has three rates of payment and the mobility component, which has two rates of payment. Your child can be paid one or both components depending on their needs.

Your child's savings do not affect their DLA.

What are the rules for disability living allowance?

To claim disability living allowance your child must:

  • be under 16
  • pass at least one of the disability tests
  • pass the 'backwards and forwards' qualifying period tests
  • pass the residence and presence tests, and not be subject to immigration control

Your child's needs relating to care or mobility must have begun before they reach the age of 16. If they begin after your child reaches 16 they will need to claim personal independence payment PIP.

You cannot claim disability living allowance if you are of working age. You need to claim personal independence payment (PIP) instead. If you are of working age and already on DLA you will eventually be asked to claim PIP

For more information see Factsheet F60 - personal independence payment - a guide to making a claim.

The 'backwards and forwards' qualifying period tests

Your child will need to have satisfied the disability tests for three months before they will be paid and must also be likely to continue to satisfy these tests for at least 6 months after the date of their first payment. This rule does not apply if your child is terminally ill.

Disability test - care component

For the disability test for the lowest rate DLA care component your child must satisfy one of the following conditions:

  • need attention in connection with bodily functions for a significant part of the day which can be during one or more periods.

For the disability test for the middle rate DLA care component your child must satisfy one of the following conditions:

  • need frequent attention throughout the day in connection with their bodily functions.
  • need continual supervision throughout the day to avoid substantial danger to themselves or others.
  • need prolonged or repeated attention at night in connection with their bodily functions.
  • need another person to be awake at night for a prolonged period or at frequent intervals to watch over them in order to avoid substantial danger to themselves or others.

For the disability test for the highest rate DLA care component your child must satisfy either of the following:

  • have one of the day needs and one of the night needs shown in the middle rate conditions.
  • be terminally ill.

In addition to the above tests their care, supervision or watching-over needs must also be greater than those of a child of the same age who is in normal physical and mental health.

What the care component disability test rules mean

needs - This is help that is reasonably needed, not what is given, nor what is medically essential. This is help to lead as normal a life as possible. This includes help your child needs outside your home. For example they can be given help to take part in "reasonable" social activities.

attention - This is help of an active nature required to be given in your child's physical presence. This can include help given to wash, dress or to go to the toilet providing it is greater than those of a child of the same age who is in normal physical and mental health. It can also be more indirect help such as signing, reading aloud or prompting and encouragement.

bodily functions - These include hearing, eating, seeing, washing, reading, communicating, walking, drinking, sitting, sleeping, dressing or undressing, using the toilet, shaving, shampooing, help with medication and thinking.

significant - This is around an hour in total.

frequent - Means more than twice.

throughout - This means spread over the day.

continual - Means regular checking but not non stop supervision; does not have to be constant.

supervision - This is watching over, ready to intervene.

substantial danger - The danger must be real, not just remotely possible.

prolonged - Means some little time (at least 20 minutes).

repeated - Means two or more times.

night - This is when the household has closed down for the night. It is generally the time when an adult is in bed but must be more or less within night-time hours - generally between the hours of 11pm and 7 am.

terminally ill - Your child is considered to be terminally ill if they are suffering from a progressive disease where death can be expected within 6 months. 

Disability test - mobility component

For the disability test for the lower rate DLA mobility component your child must:

  • need guidance or supervision with walking on unfamiliar routes because of their mental or physical disablement. He or she must need substantially more guidance or supervision than a child of the same age who is in normal physical or mental health.

Your child cannot receive lower rate mobility component until they reach the age of five.

For the disability test for the higher rate DLA mobility component your child must satisfy one of the following conditions:

  • be unable to walk 
  • be virtually unable to walk  
  • the exertion required to walk would constitute a danger to your life or would be likely to lead to a serious deterioration in your health
  • have had both legs amputated (or missing from birth) at or above the ankle
  • qualify for the highest rate of DLA care component, be severely mentally impaired and show disruptive behaviour.
  • have a severe visual impairment
  • be both blind and deaf and need the assistance of another person to walk out of doors.

Your child cannot receive higher rate mobility component until they reach the age of three.

Any artificial aid used, such as limbs or walking frames are taken into account when considering your child's mobility needs except for cases where they are claiming on the grounds that they have had both legs amputated or missing.

What the mobility component disability test rules mean

guidance or supervision on unfamiliar routes - Your child can get this if they can walk but need someone on hand to guide or supervise them. If he or she is blind, has learning disabilities or is mentally ill they are likely to qualify for this rate. The test is based on their ability to cope with unfamiliar routes (for example they may be able to find their way to your local shop but become confused, lost or anxious if walking in a strange place).

virtually unable to walk - This test looks at your child's ability to walk out of doors on a normal flat surfaced pavement or road. The following factors are taken into account :

  • distance walked
  • speed of walking
  • length of time taken
  • manner of walking

When stating how far your child can walk remember that any walking done whilst they are experiencing severe discomfort does not count.

For example; your child may be able to walk 100 metres but can only do the last 80 in severe discomfort. It would be reasonable in this case to say he or she can only walk 20 metres. Pain and breathlessness are also considered when assessing whether or not your child experiences severe discomfort.

severe mental impairment and disruptive behaviour - Severe mental impairment refers to someone who "has arrested or incomplete physical development of the brain resulting in severe impairment of intelligence and social functioning". Conditions that start later in life, such as recent brain damage do not count.

The disruptive behaviour must be extreme, require physical restraint to prevent physical injury or damage to property and also require someone to watch over your child whenever they are awake.

Severe impairment of intelligence is determined in many ways. It can be through an IQ test or by assessing someone's "useful intelligence" - the ability to function in a real life context. 

severe visual impairment - Your child must be certified by a consultant ophthalmologist as severely sight impaired or blind and are severely visually impaired. Your child is severely visually impaired if:

  • they  have visual acuity, with appropriate corrective lenses if necessary, of less than 3/60; or
  • they have visual acuity of 3/60 or more, but less than 6/60, with appropriate corrective lenses if necessary; and a complete loss of peripheral visual field; and a central visual field of no more than 10 degrees in total.

If your child has a CVI or BD8 (BP1 in Scotland) certificate of visual impairment, this may provide enough information to satisfy this test but if not, or if you tell the DWP your child's eyesight has worsened, your child may be referred for a sight test.

blind and deaf - To satisfy this your child must have 100% disablement from loss of sight and 80% disablement from loss of hearing.

The residence and presence test

Your child must not be subject to any limitation on your right to stay in this country. There are exceptions to this rule, for example if they have refugee status or exceptional leave to remain or are a European Economic Area (EEA) national.

Your child will have to satisfy the residence and presence test. For this they must:

  • normally have been present in Great Britain for 104 weeks out of the 156 weeks before claiming (2 out of the last 3 years). If your child is under 6 months old they only need to be present for 13 weeks up until they are one year old. If your child is aged between 6 and 36 months they only need to have been present for 26 weeks in the last 156 weeks.
  • be habitually resident

Ordinarily resident is not defined. It is taken to mean the place where your child normally lives.

Under current benefit rules 'present' means physically present in the UK. There are specific rules that may allow your child to be treated as present during a temporary absence. 

If your child is terminally ill they only have to be present in the UK, they do not need to have been present in Great Britain for 104 weeks out of the 156 weeks before claiming

The habitual residence test is a test to see if your child normally lives in the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands, the Republic of Ireland or the Isle of Man.

There is no legal definition of 'habitual residence'. Relevant factors are where your child normally lives, where they expect to live in future, their reasons for coming to this country, the length of time spent abroad before they came here, and any ties they still have with the country they have come from.

The rules for residence and presence are complicated. For more information see our Disability Rights Handbook.

How much is DLA?

The weekly rates for the care component are:

lowest rate - £21.55
middle rate - £54.45
highest rate - £81.30

The weekly rates for the mobility component are:

lower rate - £21.55
higher rate - £56.75

Your child can only receive one rate from each component.

How to claim

You can call 0845 712 3456 (Textphone: 0845 722 4433) and ask for a form DLA1. If you return the completed form within six weeks it will be backdated to the day you requested it.

You can download a Disability Living Allowance claim pack at www.gov.uk/government/publications/disability-living-allowance-for-children-claim-form

For Northern Ireland call 0800 220 674 (Text phone 0800 243 787). You can also download a claim form or claim online by going to www.nidirect.gov.uk.

Where can I get more help or information?

This factsheet is a basic overview of disability living allowance. You can find out more detailed information in our Disability Rights Handbook. This and all our other publications are available from our shop at https://crm.disabilityrightsuk.org/. You can also place orders by contacting Disability Rights UK.

You can get help and information at your local advice centre, such as a Citizens Advice Bureau. You can get more information about where to get personal advice from our Factsheet F15 - Getting advice. All our factsheets are free to download on our website at www.disabilityrightsuk.org.

Martin Inch

8 April 2014