Benefits for Disabled Children – A Guide
In the first post of our new blog series on benefits, we have put together an overview of the range of social security benefits for disabled children. This is intended to be an overview of what’s available, and in future blogs we will be looking at each of the benefits in more depth.
The internet is awash with information about these topics, and the pages on the Government’s own website are pretty good too. However following the launch of the new Renaissance Legal Benefits service, we want to provide you with a summary based on our own experience of supporting parents and carers to claim their child’s entitlements with the minimum of stress and anxiety.
What benefits are there for disabled children?
For the purposes of benefits that are available for a disabled child or ‘qualifying young person’, we mean children for whom child benefit is payable, and who are, generally, still living at home and not in education which is past A level stage.
When thinking about benefits for children in general, child benefit obviously springs to mind. There is so much misinformation about this benefit at the moment, that HMRC have just issued a press release warning better-off families about the pension disasters that may lie ahead as a result of the sharp decline in claims for child benefit since the tax rules were changed a few years ago.
In a nutshell, the situation is that child benefit is still alive and well for the parents of dependent children who satisfy the age and residence rules. Claiming child benefit sets up the parent for satisfying long term national insurance pension conditions, and means that the child is not ‘invisible’ to all the state systems.
Even if you are in a family where one person is a high earner (above £50k a year), you should still claim child benefit even if you later opt not to receive it. People usually decide to opt out-of being paid child benefit due to tax consequences for the higher earner but you should still claim.
The GOV.UK pages provide more information: www.gov.uk/child-benefit-tax-charge
Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
The sole benefit catering specifically for disabled children is of course Disability Living Allowance. Watch out for next month’s blog, in which we talk about DLA in detail. In outline terms though, this is a very valuable benefit – apart from the actual money you receive, it acts as an essential gateway to other benefits and also to other vital resources within the welfare system. It’s not taxable, it is paid on top of any other benefits you may receive, and most importantly, it is not mean tested. It can therefore be paid regardless of any income or capital belonging to the child or family members.
Many clients that we speak to have been put off claiming DLA, as they fear it will be a stressful, complicated and off-putting process. I have written in previous blogs about the importance of being prepared and in the right mindset to make a claim, and I think it’s really important to know about how DLA is structured, and what the decision makers at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) are looking for. We’ll look at all this next month, but for now let’s have a quick look at the way DLA is organised.
DLA has two components – mobility and care. The mobility component has two rates, and the care component has three.
You can be awarded the care component from when your child is three months old. If they have been diagnosed as terminally ill they qualify automatically for the high rate of the care component which can begin as soon as you claim DLA after the birth.
Whether you get the low, middle or high rate of DLA will depend on the level of supervision or physical care that your child needs (whether provided by the family or others).
You can be awarded the higher rate mobility component from the age of three and the lower mobility component from the age of five. The higher rate is generally to do with the physical act of walking, and the lower is more connected to the ability to get around safely while outdoors, and less to do with actual walking ability.
Essential point about DLA and children: we will look at this in more detail next month, but if you are thinking about whether DLA is right for your child, it’s important to bear in mind that you will need to be prepared to describe the ways in which the care and supervision your child needs differs from what is needed by a child who is not disabled. This can be a hard subject to think about and describe, but it is part of the preparation process, and is the key to a successful claim.
How DLA works its magic on the rest of the benefits system
- Getting any rate of DLA care: the disabled child premium is included in the calculation of housing benefit and eligibility for free health costs. This means that the amount you are deemed to need to live on increases when a premium is added, making your entitlement either higher or more likely.
- Getting the low or middle rate of DLA care: the disabled child element is included in your child tax credit or universal credit This works in the same way as a premium.
- Getting the high rate of DLA care: an enhanced rate is included in the calculation of your housing benefit, help with health costs, child tax credit, and universal credit.
- Getting the middle or high rate of DLA care: the main carer should consider claiming carer’s allowance. Only the care component at these rates acts as a gateway to carer’s allowance.
- Getting the high rate of DLA mobility: this gives access to leasing a car through the Motability scheme, and gives automatic entitlement to a Blue Badge for parking, and free road tax. (You can also apply for Blue Badges for a child under three).
- Any rate of DLA: can give your two-year-old child access to free childcare.
You can find more information about all of these benefits for disabled children, and also on claiming grants, on the fantastic Turn2us website: www.turn2us.org.uk.
As you can see, receiving DLA has a positive effect on all the other aspects of the benefits system which are relevant to children: housing benefit, tax credits (child tax credit in particular of course), universal credit, and the calculation of entitlement to other things, such as help towards health costs. It also acts as the gateway to carer’s allowance, which in its own right triggers higher amounts of money within benefits such as housing benefit and universal credit.
In the mysterious world of benefits, everything is interconnected, and success with DLA with have positive effects across the spectrum.
You can find excellent information on all of these issues by following this link to the factsheet on benefits for disabled children produced by Hertfordshire County Council Money Advice Unit:
Check in with us next month for our detailed blog on claiming DLA for children, and please get in touch if you would like our help with your benefits situation.