Last month’s blog covered the range of benefits for disabled children, but of course it centred on Disability Living Allowance (DLA), as that is the main benefit intended to help families cope with the costs of having a child with extra needs.

Claiming DLA for disabled children up to the age of 16

This blog is intended to describe the key points about DLA in detail, so that you know exactly what the Department of Work and Pensions decision makers are looking for. As I have said previously, DLA is a vital and pivotal benefit as it acts as a gateway to many other things, such as Carer’s Allowance, higher rates of means-tested benefits and extra help with childcare costs. It also helps that it’s tax free, and disregarded in the calculation of other benefits.

DLA basics

There are two components within Disability Living Allowance for children: care and mobility.

Care component (per week):

Lowest rate                   £22.65

Middle rate                    £57.30

Highest rate                   £85.60

Mobility component (per week):

Lower rate                     £22.65

Higher rate                    £59.75


The qualifying period

Unless your child is terminally ill, there is a 3-month qualifying period before DLA can start to be paid – this means that your child must pass the disability test throughout the three months before the claim.

There is also a ‘forward condition’, which means that your child must be likely to continue to satisfy the disability test for at least six months after the claim. This rule is to ensure that DLA is only paid for long-term conditions.

How to claim for DLA

To start the claim, you can request the DLA1A Child form by calling 0800 121 4600 or download it from the Government’s website:



Qualifying for DLA

In addition to meeting the terms of the qualifying period and the ‘forward condition’, you will also need to satisfy the following in order to successfully claim DLA:
The ‘disability test’ – care component

The language used in the regulations is quite stark – for example, the phrase ‘disability test’ features in the regulations, which is why I have used it here. The more accessible, everyday language used in the claim form does not really reflect some of the more blunt and legal phrases of the regulations which are outlined below.

It won’t surprise regular readers of this blog to know that we recommend using the wording of the regulations (i.e. the words highlighted in bold below) repeatedly throughout the claim form, as it gives the decision-maker much less scope for refusal.

You will have to show that your child, because of a physical or mental disability, requires frequent attention for a ‘significant portion of the day’ or ‘throughout the day or night’ in connection with their’ bodily functions’ or requires ‘continual supervision throughout the day in order to avoid substantial danger to themselves or others’ or requires another person to be awake during the night to watch over them.


The ‘disability test’ – mobility component

Your child cannot qualify for the higher rate of this component until they are 3, and you will have to show that, because of their disabilities, they are unable to walk, or  ‘virtually’ unable to walk, or the ‘exertion required to walk’ would be dangerous.

To get the lower rate, your child needs to be 5, and because of their disabilities they cannot get around safely without guidance or supervision from another person. This is much less to do with the physical act of walking, and more to do with issues such as road safety and safe behaviour while outside. 


The underlying principle of Disability Living Allowance for children

Unlike PIP, your child does not have to score a certain number of points to qualify for DLA. The threshold is much less black and white.

Although the criteria regarding care, supervision and mobility look straightforward enough, the assessment is based on an underlying key phrase, which is that your child’s needs must also be ‘substantially in excess’ of what is normally required by a child of the same age.

This comparison between the disabled child and non-disabled children of the same age is based on the notion of an ‘average’ child, and therefore can seem very subjective, given the wide variation in the needs of non-disabled children.

I have written before on the need to adopt a mindset in order to deal with the challenges of a DLA claim, which starts with being as prepared as possible. The decision maker does not know you or your child, or the difficulties you have faced to get to this point. It may be really difficult to write objectively about the difference between your child’s needs and those of this hypothetical ‘average’ child, but this is what the decision maker will be expecting, and reference to this point will need to be made throughout the claim form, and backed up by medical evidence.


Helpful resources

The best factsheet on the subject comes from Hertfordshire County Council Money Advice Unit – you can find it here:


There is also excellent advice about interpreting the phrases and filling in the forms on the Citizens Advice website here:


Both factsheets emphasise the importance of keeping a diary and submitting it with your claim form – this enables the decision maker to have an overall picture about the effects of your child’s disabilities on their everyday life. In our experience, submitting a detailed diary giving every day examples greatly increases your chance of a successful claim first time.

I cannot recommend highly enough the usefulness of the Disability Rights Handbook, produced by Disability Rights UK. It covers the whole range of benefits, as well as other major issues for disabled people. Its section on claiming Disability Living Allowance for children is brilliant.

You can order it from Amazon (Edition 43). If you order direct from DRUK, and you receive any benefits, then you can get the book for a discounted price:


How we can help

We can help with any questions of issues you may have around Disability Living Allowance for children. Including helping you with claiming DLA, or with any other benefits, and dealing with claims against a decision. To talk to us in confidence, please get in touch: benefits@renaissancelegal.co.uk

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