In this blog, we are going to look at Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for children (aged under 16) who have autism or autistic spectrum disorder.
DLA is the only benefit specifically available to children with autism. However, once DLA is in payment, it may mean that their parent/carer can claim Carer’s Allowance in respect of the care provided to that child. It may also mean that other means-tested benefits in payment to the parents (such as Child Tax Credit or Housing Benefit or Universal Credit) may be increased.
DLA can provide financial help with the extra care and supervision that a child with autism needs, over and above other children of the same age. This means that proving your child needs more care and support than another child without autism is crucial. It is also vital to detail the time spent providing care, support and supervision.
Disability Living Allowance
DLA is a very important and valuable benefit for those aged under 16 who have autism. It is not means-tested (so any income or savings that the child or family members have are irrelevant). Receipt of DLA can also act as a gateway to other benefits and to help access other vital resources within the welfare system. It is paid on top of any other benefits that are in payment.
DLA can help with the additional care / supervision / support needs a child with autism may have, as well as help with their mobility. It has two components: the care and mobility component. The 2021/22 rates of payment are:
High rate £89.60
Middle rate £60.00
Low rate £23.70
High rate £62.55
Low rate £23.70
DLA and Autism
What we want to look at in this blog is how DLA claims can be made effectively for children/young people with autism.
Many parents we speak to have been put off claiming DLA as they have heard it is a complicated and stressful process, and that autism is “not properly understood” and “how can I explain what my child needs – will they even understand?”.
Well, we agree absolutely that DLA claim forms are long and require lots of detail, and that the DLA assessors are not always very knowledgeable about autism. However, there is no reason why families caring for a child with autism should not make successful DLA claims. So, here is a list of things to think about when making a DLA claim for a child/young person with autism.
Making that DLA claim – top tips!
- The DLA claim form is the same form for all claimants, and many people say it focuses too heavily on physical disability. Do not be put off if the autism related needs you want to express do not seem to be mentioned. Wherever the form asks ‘what help your child needs’, remember that this does not only refer to physical help, but also non-physical help such as prompting, encouraging, reminding and supervising. It is really important that you mention all these types of support which your child needs. Be really descriptive in what you write. Explain exactly what your child needs. Put examples of things that have happened when prompting, encouragement or supervision was not available, to show how vital and important that support is. Real life scenarios help the DLA assessor to understand your child and their needs. This is really important as the DLA assessor will never meet them!
Your child may be physically able to have a shower but will not do it without lots of prompting and reminding, and with you being around to supervise their safety. How long does (this often) repeated prompting / supervision actually take?
Your child may need constant prompting and assistance to eat and drink, or to stop eating, or guidance on what is or isn’t edible. This help will be needed many times a day.
Your child may need aids to support communication. How do they communicate? Do they require 1-1 support at nursery or school?
They may need supervision to keep them safe from hurting themselves or others. How do you manage this? Who provides this support? This could be 24 hour supervision in some cases. Remember, supervision may be just keeping a watchful eye and being aware.
- DLA is based on what support your child requires in respect of personal care and mobility needs. So, it is important that you spell out exactly what those needs are and what support is needed (you can even include needs that are not met).
- Some people say that the DLA form does not have enough space for all the information to be fitted in. Not a problem! Just add some extra sheets of paper – but make sure you add the child’s name, date of birth and NI number to each additional page and number them – just in case they get separated from the claim form!
- Don’t just tick boxes. If you have replied ‘yes’ or ‘sometimes’ to a question, then put an explanation. The DLA assessor may never have even met anyone with autism, so explaining things in specific detail will really help them understand how autism affects your child and ensure the claim is determined correctly.
- It will help your claim if you have a professional diagnosis of autism or autistic spectrum disorder, but your claim can still be sent in if you have not yet had one – just make sure that your supporting evidence is as detailed as possible.
- Keep a diary – this can help show the DLA assessor exactly how much help and support is given to your child, and how long these activities take. Sometimes parents are so used to looking after their child, that they forget they are spending so much longer than another parent whose child does not have autism. The diary also helps the claim to be accurate.
- Attach useful supporting documents which may help the DLA assessor understand your child and their needs. Evidence of diagnosis is important, but so is evidence from anyone involved in the care and support of your child – teachers, grandparents, carers, friends. Also include any evidence from professionals such as Occupational Therapists, Health Visitors, Speech and Language therapists.
- It is a good plan to complete a draft form first, to get the wording exactly right. Then, once you are okay with content, complete the final version.
What help can Renaissance Legal provide?
Using these top tips, you are hopefully feel more confident about completing that DLA claim form.
Jayne Knights and Amy Swinnerton are highly experienced in helping with DLA claims. If you would like to discuss any help or support you need with making a DLA claim, please contact Jayne and Amy by clicking here.