How to claim DLA higher rate mobility: your 5 top questions answered

7 mins read

Friday 3 December 2021

Tags: q and a, dla, facebook q&a

Last week’s Facebook Q&A about claiming the higher rate mobility (HRM) component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) was our busiest one yet, with more than 150 parent carers stopping by to ask a question.

Our Family Finance Team were delighted to be able to support so many parents – but the event’s popularity also showed just how complex it can be for families to access the right benefits for their disabled children.

To help families who were unable to take part, we have put together answers to 5 of the most common questions asked during the Q&A session:

My child has no issues with walking. Can they still qualify for HRM?

Children who have no physical issues with walking could still qualify for HRM if their behaviour is very difficult to deal with. There are two ways that they could qualify:

  • Virtually unable to walk: Firstly, they might qualify if you can show that they have frequent episodes where they will refuse to make any progress on foot, perhaps throwing themselves on the ground or going limp. In these cases, it is sometimes possible to argue that your child is ‘virtually unable to walk’ as a result of these episodes. However, to qualify on these grounds you also need to show that these behaviours stem from a condition that has a physical cause such as brain damage, or a chromosome or genetic disorder (for example, Down’s syndrome). DLA case law has also accepted that autism spectrum disorders are physical disorders of brain development, so it is possible for a child with ASD to qualify on the basis of interruptions.
  • Severe mental impairment and behavioural problems: The second way of qualifying is only open to children who get the higher rate of the DLA care component — but this is just one of the five eligibility ‘tests’. They must meet all 5 tests in order to be considered eligible. As well as getting the higher rate care component, they must: have a state of arrested development or an incomplete physical development of the brain; have a severe impairment of intelligence and social functioning; and exhibit very unpredictable behaviour which is extreme and disruptive. The DWP refer to this as qualifying on the basis of severe mental impairment (SMI).

What evidence do I need to apply for HRM?

Submitting supportive evidence is certainly helpful and may increase your chances of an award, but it is not a requirement. It is possible for a claim to be decided on without any evidence from professionals. The evidence that you give can be enough. After all, the form is designed to be a self-assessment of your child’s needs.

In order to get the higher rates for care and mobility, however, it is best if some evidence from education or health professionals can be provided. If your child’s Education, Health and Care plan is detailed enough and you agree with the content, for example, then you can send a copy of this. Your GP might also be able to provide something, even a letter saying that your child is unable to engage with professionals. You can also provide evidence from someone who knows your child, such as a relative or friend of the family.

Before submitting any reports, you should also check that you agree that they are an accurate picture of your child’s needs. If you feel that a report minimises the amount of support they require, you may choose not to submit it.

Does the ‘severe mental impairment’ test refer to my child’s IQ?

Traditionally, a ‘severe impairment of intelligence’ was generally taken to be an IQ of 55 or less. However, this is not the only measure of impaired intelligence. If a child’s IQ is above 55, or they have not had an IQ test, the decision-maker at the Department for Work and Pensions must consider other evidence. For example, children who have autism spectrum disorders may do well in intelligence tests but may find it very difficult to use their intelligence in everyday situations such as using the road safely. So even if a child has an IQ of more than 55, it may still be possible to show that they have a severe impairment of intelligence if you can establish that they have difficulty applying their intelligence in the real world.

The decision-maker must consider: does the child have the ability to make sound judgements? Do they have insight, i.e. the ability to discern the true nature of a situation? Do they have sagacity, i.e. the ability to reason and deliberate, to evaluate information before making a decision? In one Upper Tribunal case it was accepted that a child with no sense of danger ‘lacks such a fundamental aspect of basic intelligence’ that his intelligence must be severely impaired.

Should I apply for HRM if my child already gets DLA?

Anytime someone asks for a DLA award to be looked at again, there is always a risk that their award could be reduced or lost rather than increased. Because of this risk, we recommend that where someone is thinking of asking for their award to be looked at again, they first contact a local advice service to discuss your child’s case in detail. A local advice service should be able to help you to weigh up any risk to your existing award and also give you an opinion on how strong your argument for the higher rates of DLA is.

My child was refused HRM but I still think they qualify. What should I do?

The issues discussed in our HRM factsheet may not always be considered by the DWP in making a DLA decision and, as a result, some children with autism spectrum disorders or learning disabilities may be wrongly awarded the lower rate.

For example, often the DLA Unit will try to refuse HRM on the basis that a child is able to walk but is making a conscious decision not to walk, rather than their behaviours resulting from symptoms over which they have no control. However, this argument is often open to challenge. It’s possible to argue that any refusal episodes result from your child’s behaviour problems and are intricately bound up with the symptoms of their condition. Where a child is not in control of their behaviours or their response to the environment, you should be able to argue that they can’t accurately be described as a child who is merely choosing not to walk. These episodes may be a response to symptoms over which they have no control, such as sensory distress, poor balance and coordination, pain, etc. So if you can show that your child has frequent episodes where their ability to walk is interrupted and that these episodes are sustained and not easily overcome by coaxing or the promise of treats, you should have a good case to argue that these episodes are not due to your child being wilful, but rather are symptoms of his condition over which they have no control. You will need to explain to the DLA Unit the types of refusal episodes that you face, how frequent they are, the difficulties you face in overcoming them in trying to get your child to walk, and the symptoms that you think are causing these behaviours.

If your child is awarded the lower rate of the mobility component but you think they meet the HRM tests, you can challenge the decision that has been made on their claim. It’s a good idea to get expert advice from a local service first, such as your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau, disability advice centre or welfare rights unit. They may be able to help you complete the claim form or help you to challenge a decision made by the DWP.

Still have questions?

You can browse through all the questions and answers in our Q&A session here. Make sure to join our Facebook group in order to view the post.

For more information please have a read through our HRM factsheet, browse our DLA parent guide, or get in touch with our helpline for direct support.