Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is the main benefit for children with a condition or disability. Any disabled child or ill child might qualify. DLA helps to meet the extra costs that you might have as a result of your child's disability.
You can claim DLA even if your child does not have a diagnosis. It is sufficient that they have some form of disability even if this has not yet been formally diagnosed.
Watch our video challenging the myths around eligibility for Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
Any child who has a disability or illness might qualify for DLA, and you don't need to wait for a formal diagnosis to make a claim. However you will need to show that your child needs substantially more care or supervision than other children of the same age who don't have a disability or health condition.
DLA can be claimed from the age of three months or from birth if your child has a terminal illness.
DLA can be paid regardless of whether you are working or not. It isn't means-tested, so it does not matter what income or savings you have. Any decision to award DLA will be based on how your child's condition impacts on their day to day life.
Your child will also have to meet certain rules linked to their immigration status and the length of time they have lived in the UK. If your child hasn't been in the UK for 104 weeks in the last three years, call our free helpline for more advice.
DLA is made up of two components. Depending on their circumstances your child may qualify for one, or for both. The care component can be paid from age 3 months (or from birth if terminally ill). The mobility component can be paid from the age of three years.
If your child needs a lot of extra watching over or help with personal care, they should qualify for the care component of DLA. This is paid at one of three different rates depending on how much extra care your child needs.
The care component is paid at one of the following weekly rates (from April 2019):
- Lowest rate care - £23.20.
- Middle rate care - £58.70.
- Highest rate care - £87.65.
The mobility component is paid to children who need help in getting around. It is paid at one of two rates depending on the nature of the mobility problems.
The lower mobility component can be paid from the age of five. It is for children who need extra guidance or supervision out of doors.
The higher rate of the mobility component can be paid from the age of three. It is for those with severe walking difficulties or those who are deaf blind or severely visually impaired.
There are also specific rules that allow some children with severe learning difficulties or autistic spectrum disorders to qualify for the higher rate of the mobility component. You can find out more in our free parent guide Disability Living Allowance - claiming the higher rate mobility component for children with learning disabilities and Autistic Spectrum Disorders [PDF].
The mobility component weekly rates from April 2019 are:
- Lower rate mobility - £23.20.
- Higher rate mobility - £61.20.
There is a specific form that is used for claiming DLA for a child, called DLA1A Child.
When claiming it is very important to put as much information as you can about your child's needs. Any information provided by a professional involved with your child's care may also help. If a child has a terminal illness a claim can be made under 'special rules'. Call our helpline for more details.
Order a claim form from the DLA Unit by calling 0800 121 4600, or for Northern Ireland call 0800 587 0912.
We have put together some tips and advice on completing the more difficult parts of the DLA1A Child form.
If possible get specialist advice from a welfare benefits adviser or someone else who is familiar with completing the form.
We recommend that you keep a diary for a week before tackling the form. This will be useful for providing evidence of your child's extra needs.
If your child is refused DLA or awarded it at a lower rate than you expected, you may wish to challenge that decision.
Firstly you can ask for a decision to be looked at again. This is known as a 'mandatory reconsideration' request. You must normally ask for this within one month of the date of the decision you are challenging, although late requests will sometimes be accepted.
If you are still not happy with the outcome of the mandatory reconsideration, you can request an appeal. You must do this in writing using an appeal form. You must normally do this within one month of the date on your mandatory reconsideration decision.
You can get more information about asking for an appeal or a mandatory reconsideration from our free helpline.
DLA is not treated taxable and it's not treated as income for other benefits. Instead, getting DLA can help you qualify for extra amounts within means-tested benefits or tax credits you receive or help you qualify for these benefits for the first time. It may also help you qualify for other benefits such as Carer's Allowance.
For example if you are getting Child Tax Credit and your child is awarded DLA (or an existing DLA award is increased to the higher rate care component), make sure you tell the tax credits office within one month of getting the DLA decision. You should get extra tax credits payments backdated in line with the DLA award.
If you're getting Universal Credit instead of Child Tax Credit, make sure that you tell the office paying you Universal Credit about any DLA award or increase to the highest rate care component.
Detailed advice about what other help you might get as a result of a DLA award is available via our free helpline.
Listen to our podcast, 7 reasons to claim DLA
How is Disability Living Allowance (DLA) affected by stays in residential accommodation or hospital?
Payment of the care component of DLA is affected by stays in residential accommodation. Payments are usually suspended if your child spends 28 'linked' days in a residential care home, residential school or residential college. The mobility component continues to be paid. You can find out more information about these rules on pages 49-51 of our free guide to Disability Living Allowance.
DLA also used to be affected by stays in hospital, but the DLA hospital rules have now been scrapped for children aged under 18. So long as your child was under 18 when they entered hospital, they can claim and be paid DLA as normal despite the fact that they are an in-patient.
Read more information about DLA and children in hospital.
- Read our summary factsheet Claiming Disability Living Allowance for children [PDF].
- Read our guide for parents Claiming disability living allowance (DLA) for children [PDF].
- Download our parent guide Disability Living Allowance: claiming the higher rate mobility component for children with learning disabilities and autism spectrum disorders [PDF].
- Sign up to our What's New e-newsletter to receive the latest updates about benefit changes.
- Call our national freephone helpline on 0808 808 3555 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for a free copy of these guides or to talk to one of our parent advisers.
Did you find this advice useful?
This information was written by our invaluable Family Finances Helpline team. Although all our information is free to access, we depend on donations to keep our charity going. If you can, please donate to our Lifeline Appeal to help us continue to fund our helpline team.