Missing the disability element of child tax credit – frequently asked questions

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What is the disability element of child tax credit?

The disability element is an extra amount that is added into your child tax credit award. It is worth an extra £68.04 per week for each child in your family who qualifies.

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Who qualifies for the disability element?

You should get a disabled child element included in your child tax credit award for each child who is either registered blind or who is on one of the following benefits – Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Child Disability Payment (Scotland only) or Adult Disability Payment (Scotland only). These are known as qualifying disability benefits.

If a child gets one of these benefits at the highest rate of the care component (or the enhanced rate of the daily living component) you should also get a further £27.44 per week added to your tax credit award – a payment known as the severe disability element of child tax credit.

I have missed out on the disability element of child tax credit for several years. Will the Tax Credit Office pay me arrears?

You are unlikely to get more than one month’s backdating. This is because the regulations say that the disability element should only be backdated to the date that a qualifying disability benefit started where Tax Credit Office are notified within one month of that disability benefit decision. If it takes you more than a month to tell the Tax Credit Office that your child has been awarded a qualifying disability benefit, backdating is normally limited to only one month.

The Tax Credit Office say that the main responsibility for making sure they are notified of your child’s qualifying disability benefit lies with you. If you did not tell them that your child was awarded a qualifying disability benefit within a month they believe they are under no legal responsibility to pay you any further arrears. They take this view even though a system of automatic notification has been set up by the DLA Unit and HMRC to try and ensure that the Tax Credit Office are automatically informed where a child has been awarded DLA or had their award increased to the highest rate for personal care.

Unfortunately over a number of years there have been problems with this system of automatic notification not working consistently and as a result many families have lost out. On at least 3 occasions the DWP and HMRC have carried out data-matching exercises which identified that many thousands of families with a child on DLA were missing out on the disability element in their tax credits. As a result of those exercises the families effected were given limited arrears by way of compensation.

I think I may have missed out on the disability element for my child. What should I do?

If you have not already done so, make sure that you also call the Tax Credit Office to let them know that your child gets a qualifying disability benefit and at what rate. If the Tax Credit Office say that they will limit backdating to one month you should should ask them to backdate further arguing that they should use their discretionary powers to re-open your award in earlier years and pay arrears. You should point out that in previous years, HMRC have paid arrears to other families who missed out as a result of failures in the system of automatic notification and that in the interests of fairness you should also receive arrears to compensate you in a similar way.

HMRC are unlikely to agree to do this so you may need to try and involve your MP and seek the help of a local advice service to help you lodge a complaint.

I get Universal Credit instead of tax credits. Can I get a disabled child element?

Similarly to tax credits if you are awarded a qualifying disability benefit for a child in your family, an additional disabled child addition will be added into your Universal Credit award. However unlike tax credits, the disabled child addition should be backdated in full regardless of whether there was any delay in telling Universal Credit about the award of the disability benefit. Under Universal Credit arrears of the disabled child addition should be automatically backdated either to the date your Universal Credit claim started or the date that the qualifying disability benefit started – whichever is the most recent.

If Universal Credit try to argue that this payment cannot be backdated in full call our freephone helpline.