Payment of DLA for a child in hospital

4 mins read

This advice applies in England, Northern Ireland and Wales. Read about Child Disability Payment in Scotland.

The rules for claiming Disability Living Allowance (DLA), and some other benefits, for children in hospital and residential settings.

In this article

What are the current rules?

So long as your child is under 18 when they become an inpatient, DLA or PIP can continue in hospital.

It does not matter how long they are in hospital for. You do not have to prove how much care you provide while in hospital. It doesn’t matter what extra costs you incur. All children under 18 are exempt from the rules restricting payments in hospital.

If your child first claims DLA or PIP when in hospital, payments can start regardless of their being an inpatient. You do not need to wait until they return home for payments to begin. This is the case so long as they were under 18 when their period as an inpatient started.  

When a child on DLA turns 16, they normally need to claim PIP instead. However, if your child is in hospital when they turn 16, their DLA payments should continue temporarily. They will not be invited to claim PIP until they have left hospital.

What were the previous DLA hospital rules for children?

Previously, once a child had been a hospital inpatient for 84 days (28 days if 16 or over), their DLA payments stopped.

In addition, where a child first made a claim for DLA when they were in hospital, they had to wait until they returned home before those payments could start. Similar rules applied to PIP.

The government has scrapped these restrictions for children under 18.

Why did the government scrap the DLA hospital rules for children?

In July 2015, the Supreme Court found that the DLA hospital rules breached the human rights of a severely disabled child called Cameron Mathieson.

Following the Mathieson decision, the government introduced an interim policy of not suspending DLA or PIP payments for a child in hospital. That interim policy has now become law. This follows changes to regulations introduced on 29 June 2016 in England, Wales and Scotland and on 6 July 2016 in Northern Ireland.  

What about young people who are 18 or above?

The hospital rules remain for young people and adults aged 18 or over. If your child is 18 or over on the date their period as a hospital inpatient starts, their DLA or PIP payments will stop once they have spent 28 days in hospital.

If someone is 18 or over and first claims PIP when they are a hospital inpatient (and they do not already get DLA), they will need to wait until they return home before their PIP payments can start.

Young people who turn 18 whilst in hospital are not affected by the DLA/PIP hospital rules. This is because you are exempt so long as you were under 18 when your period in hospital first started. 

What about children who are in residential accommodation?

Payments of the care component of DLA or the daily living component of PIP continue to be affected by stays in residential accommodation, where these costs are being met from public funds. This applies to children as well as to adults in residential accommodation.

See our guide to Benefits if your child is in residential accommodation for more details of these rules. 

Call our free helpline for advice if your child is in residential care, but the costs of this are being fully met by the NHS rather than by your local authority.

What about payment of other benefits when a child is in hospital?

Long stays in hospital can affect other benefits.

Universal Credit payments for a dependent child stop if they are away from home for six months or more. This includes stays in hospital.

If your child is likely to be in hospital for more than 52 weeks, then depending on your income, this may affect the amount of housing benefit you receive.

If you get Carer’s Allowance for a child under 18, this should not be affected, so long as you continue to provide at least 35 hours of care a week to them while they are in hospital. If you stop providing 35 hours’ care, Carer’s Allowance can continue for a temporary period, up to 12 weeks. This period might be shorter if you have already had other breaks from providing that level of care in the previous 26 weeks.