Tips on completing the DLA form

26 mins read

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

On this page we offer some general top tips on completing the DLA1 child (ALT) form, along with brief explanations of some of the more difficult parts of the form and the kind of information to include.

In this article

Before you start

Please remember that a decision on your child’s claim will be made by someone who has never seen your child. They may have little or no knowledge about your child’s condition.

It is important that you make clear all the extra care and support that your child needs. Don’t assume that the decision maker will already have this understanding.

Our benefits expert Derek gives an overview of what you need to think about before you start completing the DLA1A Child form.

Providing extra information

The latest version of the claim form has fewer text boxes for adding information than previous versions. It largely relies on tick boxes. If you feel that this doesn’t allow you to describe your child’s needs in enough detail, use the extra text boxes on pages 19,34 and 37 to provide more information.

You may also wish to consider attaching extra sheets of paper with additional information in order to capture the complexity of your child’s needs. It can be really useful to provide examples and anecdotes of the types of help that your child needs, rather than simply relying on the tick boxes. This should help ensure that the decision maker has a more detailed and clearer understanding of your child’s needs.

Other things to bear in mind

  • Take your time and don’t try to finish it in one go. The form is long and needs lots of information. Read through it first before putting pen to paper so you have an idea of what’s needed.
  • If possible get specialist advice from a welfare benefits adviser or someone else who is familiar with completing the form. This will increase the likelihood of your child being awarded the right level of DLA. Call our freephone helpline if you would like details of local organisations that can help.
  • Keep a diary for a week before tackling the form. Include details of the amounts and types of care your child needs during the day and night. This will be useful when you fill in the form and can be used as evidence. It will also be a useful aid in helping you think about all the extra help your child needs. It is worth reading the Information Booklet which comes with the form, and try using the ‘daily diary’ sheet at page 28 of the booklet.
  • Cross out mistakes rather than using correcting fluid.
  • Try to use examples and anecdotes to describe your child’s needs wherever possible. Don’t just rely on the tick boxes.
  • Give as much information as possible. You can write outside of the boxes, and there are extra boxes at pages 19, 34 and 37 where you can give more information. You can also attach extra pages of information if you feel this is necessary.
  • If your child has a fluctuating condition use the terms ‘bad days’ and ‘better days’ to describe the changes in their condition. Using terms like ‘good days’ or ‘normal days’ can imply your child needs no extra help on these days.
  • Don’t play down your child’s condition. Include a description of their needs on the bad days as well as on better days, so the decision maker has a clear insight into the full extent of your child’s needs.
  • Say how often your child needs help, rather than how often they get help.
  • Show how your child’s needs are different to those of other children of the same age. Is your child’s level of competence age-appropriate for different tasks? If you have older children, compare their needs at the same age or compare your child’s needs with those of a friend or family member’s child.
  • Ask yourself – have you included enough detail to convince someone who hasn’t met your child? The application will be assessed by someone who hasn’t met your child and who may not be familiar with your child’s condition. If they have a rare condition, you may have information about it you can include to help the decision maker understand more. Contact us for more information on rare conditions.
  • Include supporting evidence with the form if you have it. This can be medical reports, speech and language assessments, psychological reports, and a statement of special educational needs – anything that supports what you’ve said in the form. But don’t delay making a claim if you haven’t got these reports yet, as DLA can’t be backdated and you could lose out. If you write on the form that you’ll be sending further information the decision makers should accept it.
  • Read through the form before you send it. Have you included enough information? Have you answered all the relevant questions? Are your contact details correct? Have you missed anything? Is the professionals’ evidence complete?
  • Keep a copy of the form and any supporting evidence for your records. You might need it if you are unhappy with your award and wish to challenge the decision. It will also help you when the claim is due for renewal or if you want to apply for a different rate later on.

Reward yourself when the form is finished. Filling in the DLA form can be time-consuming. And because you’re concentrating on the things your child can’t do, it can feel stressful and demoralising. But if you get the DLA, it will be worth it in the end.

Question-by-question guidance

Questions 1-37: General information about your child

In this video, our benefits expert Derek talks you through the first 13 pages of the DLA1A Child form.

These questions gather general information about your child. This includes details about their identity, nationality, disability, and details of any medical or health professionals involved in their care. This section also asks you about any stays your child has had in hospital or residential care within the last 12 months.

Question 38: Statement from someone who knows the child

A paid carer, relative or friend, health care professional, social worker or a teacher can fill this in. Ideally, it should be written by a professional with regular involvement in your child’s care. This could be a medical specialist or, if your child’s needs are mainly to do with learning, a specialist teacher.

It is very important to check that the statement is supportive and not harmful to the claim. Copy the blank statement page and give it to the person writing the statement. You can attach it to your claim. If you’re unhappy with what they have said, you can ask them to change it. If they won’t, you can ask another professional to write this part or just leave it blank. 

Question 40: Your child’s illnesses or disabilities

You don’t need to enter a lot of detail here. But make sure you write the name of each condition your child has been diagnosed with, for example, ‘ADHD’ or ‘Down syndrome’.

If your child doesn’t have a diagnosis, or if they have difficulties separate from a diagnosis you’ve already mentioned, put a general description of these too (for example ‘eating and feeding problems’ or ‘behavioural problems’). 

Question 42

If your child’s condition varies, you can still get DLA as long as there is a pattern of substantial care needs or mobility problems. They might have days or weeks when they need less help.

Tick any box that apples to your child, even if it doesn’t apply all the time. You can explain more about any variation in needs in the boxes below each set of tick box questions and at question 65 about “more information”.

It is a good idea to keep a diary over a period of a week or longer if your child’s condition varies a lot.

Use the terms ‘bad days’ and ‘better days’ to describe changes if your child has a fluctuating condition. Using terms like ‘good days’ or ‘normal days’ can imply your child needs no extra help on these days.

Questions 43-53: Mobility

Watch our benefits expert Derek explain how to answer questions 43-53 of the form, which are about how your child moves around.

Help with mobility applies to children whose problems getting around are caused by learning or behavioural conditions, as well as to children with a physical disability.

If your child has physical problems which affect their walking outdoors, you should answer questions 43-48 and question 51.

If your child can walk, it is important to describe how they walk (for example with a limp or shuffle).

List the effects walking has on their condition. This may include fatigue, breathlessness or nausea, or that walking makes their condition worse.

When assessing how far your child can walk, remember that any distance covered after they’ve started to feel severe discomfort is not counted. Ask yourself:

  • Does your child walk more slowly than other children of the same age?
  • Does their manner of walking make it difficult to get along?
  • Do they get uncomfortable or tired after a short distance?
  • Do they fall or stumble a lot?
  • Does the effort of walking seriously affect their health?
  • Does your child regularly refuse to walk and is it difficult to overcome these episodes?

If your child can physically walk without major problems but needs guidance or supervision in places they are unfamiliar with, you should answer questions 49-53.

Think about why your child needs more guidance or supervision than children the same age:

  • does your child have behavioural problems which could lead to danger?
  • do they have a learning or communication problem which means they could get lost or are more vulnerable to danger?
  • does your child have a visual or hearing impairment and need extra help with following directions and avoiding obstacles?
  • does your child’s hearing impairment mean they can’t hear dangers coming from behind?
  • are they likely to stumble or fall without someone’s help?

Even if your child is of an age where no child would be allowed out of doors by themselves, they may still need more guidance or supervision than other children of the same age.

Question 49 asks about unpredictable behaviour and the need for restraint. These questions relate to the higher rate mobility and severe behavioural problems.

If this describes your child’s behaviour, give as much detail as possible about these issues in the box at question 53. Do they get distressed and likely to hit out at you or other people or harm themselves in some way? Do they run away suddenly without attention to dangers like traffic?

Watch this webinar by our family finance advisers Derek and Marian for in-depth advice on applying for the higher rate mobility component on the basis of severe mental impairment (SMI) and behavioural problems.

Question 51

This asks you the date your child first started to have the problems with getting around you have described. Your child must have had mobility problems for at least three months before they can get any payment of the mobility component. An exception to this is made if a child is terminally ill under the special rules.

Question 52

If your child is awarded the higher rate mobility component, you’ll have the option of using that money to lease a car or wheelchair under the Motability scheme. Complete this question if you would like to receive information about the Motability scheme and how it works.

Questions 54-89: Your child’s personal care needs

These sections cover the extra help your child needs with their day-to-day care. Fill them in not only if your child needs physical help or support but also if they need encouragement or verbal prompting, with tasks.

Try to think about how your child’s needs differ from a child of the same age without any disabilities. Make clear if you have to do more to help your child or if things take longer to do.

Question 54: Getting into and out of bed

Explain any discomfort your child experiences because of pain or stiffness when waking up.

They may be physically unable to get out of bed without help. Or they might not have the motivation to get up because of their condition and need lots of reassurance and persuasion to get out of bed. Medication may also affect your child’s sleep and waking up.

Explain if you have to get up straight away in case they do something dangerous or are disruptive.

Think about similar difficulties when going to bed. Your child may still be wide awake when put to bed or refuse to settle.

Explain what help you give them to overcome this, like comfort and reassurance techniques, or medication, or treatments. You should also say how long this takes.

Question 55: Toileting needs

You will need to explain any difficulties during the night at Question 70. As well as writing about what help you give your child to stay clean and manage their continence (washing, bathing, applying creams, changing pads, checking clothing or changing bedding), you also need to give information about any difficulties. These can include:

  • more frequent bowel movements or episodes of wetting
  • any resulting pain or distress
  • constipation
  • problems with transfer to and off the toilet
  • not wiping themselves
  • playing with faeces or missing the toilet
  • problems with undoing zips or buttons
  • taking underwear or clothing on and off
  • prompting and reminding your child to use the toilet and to wash their hands afterwards
  • help with any equipment
  • refusing to use the toilet.

Question 56: Your child’s needs when moving about indoors

Include here a description of the help your child needs getting around inside. For example, your child may have mobility difficulties that mean they:

  • need extra help moving from room to room, or
  • getting on and off chairs and other furniture, or
  • getting up and down internal stairs, or
  • need help transferring in and out of a wheelchair they use indoors, or
  • if they have a visual impairment they might need help to get around safely
  • if your child does not have mobility problems indoors they might need prompting to move around, or reminded which room to go to, or they might need you to go with them.

Question 57: Bathing, showering and hygiene

Washing and bathing includes all issues with personal hygiene.

Your child may need extra help bathing, washing, or showering and they might take longer than other children of the same age. For example:

  • they may need help to stand to wash or shower
  • if they’re sensitive to touch, then brushing teeth or hair may be painful so could take longer
  • you might have to supervise them while they bathe or wash, if for example, they can’t tell the difference between hot and cold, and risk being burnt
  • your child may refuse to get in or out of the bath or may be too tired
  • they may need to wash more often than other children, or you may need to remind and encourage them to wash
  • washing and bathing may be difficult because of dressings, or a line into a vein that needs to be kept dry or sterile
  • or you might need to take off other equipment which makes it more difficult for you to communicate with your child.

Question 58: Getting dressed or undressed

Include things like:

  • help your child needs with fastenings like buttons, zips, buckles and laces which may be painful or problematic for them
  • help they need if reaching to pull items of clothing on or off is difficult
  • if they are uncomfortable with dressing or undressing in front of others because of a physical difference
  • if they are visually impaired or have a learning difficulty, they may need help to choose clothes that are appropriate for the weather, that match, and help to put them on in the right order
  • if your child needs to follow a rigid routine which can make dressing or undressing take longer
  • if your child has a behavioural difficulty and becomes easily distracted and needs lots of persuasion and encouragement to come back to the task.

Question 59: Eating and drinking (including breastfeeding)

Here you should list any problems your child has with sucking, chewing and swallowing, and any equipment like a feeding tube to help overcome those difficulties. For example:

  • does your child have a special diet which needs special and careful preparation?
  • do they have to eat regularly at specific times of the day?
  • does eating cause pain or nausea which discourages them from eating?
  • children with visual impairments may need help to locate and eat food
  • children with learning difficulties, visual impairments or food allergies may need supervising to make sure they don’t eat anything harmful.

Question 60: Your child’s medical and therapy needs


As well as giving details about medicines, include any difficulties your child has receiving them or taking them by themself (forgetfulness, discomfort, distress, side effects). Describe how you help overcome this (encouragement and reassurance, even after medication has been given).

As well as injections and tablets, include information about any eye drops, creams, dressings and enemas your child needs.


Include details of any physiotherapy, speech therapy, hydrotherapy, play therapy, counselling and behavioural therapy. Include any exercises you have to do at home.

Therapy also means help with any medical equipment. This includes nebulisers, monitoring equipment, meters, needles for injections or blood tests, thermometers, tube feeding, catheters and breathing equipment.

List any difficulties with using equipment, help you give to your child and the length of time it takes. Include time spent on preparing and cleaning equipment.

Question 61: Difficulties with seeing

This section gathers information about the extent of any visual impairment your child has.

As well as filling in this section, it’s important to make sure you also explain how your child’s visual impairment impacts on any of the specific areas covered in the other parts of the form.

For example, a child with a visual impairment may need help with dressing, with washing, teeth brushing and looking after their appearance, help at mealtimes and help to get around safely both indoors and outside.

Young children with a visual impairment may also need more help in learning through play.

If a child can’t see everyday objects, they are less likely to become spontaneously curious about things around them. As a result, you may need to spend much more time actively introducing objects through touch or verbal description. This should be taken into account as extra care and support.

School-age children may require help with reading, not only school books and texts but also from boards and projectors. They may need help in describing graphs, pictures, charts or scientific experiments.

They may also need guidance and supervision, not only to get to and from school but also to get around the school and playground, and to take part in physical education (PE).

If your child has a certificate of visual impairment you should send a copy of this along with the form.

It is important to say what help your child needs because of problems with vision or hearing. You may have to spend more time explaining everyday things such as what is happening on the television. 

Question 62: Difficulties with hearing

This section is to find out the extent of your child’s hearing impairment.

As well as completing the questions on the form, it is important to explain help your child needs because of hearing loss. You may be able to explain their need for extra help or supervision throughout the rest of the form.

Perhaps it takes longer for your child to receive instructions about how to carry out certain activities. You may have to spend more time explaining everyday things such as what is happening on the television, or bringing to their attention certain sounds such as traffic, alarms or announcements.

Things to consider might be your child’s need for extra supervision because they can’t hear danger approaching. They may become upset easily as they don’t get a warning of when things happen.

You might have to make more effort to get their attention so that you can speak to them face to face. They may need help with hearing aids – taking them off, putting them on and adjusting them.

Include any evidence from a specialist which shows the extent of your child’s hearing loss.

If your child needs help to communicate with other people fill in questions 46-47.

Questions 63-64: Speaking and communicating with people

A child may be unwilling to communicate because they have a limited understanding of their environment, or only choose to talk about things they feel are relevant to them and are comfortable with. Your child may become angry or frustrated trying to communicate. For example:

  • a child with hearing loss may only be able to communicate with people who sign, or may be able to lip read, but only people they know well
  • a child with a learning difficulty may also depend on a form of non-verbal communication but find this difficult with people they don’t know
  • they may have difficulties understanding facial expressions and body language.

Write down the different ways your child is helped with communication and what would happen without this help.

Question 65: Blackouts, fits and seizures

This applies if your child has symptoms like fits, convulsions, fainting, dizziness, loss of consciousness, or asthma attacks.

Explain when these attacks happen, how often, and if there are any warning signs beforehand. What happens during and after an attack?

For example:

  • is your child incontinent?
  • do they injure themselves?
  • do you need to clean up after them, change bedding, clothing, and attend to injuries? How long does this take?
  • are they left feeling dizzy, exhausted, or aggressive and take a long time to fully recover? How long do they need to rest or need reassurance?

Remember – if your child has attacks and needs someone to keep an eye on them all the time, write this here.

Question 66: Supervision your child needs during the day

This section looks at whether your child needs someone to watch over them during the day to make sure that they are safe and to ensure that they are not a risk to themselves or to others.

All young children, whether disabled or not, routinely require supervision. So the younger your child is, the more important it is for you to say how the supervision they need is greater, or different, to another child of their age.

Think about what could happen to your child without regular or frequent supervision. For example:

  • a child with poor coordination may fall and hurt themselves
  • children with hearing or sight difficulties may not be able to hear or see dangers
  • a child may have seizures, asthma attacks or breathing problems, particularly if they over-exert themselves or become excitable and no-one’s there to stop and calm them
  • eating the wrong food or drinking the wrong amount of liquid may have serious consequences
  • your child may be prone to dribbling, or there are other bodily fluids you need to check to make sure they are constantly dry to avoid sores and other complications
  • a child with behavioural problems may harm themselves or another person.

Question 67: Help with development

This section includes help that your child needs to interact with and make sense of the world around them.

For example, your child may find it difficult to interact or play with others. This may be due to problems with understanding or communication.

They may need to spend time on their own because their behaviour becomes aggressive or inappropriate. This may affect your child’s development through play. They may need help to play with other children and in how they should behave.

Any physical difficulties can also make it harder for children to play because of difficulties with coordination or manipulation. A visually-impaired child may need more attention than others.

Specially adapted toys or tactile toys don’t necessarily mean difficulties with play are resolved, because your child might need help finding or manipulating the toy, otherwise they’ll become frustrated. They might need help maintaining their interest which means you need to give them extra attention. Or you may need to supervise to prevent harm to your child or other children.

Question 68: Encouragement, prompting or physical help at school or nursery

This section gathers information about any extra support, care or supervision your child needs at school or nursery.

This can include any extra support to help them learn, but also any extra help they need to manage behaviour, get around the school or nursery safely or to mix with other children in the playground. You should also think about whether they need help at school with things like using the toilet, taking medication or having their lunch.

If your child has a statement of special educational need, Individual Behaviour Plan, Education, Health and Care plan, or in Scotland a co-ordinated support plan the claim form asks you to send these (see page 6 of claim form). However, if you feel that your child’s statement or plan does not fully reflect all of their needs it is important that you make this clear somewhere on the claim form and highlight any other needs not identified in the school or nursery report.

If you feel that the school report misrepresents your child’s needs you may choose not to submit it at all. Call our freephone helpline for further advice.

Question 69: Help with hobbies and social activities

Include here details of any help your child needs when they go out during the day or night for social and leisure activities, and any support needed for hobbies.

This includes visits to the park, clubs, sport activities, going to the cinema, swimming, visiting relatives, drawing, playing on the computer, and watching television. These are just some examples and you should include any interests that your child has and what help they need.

If there are activities your child would like to do if only they had extra help, then list the additional support that would be needed to allow this.

Question 70: Any help your child needs during the night

Our benefits expert Derek explains how to complete Q62 of the DLA1A Child form on night-time needs.

Complete this section if you have to get up in the night to help with your child’s care needs.

Night-time is the time between when you go to bed until you get up. If you stay up later than you want to because your child does not settle in bed, or if you get up very early, these times also count as night-time.

These are just some examples of night-time needs:

  • some children require physical help to get back into bed after falling out, or to turn over during the night
  • re-arranging bedclothes if they become tangled or fall off
  • your child may have problems with continence or night sweats and you need to change the bedding and to deal with any wetting or soiling
  • your child may need help with medication or equipment at night, such as an inhaler or nebuliser, or feeding tube.

Use this section to say if you need to get up at night to give comfort to your child because they wake up upset and agitated, if they have a disturbed sleep pattern and can’t settle or if they get up and wander.

Question 71

This asks you the date that your child first started to have the care needs that you have described.

Normally your child must have needed extra care or supervision for at least three months before they can receive any payments of the care component. An exception to this is made where a child is terminally ill and claiming under the special rules – see page 2.

Questions 53, 72 and 89: Extra information and details of any attached additional documents to support your claim

You may wish to use the space provided to explain more about your child’s condition and how it affects them. For example, how their condition might vary, or how their mental health is affected by their condition.

Any document, letter or statement can be sent with the claim but it is very important to check that any evidence you send accurately describes your child’s needs. If it doesn’t then this may harm your claim.

Evidence can include information from a health professional involved with your child’s care, like a GP, nurse, paediatrician, speech and language therapist, or occupational therapist. Call the Contact a Family freephone helpline for more information.

Giving detailed medical information may lead to a quicker decision and reduce the chances of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) arranging for more reports on your child’s condition (see section on page 6 of the form, ‘Do you have any reports, letters or assessments about the child’s illnesses or disabilities?’).

Evidence of your child’s special educational needs can also be attached (but see Question 51).

You can ask friends, carers or relatives to give supporting evidence.

A diary of the past week giving an account of your child’s difficulties, the help you gave and how long it took each time can be very helpful.

If you’re nearing the six week deadline, you should send the completed form off without waiting for additional evidence. Attach a letter saying you will send more evidence and when they can expect it.

If further medical information is needed for your claim

Your claim will be assessed by a ‘decision maker.’ If they’re still unclear about how your child’s condition affects their care and mobility needs, they can arrange for a DWP approved doctor to visit you to examine them and prepare a medical report. This can lead to delays.

If you feel the claim is taking too long, then you can make a complaint to the customer services manager at the office dealing with your claim.

Mental Health

There are no specific questions in the form about your child’s mental health.

Children with disabilities, coping with their condition, can feel frustrated, isolated and upset at times. These can be described as mental health difficulties.

This could apply if your child is withdrawn, anxious or depressed, behaves aggressively or gets angry and is uncooperative. They might act impulsively, have nightmares, or have difficulty coping with routine changes.

You may have been able to fit this into your answers to some of the other questions but if not, then it is important to give more details at Question 72 ‘More Information’, or as an attached sheet.

Say what the difficulties are that your child experiences and also what help you give to overcome or minimise their effects. You might include:

  • providing encouragement, motivation and reassurance
  • techniques to manage any difficult behaviour like taking ‘time out’
  • monitoring your child’s mood
  • helping them to plan their day and to help them to deal with their feelings.

Related information