What is Disability Living Allowance (DLA)?
DLA is a benefit available to children under the age of 16. It pays from £26.90 to £172.75 a week (2023-24 rates) and is dependent on the level of care and support the child needs. It is not means tested, which means you can claim regardless of what your income is. You don't need diagnoses to claim DLA, it's based on your child's needs (but obviously the more evidence you have the more it will help your claim). Basically if your child requires more care than a child of their age typically would due to a medical or developmental condition etc, then you may well be entitled to claim DLA.
DLA is divided into two components, one based on the level of care the child needs (Care Component) and the other on the mobility needs of the child (Mobility Component). The mobility component is only available to children aged 3 and over (ages 3 to 4 can only be awarded if they meet the criteria for the high rate). For those aged under 3 with the highest needs, you can apply for a discretionary grant from the Family Fund Motability Scheme to lease a vehicle through the Motability scheme: https://www.familyfund.org.uk/mobilitysupport
DLA Website: https://www.gov.uk/disability-living-allowance-children
Eligibility criteria can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/disability-living-allowance-children/eligibility
Claims Form and Guidance notes: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/disability-living-allowance-for-children-claim-form
In Scotland you get a Child Disability Payment instead of DLA, but it's much the same thing: https://www.mygov.scot/child-disability-payment
Things To Consider When Applying
The application form is fairly long (39 pages), this can be quite off putting but it's worth putting the effort into it, not only will your DLA award depend on it, but a successful DLA award could also result in you being entitled to carers allowance too. It can take several months for DLA applications to be processed, but any award you receive should be back dated to the date they received your application and you will initially receive a lump sum payment for this period.
It's important that you understand the criteria fully and include as much information and supporting evidence in your application as you can. It's also a good idea to use the DLA's own wording regarding eligibility as much as possible when completing the application. (I'd also recommend keeping a copy of your completed application so you've got this to refer to should you need to challenge their decision).
If you want to look at how your application will be assessed in more detail then it's worth having a look at the Decision Makers Guide (DMG Chapter 61), which is the document that sets out how the person who looks at your application should make their decisions:
And it's also worth looking at your child's condition in “Medical Guidance for DLA and AA Decision Makers (child cases): Staff Guide”:
If any part of your claim is going to based on your child having a brain condition (eg Autism, developmental delay etc) I would highly recommend reading this guide from Cerebra before you fill in your application.
The Contact.org.uk website is also very good and they publish two really useful information sheets:
Reaching Families publish a fact sheet "Tips for claiming DLA"
There are a number of Facebook groups dedicated to people who are applying for DLA, they can be an excellent place to ask questions or to just see what other people are going through or suggesting:
DLA for children, advice and support: https://www.facebook.com/groups/518450451568106/
Autism and DLA: https://www.facebook.com/groups/205389466286243/
Lowest Rate Care - is awarded to those who are "so severely disabled physically or mentally that... they need attention from another person for a significant portion of the day in connection with their bodily functions (whether during one period or a number of periods)".
In short, to qualify for the Middle Rate Care Component your child must require a substantial amount of extra care / attention during the day OR night, while to qualify for the Highest Rate Care Component they must require a substantial amount of extra care / attention during both the day AND night. See below for the exact wording of this:
For Middle Rate and Highest Rate Care you must consider what are referred to as "The Day Condition" and "The Night Condition". For Middle Rate Care you must satisfy either the Day OR Night Condition, for Highest Rate Care you must satisfy both the Day AND Night Condition
"The day condition is satisfied if a person is so severely disabled physically or mentally that, they require from another person
1. frequent attention throughout the day in connection with bodily functions or
2. continual supervision throughout the day in order to avoid substantial danger to themselves or
"The night condition is satisfied if a person is so severely disabled physically or mentally that, at night they require
1. prolonged or repeated attention in connection with bodily functions from another person or
2. another person to be awake for a prolonged period or at frequent intervals for the purpose of watching over them in order to avoid substantial danger to themselves or others".
High Rate Mobility (HRM)
If your child qualifies for the higher rate mobility component (if they “cannot walk, can only walk a short distance without severe discomfort, could become very ill if they try to walk or they’re blind or severely sight impaired”), this not only entitles you to larger benefit payments, but it also comes with several other benefits. You can choose to use your mobility element to lease a car through the Motability scheme (you lease a brand new vehicle, the lease of which includes road tax, insurance, break down cover, servicing and maintenance - all you have to pay for is the fuel or electricity to run the vehiucle). You will automatically be entitled to a Disabled Blue Badge for your child, which in addition to allowing you to park in disabled parking bays can also entitle you to free parking in some carparks, exemption from some congestion charges and discounts on things like ferries. You can also apply for exemption from road tax on the car you'll be using to transport your child in.
High Rate Mobility - Virtually Unable To Walk (VUW) & Severe Mental Impairment (SMI) Criteria
High Rate Mobility (HRM) Component (which is the only mobility rate you can be awarded for children under 5 years of age) is available to some children that can walk if they meet certain criteria, but these are notoriously hard to prove. On the DLA's Eligibility Website it says you are only entitled to High Rate Mobility if your child “cannot walk, can only walk a short distance without severe discomfort, could become very ill if they try to walk or they’re blind or severely sight impaired”. However, if you look into it in more detail, you should also be entitled to High Rate Mobility “If your child has severe behavioural problems and a severe mental impairment (SMI), or regularly refuses to walk due to a neurological condition (VUW)”. The guides I've linked to above are a good starting point when applying for HRM, but there is quite a bit more to the criteria than they detail, so please look at our detailed guides to applying under VUW and SMI criteria to give yourself the best chance of being successful. (These guides are very detailed and may seem quite daunting, but these criteria are very difficult to successfully claim under without putting a lot of preparation and effort into your claim).
Send Help UK HRM - Severely Mentally Impaired With Severe Behavioural Problems (SMI)
Send Help UK HRM - Virtually Unable to Walk (VUW)
Contact publish a short fact sheet about applying for HRM for children with learning disabilities and Autism
What If I'm Not Successful With My Application?
If you're not awarded what you believe you should be entitled to, in the first instance you can ask for Mandatory Reconsideration of your case,
where your application will be looked at again (you must request this within one month of the date on your decision letter) and you can submit further supporting evidence. If your Mandatory Reconsideration is unsuccessful, you are then able to formally appeal to the Social Security and Child Support Tribunal. You will get a chance to attend your tribunal in person and to present your evidence. Your case will be heard and decided by an independent judge.
It can be a very long process getting through the initial application, then the Mandatory Reconsideration and then having to wait for a Tribunal (after you request a tribunal it can take 6 months or more to get a tribunal date), so the whole process can take over a year - it's almost as if it's designed to put you off and make you give up! But many find they are eventually successful if they go as far as Tribunal.
Length Of Award
Awards are normally made to a certain age, not for a specific period of time. This is based on the condition that is causing the extra care needs and the child's age at the time of the claim. Details can be found in a document called "Medical guidance for DLA and AA decision makers" available here
Each condition has a table detailing the length of the award based on the child’s age when applying and if appropriate, the severity of the condition. In general, award lengths are supposed to be based on these tables. The table relevant to claims based on Autism is shown below as an example.