Disability Living Allowance for children

This page sets out the rules for making a new claim for Disability Living Allowance (DLA). Since June 2013 new DLA claims can only be made for children under 16. Those aged 16 and above should claim Personal Independence Payment (PIP), or Attendance Allowance if you are of a pension age.

If you are over 16, or already in receipt of DLA and want to know more about the changes see the Personal Independence Payment and the Attendance Allowance pages.

What is Disability Allowance (DLA)?

Disability Living Allowance can be paid if your child has care or mobility needs. It is made up of two components: care and mobility. Your child may get one or both of these components, depending on their circumstances.

DLA is not means tested, so it does not matter what income or capital you have. DLA is also tax free. 

How much is Disability Living Allowance (DLA)?

If your child is awarded the care component, they will be awarded one of the following rates:

Lower rate: £21.80
Middle rate: £55.10
Higher rate: £82.30

The mobility component is paid at two rates:

Lower rate: £21.80
Higher rate: £57.45

Care needs

To be awarded the care component of DLA, your child has to need substantially more care and attention than other children of the same age due to their disability. Your child will have care needs if they need substantially more care and attention than other children of the same age in relation to ‘bodily functions’, for example:

  • Eating
  • Washing
  • Getting dressed
  • Going to the toilet
  • Speaking
  • Seeing
  • Hearing

If your child has care needs due to sensory impairments, this is included in the definition of ‘bodily functions’.

The lowest rate care component can be paid if your child needs help with personal care for a significant portion of the day. In practice, this means for at least an hour on most days.

The middle rate care component is paid if your child has either ‘day time’ or ‘night time’ needs. Daytime needs means:

  • Frequent help with personal care in connection with their bodily functions (this means several times), or
  • Continual supervision throughout the day to avoid substantial danger to themselves or others (continual means frequent or regular, but does not have to be constant)

Night time needs means that during the night, your child needs:

  • Prolonged  help with their personal care (at least 20 minutes), or
  • Repeated help with personal care (at least twice)
  • To avoid danger to themselves, or others, another person needs to be awake and watching over them for either a prolonged period or at frequent intervals (this means more than twice)

The highest rate care component is paid if your child has day time and night time care needs, or if they are terminally ill and qualify under the ‘special rules’. 

Mobility needs

Your child has mobility needs if they need help getting around. This may apply if your child is sight or hearing impaired. It can also include difficulties with walking, severe learning difficulties or severe behavioural problems.

The higher rate mobility component can be paid from age three years. If your child is unable to walk or ‘virtually unable to walk’ they may be awarded the higher rate. Things that are taken into account when assessing this are:

  • The speed at which your child walks
  • The length of time it takes your child to walk
  • The manner in which your child walks
  • The distance your child can walk before they start to experience severe discomfort

The higher rate mobility component can also be awarded for children who:

  • Are blind and profoundly deaf, or
  •  Severely visually impaired (with a best corrected visual acuity of less than 3/60, or between 3/60 – 6/60 with a complete loss of visual field and a central visual field of no more than 10 degrees), or
  • Whose health would deteriorate with the exertion of walking, or
  • Who have severe mental impairments, or
  • Who have no legs or feet

The lower rate mobility component can be paid from age five. It is for children who can walk but need somebody to guide or supervise them. The test is whether they need guidance or supervision in unfamiliar places,  so your child may still qualify if they can get around places they know well.

Guidance and supervision may be required for children who are deafblind or with sight or hearing impairments.

The help your child needs with supervision and guidance must be greater than that for a child of the same age without a disability.

How to claim

In England, Scotland and Wales you can make a claim online at the Gov.UK website. If you live in Northern Ireland, visit www.nidirect.gov.uk.

You can also phone the DLA Helpline on 0345 712 3456 or textphone 0345 722 4433 to request a form.

Forms are also available from your local benefits office.

What should I include in my claim?

You should include as much information as possible that is relevant to both the mobility and care components described above. Try to use the same language as the tests for the components – for example, if your child appears to meet the criteria for the middle rate mobility component, for example, you could say:

‘Tom requires frequent help with his personal care in relation to speaking and communicating’

You should then elaborate on what help they need, how often and examples of when this happens, for example, you can give examples if your child could not communicate with strangers if lost, or if they cannot hear dangers coming from behind. Even if your child can communicate well via methods such as lipreading, you can still claim if your child needs additional help to communicate, such as needing background noise to be reduced (e.g. turning off the TV, radio, etc).

As needs will be assessed in relation ofto children of the same age group due to their disability, it is important to include details if your child needs additional help to achieve development skills such as walking unaided (usually expected by 10 – 16 months) and removing easy clothing (usually expected by 14 -24 months).

It is helpful to enclose any medical reports, doctor’s letters or other specialist documentation you already have to support your claim. If you do not have any, always provide the full details of all specialists that your child is seeing as the Department for Work and Pensions can contact the specialists. There is space on the claim form to do this. If there is not enough space for all of them, you can include separate pieces of paper with your claim form, remembering to write your child’s name on the top.

Problems with Disability Living Allowance

If you make a claim and it is refused, or if you are awarded a certain amount of DLA but think this is the wrong amount, seek advice as soon as possible. You must ask the Department for Work and Pensions to reconsider their decision or before you can appeal. You must do this within one month of the date of the decision. You can do it in writing or over the phone but it is advisable to write so that there is a record of your request. If you are unhappy with the mandatory reconsideration decision then you can appeal the decision. You have one month from the date of the mandatory reconsideration decision to appeal the decision. This must be done in writing. There is usually a one month deadline from the date of the decision to appeal.

If your child is awarded the middle or higher rate of the care component you may be eligible to claim Carers Allowance.

For help and advice, contact the Sense Information and Advice Service.

First published: Thursday 27 February 2014
Updated: Friday 25 November 2016