DLA has two components, care and mobility. Your child may qualify for either or both.
To qualify for the care component, you need to show that your child needs more care than a non-disabled child of the same age. There are three levels of the care component. For the lowest level care component, you need to show that your child requires extra help for at least an hour a day. The hour can comprise many short bursts of help and can include watching over the child, if, for example, they don’t understand danger, as well as active help. The middle level requires you to show that your child needs prolonged extra care, day or night. For the highest level you need to show that your child needs the help day and night. It is a good idea to keep a diary for two to three weeks of the extra help your child requires. All very young children need a lot of care, so the only children who qualify for the care component under the age of three or so years when children start doing things for themselves are often those with high medical needs, very challenging behaviour etc.
Except in exceptional cases, children are not eligible for mobility component under three years old. There are two levels of mobility component. The higher level is for children who can’t, or virtually can’t, walk or are blind. The lower level is for children who need extra guidance when out.
Completing the Form
Answer every question fully. Do not assume that the decision maker will use information from questions you’ve already answered. They score each question separately. It doesn’t matter if you can’t provide a formal diagnosis. What is important is describing the extra help your child needs. Use examples you have noted down. If your child’s condition fluctuates, try to describe their average needs, possibly using terms such as ‘worse’ days and ‘better’ (not ‘good’) days. You may have to put to one side your usual positive attitude and concentrate on the support you have to give your child, stressing that you need to help your child more than you would a non-disabled child of the same age. Help can include extra reminders and encouragement when necessary and watching over the child if they require it, as well as the obvious sort of help such as help with washing, dressing and eating. Keep a copy of the form and a record of the date you post it. If you are not successful, you can ask for a mandatory reconsideration. If you need to appeal against a refusal it is advisable to get advice from an advice service or law centre.
Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
Disabled people aged 16 and over can no longer apply for DLA. You need to apply for PIP. (New applicants over 65 need to apply for Attendance Allowance.) PIP is also intended to contribute to the extra costs of living with a disability. The criteria are more stringent than for DLA. Some people who qualified for DLA do not qualify for PIP. Like DLA, it doesn’t matter what income/savings you have or whether you can work or not. You do not have to pay tax on PIP.
You usually have to attend for an assessment where you are scored on a set list of activities. If you get sufficient points you can qualify for the lower or higher daily living component and/or lower or higher mobility component.
Disabled Students Allowance (DSA)
In England, if you are on a higher education course and you need more help than the college can be expected to provide as ‘reasonable adjustments’, whether you need equipment, travel or non-medical human assistance, you can apply for DSA. DSA is not affected by any savings or income and does not have to be paid back. Seek advice from the disability officers of colleges you are applying to and see www.gov.uk. Scotland www.saas.gov.uk , Wales www.studentfinancewales.co.uk and Northern Ireland www.nidirect.gov.uk have similar schemes. Visit their websites. Factsheet at www.disabilityrightsuk.org