Allow Frank to guide you through this difficult decision, you are not alone!
So you are contemplating applying for DLA – Disability Living Allowance. That is quite a big decision. Former Reach Trustee and active disability rights campaigner Frank Letch has a wealth of experience in handling DLA applications. Here is some of his advice:
The weekly benefit is definitely worth having from a financial perspective, but many parents do not claim on behalf of their child because there is a clear dilemma. If you claim, your child is drawn into the system, and you are highlighting the fact that you consider your child has a disability.
You might feel that you will be putting your child through a process that will accentuate psychological and social problems that did not previously exist. This will be particularly relevant if you have to go before a tribunal. I would advise parents to look at all the issues, be prepared to be turned down and be ready for a long campaign.
Disability Living Allowance is a social security benefit for people who need help with personal care or who have problems of mobility. It is not means-tested or taxable and the care component is granted at three rates, low, medium and high. The mobility just low and high.
You can apply for DLA from your child’s birth until they are 16. Over 16 year olds need to make a fresh application for personal independence payment – PIP.
For DLA, ask your local Social Security Office for booklet DS706 Disability Living Allowance for Children, call the Government free Helpline for families of children with disabilities on 0800 808 3555, or go to https://www.gov.uk/help-for-disabled-child
Decision made: you are going for it. Take a deep breath.
The application pack is long and daunting. Fill it in carefully giving as much information as possible. Do not underestimate the things your child cannot do unaided and think about what help they need.
To qualify for DLA your child must need care, supervision or watching over by another person because of their disability. Your child’s needs must be substantially in excess of the normal requirements of a child of similar age or it must receive substantial care, attention and supervision that a child of the same age would not.
The wording is important. Supervision means a passive state, being there ready to intervene.
Attention is active intervention and rates highly in care needs. Attention is the active help that your child needs because of their disability to do such everyday things as eating/drinking, toileting, dressing, undressing, washing and help with medication or putting on a prosthesis or help with physiotherapy.
Send the completed form to your regional Disability Benefits Centre where your claim will be assessed by an Adjudication Officer who is not a doctor. To help them reach their decision the AO uses a guide called the Disability Handbook but the officer may call on your GP or another doctor for a report.
After a few weeks you will receive the AO’s decision which will give you the rate awarded, length of the award or a rejection.
If you are unhappy you have three months to ask for a review from the Disability Centre that first handled your initial claim.
This review will be carried out by another Adjudication Officer and will not necessarily come to the same decision. If you are still unhappy you can appeal a second time within three months. This time the appeal will go to a Disability Appeal Tribunal which is an independent body.
The Benefits Agency will have a representative there. You will be required to attend and Frank strongly advises that you seek the help of a trained adviser to attend with you. They will be better able to put your initial objections to the previous decision and their very presence may give you confidence. You can ask to see your case papers and if your claim has reached the tribunal stage you should definitely do so, as they may well help you to direct your line of appeal to the tribunal.
If the tribunal rejects your claim you do have recourse to a further appeal to a commissioner but you can only appeal on a point of law so the independent tribunal is really the end of the road. However but you can submit a fresh claim later if you think your child’s circumstances have changed.
– Make sure that you specify that your child is disabled.– Fill in the application as carefully as possible.
– Include supporting evidence from doctors, schools etc. This carries a lot of clout!
– Compare your child very carefully with their two handed peers so that you can accurately describe where your child needs extra help.
– Don’t exaggerate. If the claim goes to tribunal you will be caught out so at all times tell the truth.
– Seek advice from Citizens Advice or from Reach via Frank Letch.
– Don’t give up!
Frank Letch has campaigned for a fair deal on behalf of people with disabilities for decades. His major complaint with DLA has always been about chronic inconsistency in the granting of the allowance.
Before applying, gather together as many experts as possible to support your claim. Contact the nearest Citizens Advice, ask your limb fitting centre to put you in touch with the unit’s disability welfare officer. Seek out your local Welfare Rights Adviser. Get a copy of the Disability Rights Handbook and the Guide to Disability Living Allowance. If in doubt, contact Reach or Frank Letch direct at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reach member Hannah Palin has just gone through the process and highly recommends the charity Contact, who were really helpful when she was applying for her son. https://contact.org.uk/
Read the entire Within Reach here: https://reach.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Within-Reach-Summer-2020.pdf
Watch Franks story here: