Caring for a disabled child
Claims for children under 16
This section gives a general overview of the help and support available if you are looking after a child with a disability or long-term health problems.
Many families miss out on this extra help because they do not know they can claim. We always recommend that you contact a local advice agency for a full benefits check and help with claiming. You can find a list of organisations that might help on the ‘help with benefits' page.
Your local social services department also has a legal duty to assess ‘a child in need’, including children who have a disability. This is to establish the child’s needs and what services would best suit these needs. If your child’s special educational needs are being assessed, this should be done at the same time.
Disability living allowance (DLA) is a benefit paid by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to people who have a long-term physical illness or disability, learning difficulties, or mental health problems. From 10 June 2013, only children or young people aged under 16 can make a new claim. If the young person is 16 or over they will needed to claim personal independence payment. DLA is not taxable and is paid on top of any other income and savings the family have.
DLA has two parts: a care component and a mobility component. A child may get both, or just one. There are various rates, depending on how their condition affects them.
You can claim for a child with a physical disability, a learning disability (e.g. ADHD or autistic spectrum disorder) or mental health problems, even if the cause of their problems has not been diagnosed. What counts is how their condition affects their care, mobility and supervision needs. They must have had difficulties for at least 3 months, and they must be expected to last for at least 6 months. There are, however, special rules if a child is terminally ill and not expected to live 6 months.
There are certain residency and immigration rules that must be met in order to claim. There are again special rules if a child is terminally ill and not expected to live 6 months, or if you are claiming for a child aged under 3. You don’t have to be the child’s parent to claim e.g. foster carers can apply for the child they are looking after.
There are two components of DLA – a care component (paid at low rate, middle rate or highest rate) and a mobility component (paid at low rate or high rate).
You can claim the care component for your child at any age. You will need to show that your child needs more looking after than a child or the same age who doesn’t have a disability or health condition.
You can claim the lower rate mobility component from your child’s 5th birthday and the higher rate mobility component can be claimed from your child’s 3rd birthday.
You can find out more about the requirements for each rate and component on the Disability Rights UK website.
Claims can be made by post. You can download a form from the GOV.UK website.
To request a claim form contact the DLA helpline on 0345 712 3456 (Textphone: 0345 722 4433)
When a young person reaches 16, DLA will stop and a claim for personal independence payment will need to be made. See below for more details.
If the child you are looking after gets disability living allowance, then you could get extra child tax credit, housing benefit, council tax benefit or universal credit – or you may qualify for these benefits for the first time. You may also be able to claim extra benefit as a carer; check the carer's allowance section to see if you qualify.
If you are awarded DLA for a child, you should contact an advice agency to get a full benefits check.
Contact a Family give tips on completing the claim form on their website.
At 16, young people can claim benefits in their own right. But if they do, any benefits you get for them will usually stop.
If the young person stays on at school or college, or takes up certain types of training, you may have a choice. Either you can carry on claiming for them as part of your family or they can claim for themselves. In most cases, you will be better off if you continue to claim for them, but everyone’s circumstances are different, so you should get advice to help you decide which option is best for your family. You can find a list of organisations that might help on the ‘help with benefits' page.
Things to note
· Young people aged 16 or over who are making a first claim will need to claim Personal Independent Payment rather than disability living allowance (DLA).
· Young people approaching their 16th birthday who are already getting DLA will have their claim looked at again either under the adult DLA rules or they will need to claim the new personal independence payment (PIP). This will depend on whether the DLA/PIP re-assessment process has started in the area they live in. Check the GOV.UK website to see if this applies. Once the re-assessment process has started in an area, a young person will be invited to claim PIP from their 16th birthday. If the re-assessment process has not started, they can still claim DLA until their award is reviewed, but will have their claim decided using the adult version of the DLA form. The form has a number of differences, including a ‘cooking test’ which only applies to people aged 16 or over.
The DWP should contact you as the young person approaches their 16th birthday to help decide whether they are capable of handling their own affairs and if the DWP can now pay any benefits direct to them.