What is the DLA?
The Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is a tax free, non means-tested allowance for children or adults who have physical or mental disabilities, and require help with personal care or walking. Claimants must be under 65 years with the minimum age usually being three months. It’s crucial to make a claim as soon as it becomes clear that the benefit may be due, as you must have had the ailment for three months and expect it to continue for a further six months.
Claims are made by completing a lengthy and detailed form. A medical examination is not normally required, as claims are assessed from the information provided on the form. But people notoriously under-assess themselves, and so like many other benefits, it helps if you have some specialist knowledge of how the system works to make a successful claim. Most Citizens Advice Bureaux and many Law Centres have benefits’ experts who provide assistance in completing the forms. And if initial claims are unsuccessful, their help is invaluable when making appeals. As with the law generally, case law has clarified legislation, so it’s these appeals that contribute to the constantly evolving complex area of Social Security law.
The allowance is paid at different rates depending on the nature and severity of the problems. There are two ‘components’ relating to either care or mobility needs, and different levels within each depending on how your disability affects you.
Lowest rate care – if you need help of supervision occasionally or cannot prepare a main meal.
Middle rate care – if you need help or supervision frequently, either during the day or night. Or you need someone with you whilst on dialysis.
Highest rate care – if you need help or supervision continually, both day and night.
Lower rate mobility – if you need guidance or supervision when out.
Higher rate mobility – if you have severe walking difficulties such as being unable or virtually unable to walk; you’re blind and deaf and need someone with you when outdoors; you’re severely mentally impaired with severe behavioural problems; or walking could either threaten your life or seriously affect your health.
You can qualify for either the care or mobility component, or both. It is not necessary to have needs in both categories. Neither is it necessary to actually have help; you simply have to show you need it. Sometimes awards are made for life, but more often they are made for a period of time, after which they are reassessed to see if the condition has improved or worsened. Changes in circumstances like going into hospital or a care home can affect the amount of allowance you receive.
For more information on:
- Extra benefits
- Age and life expectancy
- Residency requirements
- Claims process