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What is Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for children?

DLA is to help pay for the additional costs of your child’s long term health condition or disability. The benefit is split in to two parts, care and mobility or a combination of the two and is paid for your child up to the age of 16 years old.

The mobility component is paid at two levels dependent on your child's mobility needs. The care component is paid at three levels, low, middle and high depending on the additional support your child requires due to their long-term health condition or disability. 

Who is eligible?

DLA is paid for children under the age of 16. The claim can be made by parents, carers or guardians, foster parents and older siblings who have caring responsibilities for the child.

The benefit considers the additional needs of the child compared with where you would expect a child of average health to be developmentally, as well as how their long-term condition or disability affects them.

The mobility component can be paid from the age of three and the care component from when the additional needs of the child become apparent. There are different rules if the child is considered to have a terminal illness.

The claim will come to an end as the child turns 16. They will then be invited to apply for Personal Independence Payment.

DLA is non-means-tested, so parents or guardian’s incomes are disregarded as well as any savings that the child has. The child must also not be under any immigration restrictions.

How to apply

DLA is a benefit that is paid to young people under the age of 16. The application is considered on a paper-based assessment, there is usually no face-to-face medical assessment.

There are two different ways of making an application for DLA you can either download a DLA pack from the gov.uk website or call the DLA Claim Line on 0800 121 4600. If you call the DLA Claim Line you will be sent an application pack to complete. If you return the completed form to DWP within six weeks, and your claim is successful, you will receive a back-dated payment to the date you requested the form.

When completing the application, enclose as much medical evidence of the child’s conditions or disability as you can. This can include a Certificate of Visual Impairment, hospital medical assessments, information from a qualified teacher of children and young people with vision impairment (QTVI) and any other relevant documentation regarding the child’s development, conditions or disability.

Completion of the DLA Form

The form starts by asking you to list the medical conditions that your child has, when they started and any medications or therapy your child receives. Your child must have had these conditions for at least three months and should be expected to last for the next six months. It will also ask you at this point in the form to list any clinicians, education or social care professionals involved in your child’s care.

When completing an application for DLA, take into consideration how your child copes with their long-term condition or disability on a daily basis. Daily basis includes both day and night time and should be compared with where you would expect a child of a similar age with no developmental issues to be.

When completing each question within the form consider how the child’s eye sight, central vision loss and other conditions impact on whether they can complete the task to a good standard and safely, considering their age and the support that they require compared with a child of average health. Try to evidence the task by saying how they complete it, how quickly your child can do it and how does their eye sight impact on their ability to complete the task. Evidence is the key to make a successful claim so consider this when completing the questions in both components.

The care component is paid at three levels, the lowest rate is paid to your child if they are considered to need attention with their bodily functions for a significant part of the day. This can be between one or more periods of the day. For the middle rate your child must need frequent attention or continual supervision throughout the day OR night. To be eligible for the higher rate component they must require frequent attention and/or continual supervision throughout the day AND night.

The mobility component of DLA is paid at two rates, for the low rate your child must be over the age of five. They must need guidance or supervision when walking on unfamiliar routes and they must need substantially more supervision than a child of the same age due to their conditions. For your child to be entitled to the high rate of mobility component they must be at least three and their sight loss means they are unable to go out without supervision when compared with a child of their own age with average sight.

When completing the form try to remember where you were and what you were doing at your child’s age, for example were you going out with your friends to town? Were you making yourself lunch without support from your parents?

To highlight your child’s additional needs, you may wish to consider writing a diary of every time you support your child with a daily task or moving around. Also remember that your child has day-to-day tasks at home, when out of the house and at school. This will help you complete the form and build evidence for the claim.

DLA care component

The care component of DLA considers the ability of your child to complete daily tasks and how these are effected by their central vision loss. The form covers all aspects of daily life, from washing and dressing, reading and social activities. It is possible when completing this form to include sight loss in the majority of the questions.

Remember that central vision loss impacts on a person’s ability to see fine detail or accurately directly in front of them. This means that any task undertaken by your child will be more difficult, will take longer and may impact on how safely they are able to complete the task. As your child grows up, the support that they may need with some of these tasks will increase and some will decrease. However, bear in mind where your child is developmentally compared to a child of a similar age.

There are a number of questions within the care component that will support your child’s claim.

Question 44: Do you have difficulty seeing?

This is the perfect place to evidence how your child’s macular disease impacts on their daily life. Remember to enclose a copy of their Certificate of Visual Impairment (if they have one), as this will have strong medical evidence to support the claim. Explain in this question what your child is able to see and how this impacts on daily tasks. Does their vision change during the day because of how tired they are, weather conditions, lighting in a room, glare from the sun or any other environmental factor? Do their eyes become sore, which reduces further what they can see?

Other things to consider are, does your child use large print or good colour contrast to see effectively? Central vision loss means that fine detail is affected both up close and far away so are they able to see danger in front of them, for example something hot in the kitchen or picking up the correct toiletry in the bathroom. Think about tasks that could be considered simple, like applying toothpaste to a toothbrush. In this question explain where you have recognised that your child’s sight loss is causing difficulties with day-to-day tasks and where you need to give additional support due to this.

Question 47: Do they have difficulty and need help communicating?

This question gives you the opportunity to explain how your child’s sight loss causes difficulties in recognising people. Also consider explaining how, due to not being able to see fine detail well, they are unable to identify facial expressions and body language. This could lead to your child misreading or interpreting a situation. Try to also think of a time where you have helped your child recognise somebody or you have witnessed your child having difficulties keeping up with a conversation in a big group.

The inability of your child to be able to see accurately at distance may lead to them missing out on social activities or walking past a friend. In the form point out how this can impact on your child’s emotional state of mind. Does your child ever feel isolated because of their sight loss? If so, explain how in this question.

Question 49: Do they need to be supervised during the day to keep safe?

Young people living with central vision loss are unable to see accurately in front of them, which can increase risks in daily life. The inability to see danger both in and outside of the home means that children with macular disease may need additional supervision in comparison to their peers with average sight. When completing this question consider where you give your child additional sighted support to keep them safe and list any instances where your child has injured themselves because they were unable to see something that was unsafe.

Question 50: Do they need extra help with their development?

Some of this question will support the evidence that you gave in Question 47. However, it is important to explain the difficulties that your child has due to sight loss, with understanding the world around them, seeing other people and children, and with play. Try to give examples of when you have seen your child having difficulties or appearing isolated from the world around them and how you have given additional support with this. If your child is a little older, has their sight loss reduced how often they are able to mix with other children of their age and their social circle?

Question 51: Do they need encouragement, prompting or physical help at school or nursery?

Explain what support your child needs at school. Speak to the school, before completing this section as they may have put some procedures in place to support your child. Remember, this is not just about academic achievement this is also about socialising with young people of their own age and what supervision they need. It is also worth considering that schools will try to provide a positive learning environment and any report that they give will be very much based on the positives of your child’s school life. When talking to teachers ask about any problems that your child may be experiencing because of their sight loss, include this as evidence within the claim. You can add any documents the school can provide as additional evidence; such as an Educational Health Care Plan.

The questions highlighted above are most relevant to sight loss but each question of the Care Component has elements of sight loss that can be evidenced. Include social activities and hobbies and consider any support that your child needs overnight. 

Overnight does your child require additional supervision or do they need watching overnight. If so, explain what this supervision looks like in the form.

DLA mobility component

The mobility component of DLA is paid at two levels depending on the additional support your child requires when moving around outside. The low rate of the mobility component is paid to children if they need guidance or supervision on unfamiliar routes due to their sight loss. This support is substantially more than what would be expected of a child of a similar age. The child must be at least five years old to qualify for the mobility component.

When completing the form, consider what additional support you give your child to navigate safely around unfamiliar areas. Do you need to make them aware of hazards and obstacles that you would expect a child of their age to understand? For example, to make them aware of the curb at the side of the road, or an upcoming step. Also consider whether or not you are still holding your child’s hand or making a conscious effort to keep them close to you so you can support them with navigating obstacles that you feel they are unable to see. Central vision loss can be effected by reduction and increased light; how does this effect your child’s mobility. Does it make them walk more slowly? Or rely on you more to help them move around? Explain any additional support you give them when crossing roads. Can your child see oncoming traffic, the other side of the road accurately or find a crossing point?

If your child has had mobility training from your local Sensory Support team and been issued any type of white cane, talk about how they use it and also how they feel about using it. Using a white cane can sometimes make children feel different - do they use it appropriately and when they should? The support that your child may require may also increase depending on the weather and the time of day. Explain how your child is able to move around at night and if bad whether reduces how easy it is for them to move around. For example, if it has rained and glare is bouncing off the puddles does this make it more difficult for your child to go outside? Also, if it has snowed can your child see potential obstacles and hazards? Additionally, if it is a very bright day this can potentially overwhelm the central vision, again reducing the ability of your child to see hazards and obstacles.

Young people will start going out on their own and will have strategies in place to help them move around safely with their friends. Be sure to have a conversation with your child about how they move around outside when you are not with them. Do they get help from their friends to cross the road or follow their friend’s movements? Do they ask their friends for help to move around safely or identify any obstacles or hazard on their path? Maybe your child is keeping the truth about their macular disease and vision loss a secret from their friends, and putting themselves at risk when navigating outside of the home? As your child develops and starts going out on their own they will start using public transport, how much support would they need to do this? Ask them to explain how they find the bus stop, read the bus numbers and know when it is time to get off the bus. Do they rely on their friends for help, an app on their phone or ask the bus driver? Do they use any technology to support them when moving around outdoors? If so, what, and how does it support them?

For your child to qualify for the low rate of the mobility component, the examples above should be considered in an unfamiliar area. For the high rate of the mobility component consider these examples in a familiar area. Your child will qualify for the high rate from the age of three if they are registered as 'severely sight impaired' and needs substantially more support with mobility than a child at a similar age.

For your child to be assessed as severely sight impaired for Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) purposes they must be able to see 3/60 or less, or more then 3/60 but less than 6/60 and have a primary loss of peripheral field and have a central field of less than 10 degrees.

How the decision is made

After completing the form and collating any additional evidence, send the application to DWP in the envelope provided. Double check that you have sent as much additional evidence as possible. This evidence could include: certificate of visual impairment, educational assessments and documents from medical professionals.

A DWP decision maker will look at the form and the additional evidence you have provided and make a decision based on these. They will either decide to award both components, just one component or not to award at all. On very rare occasions they will ask an independent external medical practitioner to visit you and your child at home to go through the application, but again this is incredibly rare.

The decision maker will make an award for a period of time based on the evidence in the application. You may need to make renewals of DLA as these periods expire until your child is coming up to 16 years old, where they can then make a claim for Personal Independence Payment.

What do you do if you disagree with the decision?

After receiving your award letter from DWP, read it carefully so you understand the award that has been made and decide whether you agree with the decision. If you do not agree with part or all of the decision you have the opportunity to ask for the decision to be looked at again.

If you do not agree with part or all of the decision contact the DWP DLA Helpline on 0800 121 4600 to request a mandatory reconsideration of your claim. They will ask you in which areas you disagree with the award and if you would like to submit any further evidence to support your claim. This additional evidence can be given either over the phone to the advisor or via a letter. Remember to send any other supporting medical evidence to the DWP so a full reconsideration can be made. Your claim will be looked at again by a different decision maker, however this decision maker may agree with the decision that has already been made or change the award. If they decide to change the award this could be an increase or decrease in the initial decision. A mandatory reconsideration must be formally submitted within 28 days of the initial award. After your claim has been looked at again you will then receive a letter explaining the decision and how that decision was made.

If the decision remains the same or it is reduced, you are now able to appeal the decision at this point. As part of the mandatory reconsideration letter there is a certificate stating that a mandatory reconsideration has been carried out, HM Courts and Tribunals Service need to have this before being able to proceed with an appeal. The Tribunal Service has a submission form which needs to be completed, outlining the areas in which you feel that an incorrect decision has been made and on which you would like to base your appeal.

The Macular Society strongly recommends that you get professional support with mandatory reconsiderations and tribunals. 

DLA can also be paid to adults who have a long-term illness or disability and who are under pension age. To learn more about DLA for adults, see our Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for adults webpage.

Would you like further information on DLA for children?

Contact the Macular Society Helpline on 0300 3030 111 or email help@macularsociety.org

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Disability Living Allowance for adults link arrow

You may be on Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for adults as this is a legacy benefit. New claims for anybody under pension age and older than 16 has been replaced with Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

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Depending on your circumstances, you may be entitled to financial support from the government. Welfare benefits are available to help those living with macular disease, and their families, with extra costs.

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