Disability Living Allowance
Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is a benefit that can be paid if you need help with care or mobility. It helps you to meet the extra costs of living with a disability, and is split into two parts: a mobility component and a care component.
You can claim DLA for yourself, or for your child, if you are under 65 years of age and can prove that you have had care or mobility needs for at least three months and will have them for at least six months.
DLA is not means-tested and is tax free. Claiming DLA does not affect any other benefits you might be getting and it is paid on top of earnings and income. There is no lower age limit for the care component and anyone over the age of three can claim for the mobility component.
DLA is awarded either indefinitely or for a fixed time period. If you have been awarded either component for a fixed time period, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will contact you before your application expires. When renewing your DLA, you cannot presume that the Benefits Office has any prior knowledge of your condition or your needs. So when applying for a renewal, go into as much detail as you did initially.
How can I get DLA?
You have to fill in a claim form to apply. You can get these by calling the Benefits Enquiry Line on 0800 88 22 00.
The claim form you fill in asks different questions about your need for help when completing different tasks. You will need to satisfy the DWP that you meet their criteria in order to qualify for DLA.
If you have care needs
To get the care component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA), your disability must be severe enough for you:
- to need help with things such as washing, dressing, eating, getting to and using the toilet, or communicating your needs, or
- to need supervision to avoid you putting yourself or others in substantial danger, or
- to need someone with you when you are on dialysis, or
- to be unable to prepare a cooked main meal for yourself (if you have the ingredients), if you are aged 16 or over.
There are three rates of care component depending on how your disability affects you:
1. lowest rate care component
If you need help for some of the day or you are unable to prepare a cooked main meal.
2. middle rate care component
If you need help with personal care frequently or supervision continually throughout the day only, or help with personal care or someone to watch over you during the night only, or someone with you while you are on dialysis.
3. highest rate care component
If you need help or supervision frequently throughout the day and during the night. You can get Disability Living Allowance for your care needs even if no-one is actually giving you the care you need, even if you live alone.
If you have mobility needs
To get the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance, your disability must be severe enough for you to have any of the following walking difficulties, even when wearing or using an aid or equipment you normally use:
- you are unable or virtually unable to walk without severe discomfort, or at risk of endangering your life or causing deterioration in your health by making the effort to walk, because of a physical disability
- you have no feet or legs
- you are assessed to be both 100 percentdisabled because of loss of eyesightand not less than 80 percentdisabledbecause of deafness and you need someone with you when you are outdoors
- you are severely mentally impaired with severe behavioural problems and qualify for the highest rate of care component
- you need guidance or supervision most of the time from another person when walking outdoors or in unfamiliar places
- you are certified as severely sight-impaired by a consultant ophthalmologist, and you were aged betweenthree and 64 on 11 April 2011; you must alsohave a best corrected visual acuity of less than 3/60, or you must have a best corrected visual acuity of 3/60 or more but less than 6/60 together with a complete loss of peripheral visual field and a central visual field of no more thanten degrees in total.
There are two rates of the mobility component depending on how your disability affects you:
1. low rate mobility component - you have to show that you are unable to go outside and walk an unfamiliar route without guidance or supervision from another person
2. high rate mobility component - you must be barely able to walk owing to a physical disability OR be getting the High rate care component of DLA AND be severely mentally impaired from arrested development of the brain AND have severe behavioural problems needing constant supervision to avoid danger to yourself, others or property.
How can you strengthen your application?
Remember that the person reading your form in the Benefits Office will probably have no experience of muscular dystrophy and related neuromuscular conditions and their complexity, so provide as much helpful information as you can, and explain if there are times when you can do something and times when you cannot.
One of the biggest reasons applications are rejected is that people do not clearly state their limitations. Make sure you go into adequate depth about your difficulties, for example:
- on your application form give as much detail as possible illustrating how you meet the criteria
- your general practitioner (GP) or specialist will have to fill out part of your application. Explain to your GP/specialist how your condition affects your daily life so that they can support your application. The letter should describe your need for help and supervision, relate to the progressive nature of your illness, and explain what will happen if this help and support is not available. A good example is when you are asked how much attention you need, make sure you go into detail:
- when estimating how far you can walk, remember to say how far you can manage without severe discomfort, even if you could push yourself to do more
- highlight your underlying needs rather than what you actually do in certain circumstances, for example if you avoid certain activities, be clear about this
- mention whether certain tasks require help because of pain and discomfort, even if it is not all the time
- remember that 'cooking a meal' includes the whole preparation process: getting food from cupboards, opening cans, chopping, as well as actually cooking and using the oven. Think about whether or not there would be "danger to you or others''
- think about the consequences of not having the help you need.
If, after your assessment you do not get the outcome you think you should, you can appeal the decision.