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Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is a state benefit that helps with the extra costs of long-term illness or disability, which can be either physical and/or mental.

This section is for children under the age of 16 (although see note below regarding Northern Ireland) and people over 16 years of age who have existing DLA claims and are not yet being transferred over to Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

Note: In England, Wales and Scotland people aged 16-64 can no longer make a new claim for DLA, as it is being gradually replaced by a new benefit called Personal Independence Payment (PIP). If you are 65 years of age or over, you should instead claim a benefit called Attendance Allowance.

Note: In Northern Ireland PIP is due to be introduced from April 2015. However as of yet there is no timetable for its introduction, so until PIP is introduced your child will continue to claim DLA when they turn 16 years. To find out more contact Carers Northern Ireland on 028 9043 9843 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. If you are 65 years of age or over, you should instead claim Attendance Allowance.

Claiming DLA can help you or the person you care for qualify for other benefits and/or Tax Credits:

  • If a person gets DLA then the person caring for them may be able to claim Carer's Allowance.
  • Getting DLA may help get a Council Tax discount.
  • Getting DLA might give you access to the Motability scheme or Blue Badge parking scheme.

DLA is more flexible than most benefits. For example:

  • It is not means-tested. It can be paid regardless of your income, savings or National Insurance contribution record.
  • It is tax free.
  • You can get DLA even if you are working or studying.
  • There are no restrictions on how you can spend your DLA money.
  • Carers who are disabled or ill can also receive DLA in their own right, even if they already get, or qualify for, Carer’s Allowance.

The application process can be long and complicated. Many carers help the person they are looking after to complete the claim form or complete it on their behalf. The more you know about these benefits the more likely it is that the person you are looking after will be able to make a successful claim.

DLA rates

The weekly rates for DLA from April 2015 to March 2016 are:

  Care component Mobility component
Lower rate £21.80 £21.80
Middle rate £55.10 n/a
Higher rate £82.30 £57.45
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Who can claim

To qualify for DLA you must meet all of the following conditions:

  • satisfy the criteria for the care and/or mobility components (see below)
  • have had the disability or been in ill health for at least three months and be likely to have the disability or be in ill health for a further 6 months (unless you have a terminal illness)
  • have no immigration conditions attached to your stay in the UK (subject to some exceptions)
  • satisfy the residence and presence tests
  • have been present in Great Britain for 104 weeks out of the 156 weeks before claiming (two out of the last three years)
  • be habitually resident

 Note: Someone is classed as terminally ill if they are not expected to live longer than 6 months.

Residence and presence tests

From 8 April 2013 to satisfy the residence and presence tests you must meet both of the following conditions:

  • have been present in Great Britain for 104 weeks out of the 156 weeks before claiming (two out of the last three years)
  • be habitually resident

'Present' means physically present in the UK, although some people may be treated as being in the UK while abroad. Special rules apply to countries in the European Economic Area (EEA) and several others who Britain has agreements with. If you think this applies to your child, you should seek advice. The AIRE Centre can provide advice on individual rights in Europe and can be contacted on 020 7831 4276 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

If the child is under six months old, a 13 week presence test applies until their 1st birthday. If they are aged 6-36 months, the test is 26 weeks in the last 156 weeks.

If you are terminally ill you only have to be present in the UK, you do not need to have been present in Great Britain for 104 weeks out of the 156 weeks before claiming.

The habitual residence test is a test to see if you normally live in the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands, the Republic of Ireland or the Isle of Man. The test will be applied if you have been living abroad. There is no legal definition of ‘habitual residence’. Relevant factors are where you normally live, where you expect to live in future, your reasons for coming to this country, the length of time spent abroad before you came here, and any ties you still have with the country where you have come from.

If you need more information about the habitual residence test contact the Carers UK Adviceline.

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Care and mobility components

There are two parts or ‘components’ to DLA:

  • Care component – paid if you need help with your personal care or someone to check that you are ok.
  • Mobility component paid if you have problems with mobility when walking outside.

Care component

To qualify for the care component you have to show that it is reasonable for you to need personal care or for someone to check on you. You do not have to actually receive help with personal care or actually have someone who checks on you. The care component is paid at one of three rates: lower, middle, and higher. The more help you need, the higher the rate of DLA care component you will be paid.

Lower rate

For the lower rate you must meet one of the following conditions:

  • You are unable to prepare a cooked main meal. You have to be 16 or over to qualify on this basis. The meal should be a labour intensive, reasonable, main daily meal for one person. It should be the sort of main meal that you would normally eat. Activities involved in preparing the meal might include: deciding it is time to cook; planning the meal; peeling and chopping vegetables; lifting saucepans; moving around a kitchen safely; timing the cooking; lifting food out of an oven.
  • You need help with personal care for about an hour a day. The personal care should be provided for about an hour a day. It can be shorter periods that add up to an hour, eg four periods of 15 minutes each.

 Middle and higher rate

For the middle rate you must satisfy a daytime test or a night-time test. Special rules apply for some kidney patients undergoing renal dialysis at least two times a week.

For the higher rate you must satisfy a daytime test and a night-time test. Alternatively, you will get the higher rate if you are terminally ill.

To satisfy a daytime test you must need either of the following:

  • frequent (at least three times) help with personal care throughout the day
  • someone to check on you throughout the day to make sure that you are safe

To satisfy a night-time test you must need either of the following:

  • help with personal care at least twice a night, or once a night for at least 20 minutes
  • someone to check on you at least twice a night, or once a night for at least 20 minutes, to make sure that you are safe

For this benefit, night usually starts just after your household has gone to bed and ends just before your household gets up in the morning.

If no-one is helping you with personal care, you may be accepted as needing help if you have some difficulty coping with your personal care. And if no-one is checking on you, you may still be accepted as needing this if you or another person may be placed in danger without it.

Children under 16 must need more help with personal care or checking than a child of the same age who has no disability.

 What does 'help with personal care' mean?

Personal care needs include help with things like:

  • communicating
  • eating and drinking
  • seeing (eg you need someone to see for you)
  • breathing
  • using the toilet
  • walking
  • getting into and out of a chair
  • bathing and washing
  • dressing and undressing
  • help with medication and treatment
  • getting in and out of bed and sleeping

The reason why you need help could be varied such as a physical disability or illness, a sensory impairment, a learning disability, or a mental health condition. The help must usually be given in your presence.

Here are some examples of the reasons you may need help and the type of help you may need:

  • You have a spinal disability which makes core movement difficult. You need somebody to assist you with many daily activities such as getting in and out of bed, washing and dressing, and getting in and out of chairs.
  • You are profoundly deaf and British Sign Language is your first language. You therefore need an interpreter when communicating without sign language, to interpret spoken announcements, and perhaps also to interpret written English.
  • You have a mental health problem and you need prompting and encouragement to look after yourself and do things such as take your medication, eat, wash and dress.
  • You are blind and you need someone to assist in many situations such as selecting clothes to wear, using cooking appliances safely and preparing food.
  • You have a learning disability and need help with many activities including managing money, writing letters and looking after your health and hygiene.

 What does 'someone to check on you' mean?

You must need someone to check on you regularly during the day. The checks must be to avoid a 'substantial danger' to yourself or others as a result of your disability. You may need such checks if you:

  • have memory loss
  • are in danger of falling
  • have poor awareness of potential dangers
  • have serious behavioural problems
  • lose consciousness or have seizures

Substantial danger may include situations such as:

  • falling
  • leaving the gas on
  • self harm
  • violence towards others or serious risk to your health should you be left unsupervised

The potentially dangerous situation does not have to happen frequently, but you must need frequent checks to reduce the chance of harm.

Mobility component

The mobility component is paid if you have difficulties walking outside. It is paid at one of two rates. The higher rate can be claimed from the age of three and the lower rate from the age of five.

Lower rate

The lower rate is paid if you are able to walk, but need guidance or supervision from another person when walking out of doors on an unfamiliar route. Help must be needed most of the time.

Children under 16 must need more guidance and supervision than a child of the same age with no disability.

Guidance is directing you along the route; either physically or through verbal or other signals. For example, you may need guidance if you are blind, or you use British Sign Language, or you cannot remember directions or you are easily confused.

Supervision is someone watching over or monitoring you in case they need to intervene, e.g. you may suffer panic attacks, have poor road sense or be unsteady on your feet.

Higher rate

For the higher rate you must have a physical disability that means that you meet one of the following conditions:

  • you are unable to walk
  • you are virtually unable to walk
  • you cannot walk without the effort required endangering your life or seriously affecting your health
  • you have had both legs amputated at or above the ankle, or you were born without legs or feet; regardless of whether you wear artificial limbs
  • you are both deaf and blind (80% deaf and 100% blind)
  • you are assessed as 'severely visually impaired'

Note: The assessment of whether you are virtually unable to walk looks at your disability’s combined effects on the distance, speed, manner and length of time for which you can walk. Any walking you do in 'severe discomfort' is ignored. Severe discomfort may include any pain, nausea, breathlessness or dizziness brought on by walking. Your walking is assessed using any walking aid that you usually use (eg a stick).

Alternatively, you can qualify for the higher rate of the mobility component if you have a severe learning disability and you meet all of the following conditions:

  • you qualify for the highest rate of the care component
  • your behaviour is extreme and regularly requires another person to intervene to prevent you harming yourself, another person or property
  • your learning disability severely affects your intelligence and your social functioning
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How to claim

How to get a claim form

Only children under 16 years of age can make a new claim for DLA. In England, Wales and Scotland you can get a claim form through:

In Northern Ireland you can get a claim form though:

Completing the form

The form is long and complex. Make sure you put all of your difficulties on the form. You may also get independent help from a Citizens Advice Bureau, a disability organisation, a carers' group, or other special interest agencies (eg Age UK branch, local council welfare rights unit).

Terminal illness

If you have a terminal illness your claim should include form DS1500 – available from your GP or consultant. You do not have to complete the part of the main claim form that asks about your personal care or supervision needs. You do need to complete the part about difficulties walking outside to claim the mobility component. Claims for people who are terminally ill are processed quickly. A claim for a terminally ill person can be made without that person’s knowledge.

Tips for claiming DLA

  • Take your time to complete the claim form.
  • List all of the help you need before completing the claim form. Talk with your carer and ask them to list all the help they give you. This way, together, you will not miss anything out.
  • Remember, what matters is whether you need the help, not whether you are already getting it. Also think about the difficulties you have and what type of help you would need to make things easier.
  • If you are not sure about how much help you need, or how long things take, keep a diary for a week or so.
  • You do not have to need help with care or have difficulties with mobility every day in order to qualify. The test is “most of the time”. If your needs vary from day to day, make a list of the help you need or the difficulties you have on each day of the week for a week or a month – depending on how much the pattern varies.
  • If you are applying for the higher rate of the mobility component, do make a proper measurement of how far you can walk and how long it takes you to walk that far before you fill in the form.
  • Keep a copy of your form.
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The decision

You will receive a written decision on your claim that tells you what rates of benefit have been awarded and from what date. DLA can be awarded for a fixed period or for an indefinite period. If you are awarded benefit for a fixed period, the decision will tell you when the period ends. A new claim form will be sent to you well before the period of your award ends.

Challenging the decision

If you disagree with a DLA decision you must ask the Department for Work and Pensions to look at the decision again. This is called a mandatory reconsideration.

If you still disagree once they have done this you must lodge an appeal with HM Courts and Tribunals Service and attach a copy of the mandatory reconsideration with the appeal.

It is important to challenge a decision or get advice as quickly as possible because there are time limits that generally mean you must take action within one month.

Find out more

Note: This information does not apply to Northern Ireland. Instead you can ask the Social Security Agency to look at the decision again. Alternatively you can appeal the decision. Contact Carers Northern Ireland for further information on 028 9043 9843 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Other ways of getting the decision changed

At any time, you can ask for the decision to be changed after the one-month time limit has expired, but only in specified circumstances. The most common of these include where:

  • the decision contained an official error
  • there has been a relevant change of circumstances since the previous decision

An official error is a mistake made by the Department of Work and Pensions. The error might be losing important paperwork, a 'slip of the pen' or a misinterpretation of the law. If you have lost money because of the error, payment may be backdated to when the decision was made.

The most common relevant change of circumstances is that your health gets better or worse so that you now qualify for a different rate of DLA.

If the amount you get goes down, it may do so from the date your circumstances changed. If the amount you get goes up, you are not paid until three months after the change. However, if the change is that you are now terminally ill, then the new rate is paid from the date you tell the Department of Work and Pensions of the change.

It is possible that a request to increase your DLA can result in it being decreased or stopped altogether. This is why it is so important to fill in your form as well as possible and to seek advice. You may be able to get independent advice from a Citizens Advice Bureau, a disability organisation, a carers' group, or other special interest agencies (eg Age UK branch, local council welfare rights unit).

In some parts of the country, if you are aged 16 or over and report a change in circumstances that could affect your rate of DLA, you will instead have to make a new claim for Personal Independence Payment (PIP). There is a postcode map which shows what areas are currently being affected.

If you are unhappy with the outcome of your request for the decision to be changed for one of the above reasons, you can challenge the decision. Usually, you must do this within one month of the date on the letter telling you the outcome of your request for the decision to be changed.

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Change of circumstances

Going into hospital, residential care, or a hospice

DLA stops after 28 days in an NHS hospital if you are 16 or over. If you are under 16, it stops after 84 days. If you get DLA high rate mobility component and have a car under the Motability scheme, you should contact Motability before your DLA mobility component is due to stop to see whether any arrangements can be made to keep the vehicle. You can contact Motability on 0300 456 4566.

The care component stops after 28 days if you are in residential care funded by the Local Authority or NHS Trust. This applies regardless of your age. The mobility component will continue to be paid.

If you pay for residential care without help from the Local Authority or a NHS Trust, DLA continues to be paid in full. DLA also continues to be paid if you are in a nursing home and the only help you get with your fees is an amount called the Registered Nursing Care Contribution from the NHS Trust. You can also continue to receive DLA if you go into a hospice that is not funded by the NHS.

If the Local Authority is temporarily funding your stay in a care home while you sell your former home, then special rules apply so seek advice.

Any two stays in hospital and residential care separated by 28 days or less are added together when working out when DLA should stop.

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Other help

If you receive DLA you may become entitled to various other types of help. Sometimes the entitlement will depend on you being in receipt of a particular component or rate of DLA.

Means-tested benefits

Receiving DLA can mean you are entitled to an increase in other means-tested benefits or Tax Credits that you are already in receipt of. The benefits and Tax Credits affected are:

  • Income Support
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit
  • Housing Benefit
  • Council Tax Reduction (or Rate Relief in Northern Ireland)
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit

So, if you receive DLA it is always a good idea to check if you are entitled to any means-tested benefits or Tax Credits that you are not currently getting. And, if you already get any of the means-tested benefits or Tax Credits you should notify all of the offices which pay them that you are now getting DLA.

Energy efficiency grants

If you or your partner receive(s) DLA, you may be able to get a grant to help with home insulation and other heating improvements.

Motability scheme

If you are receiving the higher rate of DLA mobility component you may be able to apply to the Motability scheme. Through this scheme you can use your mobility component to lease or buy a car, wheelchair or scooter

Exemption from road tax (vehicle excise duty)

If you receive the higher rate of DLA mobility component, you will be exempt from road tax. You can claim the exemption when you apply for a tax disc.

Blue badge

The higher rate of DLA mobility component will entitle you to a Blue Badge which will give you parking concessions. If you are not getting the higher rate of DLA mobility component, you may still qualify for a blue badge if you meet certain conditions. The scheme is run through your local council or trust and you should contact them for further information. In Northern Ireland, contact the Blue Badge Unit on 0300 200 7818. 

Public transport concessions

If you receive DLA (except for the lowest rate of the care component) you may be able to purchase a Disabled Person’s Railcard which will give you, and a person travelling with you, concessions on many rail journeys.

Some disabled people may qualify for free local bus travel, although this is not directly linked to whether or not you receive DLA. Contact your local council or trust for further information. In Northern Ireland contact Translink on 028 90 66 66 30.

If you live in Scotland you will receive free bus travel if you receive the higher rate mobility component of DLA, or the middle/highest rate care component of DLA, or if you hold a Disabled Person’s Parking Badge (Blue Badge).

Companion Entitlement (Scotland only)

If you need to be accompanied when travelling, you can apply for a National Entitlement Card containing the companion entitlement (C+1) to allow a companion to travel free of charge with you for the same journey by bus.

You will qualify for a companion entitlement if you receive the middle/highest rate of the care component of DLA, if you are registered blind; or if you live in a care or residential home and are eligible to receive the middle/highest rate of the care component of DLA.

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