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Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

If you are looking after a child with a health condition or disability who is under the age of 16 years then they may be entitled to Disability Living Allowance (DLA). This can help towards the extra costs of bringing up a disabled child.


This information applies to people living in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

DLA is not means-tested so your financial circumstances (including any savings your child has) will not be taken into account. In addition, DLA is not taxable and does not reduce any other benefits you may be eligible for. In fact, it may help you qualify for other benefits, such as Carer’s Allowance or Universal Credit, and it could increase any tax credit award you receive.

Note: People aged 16 to below their State Pension age can no longer make a new claim for DLA, and should instead claim a benefit called Personal Independence Payment (PIP). If you are State Pension age or over, you should instead claim a benefit called Attendance Allowance.

There are different rules about whether you can renew or maintain an existing award after you reach State Pension age. This will depend on factors such as your age when you qualified for the award, and the timing of and any change in your entitlement, taking into account your care needs and/or mobility difficulties and when they arose. You should seek further advice to establish how the rules would affect you.   

In Scotland, a new benefit is replacing DLA for children called 'Child Disability Payment'. Those who are already receiving Disability Living Allowance for children in Scotland don't need to make a new application as their award will be automatically transferred. Read more at: Adults still receiving Disability Living Allowance will also be transferred to Adult Disability Payment in Scotland – read more.

Who can claim DLA?

For a child under the age of 16 years to qualify for DLA, they must meet all of the following criteria:

  • they must need care, attention or supervision because of a physical or mental disability or health condition (and your child does not need to have an actual diagnosis)
  • they must have needed this care, attention or supervision for at least three months, and be likely to need this care, attention or supervision for a further six months (you can make the claim before the three months have passed, but you will not receive any payment until they have)
  • they must need substantially more care, attention or supervision than other children of the same age who do not have a disability or health condition
  • they must have no immigration conditions attached to their stay in the UK subject to some exceptions (if they have immigration restrictions on their stay in the UK claiming benefits may affect their future right to remain in the UK, so seek specialist immigration advice before claiming – you can search for immigration specialists here)
  • they must meet the residence and presence conditions (see below).

Note: If the child is an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen and does not have indefinite leave to remain, in order to claim DLA, they must have pre-settled or settled status or, have had a right to reside on 31 December 2020. If you think that you are affected, you should act quickly and contact a local advice service for help. The Advicelocal website has details of services local you.

The website has more information about how to apply for the settled status scheme (including applying for your child) and an online enquiry form. You can also use the government website to search for agencies that can help you to apply  The charity Settled can offer further information and guidance.

Note: If your child is terminally ill there are simpler rules which make it easier to apply – see here for further information.

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How much is DLA worth?

There are two components of DLA:

  • care component – this can be paid at a lower, middle or higher rate – there is no lower age limit for claiming. (However there is a three month qualifying period. If your child is terminally ill there is no qualifying period.)
  • mobility component – this can be paid at a lower or higher rate. However, the higher rate cannot be paid until the child is three years of age and the lower rate cannot be paid until the child is five years of age.

For 2022/23 the rates are:

  Lower Middle Higher
Care component £24.45 £61.85 £92.40
Mobility component £24.45 n/a £64.50
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The care and mobility components

The care component

The care component of DLA can be paid to a child who needs a lot of extra help with personal care, supervision or if they need watching over. The help they need must be substantially more than the help needed by a child of the same age without a disability or health condition.

The lower rate care component is for children who need help in connection with their personal care for a significant portion of the day (which generally means at least an hour a day – although this does not necessarily have to be all at once). 

The middle rate care component is for children that have either daytime or night-time needs (see explanation below). Special rules apply for some children undergoing renal dialysis at least twice per week. 

The higher rate care component is for children who have both daytime and night-time needs (see explanation below). Your child will automatically get the higher rate if they are terminally ill.

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

  • frequent help with personal care throughout the day (ie, several times – not once or twice but three times or more). This would be active help needed because of their disability and includes personal actions and anything to do with the body and how it works.
  • someone to check on them continually (ie frequently or regularly but not non-stop) throughout the day to make sure that they are safe and to avoid substantial danger to themselves or others.

To satisfy a night-time test your child must need one 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 them at least twice a night, or once a night for at least 20 minutes, to make sure that they are safe and to avoid substantial danger to themselves or others.

Help with personal care needs include help with things like:

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

A child is considered to need someone to check on them if they need to be checked on regularly during the day to avoid ‘substantial danger’ to themselves or others.

The mobility component

If your child needs help getting around they may qualify for the mobility component. You need to show that your child is unable or virtually unable to walk and/or needs substantially more guidance and supervision than a child of the same age without a disability or health condition.

The lower rate mobility component can be paid to a child from the age of five years. It is for children who can walk but who need extra guidance or supervision on unfamiliar routes outdoors.

The higher rate mobility component can be paid to a child from the age of three years. It is for children who are unable, or virtually unable to walk, or where the exertion required to walk would constitute a danger to their life or would be likely to lead to a serious deterioration in their health. Children can also qualify if they have a severe visual impairment, are both deaf and blind, or are severely mentally impaired.

Four factors are taken into account when deciding whether your child is virtually unable to walk. The test is whether their:

‘ability to walk out of doors is so limited, as regards to:

  • the distance over which
  • the speed at which
  • the length of time for which or
  • the manner in which

(they) can make progress on foot without severe discomfort, that (they are) virtually unable to walk.’

To qualify for the higher rate mobility component because of severe mental impairment, the child has to meet all the following criteria:

  • be entitled to the higher rate care component of DLA
  • suffer from a state of arrested development or incomplete physical development of the brain which results in severe mental impairment of intelligence or social functioning
  • exhibit ‘disruptive behaviour’ which ‘is extreme’ and ‘regularly requires another person to intervene and physically restrain them to prevent them from causing injury to themselves or another, or damage to property’
  • be so unpredictable that they require another person to watch over them whenever they are awake.
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How to claim DLA

England, Wales & Scotland

  • Call the Disability Living Allowance Helpline on 0800 121 4600 (textphone: 0800 121 4523).
  • Click here to download a claim form.

Northern Ireland

  • Call the Disability and Carers Service on 0800 587 0912 (textphone: 0800 012 1574).
  • Click here to download a claim form.

If you ask for a claim form by phone, it should be stamped with the date of issue. This is the date from which the benefit will be paid if the claim is successful, providing you return the form within six weeks. If you are not able to complete the form by this date, please let them know and seek advice.

If you download the claim form or get one from a local advice agency, the claim will start from the date the completed form is received. It's also possible to phone up for a form.

It is advisable to read the form and the accompanying notes before you start to complete it. You can attach pages to the application form if you think there is not enough space to explain the help that your child needs. Remember to add your child's name, address and date of birth to the extra pages.

Completing the claim form

  • The form is long and detailed so take your time to complete it, noting that you don’t have to complete it all in one go.
  • List all of the help your child needs before completing the claim form.
  • If you are not sure about how much help your child needs, or how long things take, keep a diary for a week or so to give you an idea.
  • Say how often your child needs help, rather than how often they get help.
  • It can be very difficult to do, but try to concentrate on the difficulties your child has and the extra care and support they need compared to other children of the same age.
  • Try to use examples to describe your child’s needs where possible – don’t just rely on the tick boxes.
  • Remember that the person who is looking at the form will not know your child and may not know anything about their condition.
  • There is a page on the claim form called “Statement from someone who knows the child”, and if there is a professional (ie a school teacher, GP, therapist etc.) who could write knowledgeably about your child, put their details on this page (if not you can fill it in yourself).
  • If you put down the details of a professional, make sure the person is relevant. For example, if your child’s needs are mainly night-time needs, there may be little point asking the school for details of their condition.
  • If you decide to give details of more than one professional on the form, make it clear which one knows your child the best.
  • The DWP (Department for Communities in Northern Ireland) may write to one of the professionals you list on the form, so make sure you inform the professionals that you are putting their details down.
  • Keep a copy of your form.
  • You could ask for help to complete the claim form from a local advice agency – to find out about advice agencies in your area see the Advicelocal website

See our benefit adviser's video tips for further guidance on how to complete the claim forms.

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If your child has a terminal illness

Special rules allow children who are terminally ill to get help quickly. A child is considered to be terminally ill if they have a progressive illness that is likely to limit their life expectancy to six months or less. It is impossible to say exactly how long someone will live and some children who receive DLA under these rules live much longer than six months.

Under these special rules your child does not have to satisfy the qualifying period (ie that they must have needed care, attention or supervision for at least three months, and be likely to need this care, attention or supervision for a further six months). They also do not have to have been present in Great Britain for 104 weeks out of the last 156 week before claiming – they only need to be present at the time of claiming.

If you are claiming DLA for a child under these rules, their claim should include a DS1500 form which is available from your child’s GP or consultant. You do not have to complete the main part of the claim form that asks about your child’s personal care or supervision needs as they will automatically qualify for the higher rate care component. You will, however, have to complete the sections about any mobility problems your child has for them to be awarded the mobility component.

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The decision

You will receive a written decision that tells you what rates of DLA your child has 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. To find out more about what happens if your child is soon to turn 16 years old click here.

Challenging the decision

If your child is refused DLA or is awarded it at a lower rate than you expected you can ask the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) (England, Wales & Scotland) or the Department for Communities (DfC) (Northern Ireland) to look at the decision again. You must do this before you can appeal. This is called a mandatory reconsideration and the DWP must look over all the information they have, and any new information you send them, to see if the decision they made is correct. They must then send you a new decision notice, called a Mandatory Reconsideration Notice.

If you still disagree once they have done this you must lodge an appeal with the Tribunal Service (England, Wales & Scotland) or the Appeals Service (TAS) (Northern Ireland) and attach a copy of the Mandatory Reconsideration Notice 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. If you fall outside of this time limit then it may still be possible to challenge the decision. See our talk to us page for details of how to get further help.

For more information you can see the 'challenging a benefit decision' section of our website.

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What to do if your circumstances change

If your child already gets DLA but they now need more help, it may be possible to get their award increased. You can contact the Department for Work and Pension (DWP), or the Disability and Carers Service in Northern Ireland, and ask for your child’s award to be looked at again.

If you ask for a DLA award to be looked at again, there is always the risk that the award could stay the same or be decreased rather than increased. Therefore, it is always best to get help from a local advice agency before you contact the DWP (Disability and Carers Service in Northern Ireland in Northern Ireland). To find out about advice agencies in your area see the Advicelocal website

If your child is 16 and you ask for a DLA award to be looked at again, it is likely to instead be treated as a new claim for PIP – click here for more information.

Going into hospital or a care home

DLA can be affected by your child having overnight stays away from home. There are different rules for this depending on whether your child goes into hospital or a care home.

Stays in hospital

If your child is under 18 when they enter hospital, their DLA can continue to be paid for the whole time they are there.

Stays in a care home

If your child is in a care home (which usually includes residential schools), generally payment of the care component will stop after 28 days. However, they can be paid the care component for any day they stay in your home, including the day they leave and the day they return. The mobility component is not affected by stays in a care home.

The rules differ if your child’s stay in a care home is funded by NHS continuing healthcare, or if you pay for the care home yourself. If this situation applies to your child see our talk to us page for details of how to get further help. 

Stays your child has in a care home separated by 28 days or less are added together when working out when their DLA should stop. This is known as the ‘linking rule’.

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Other help you may qualify for

Means-tested benefits and tax credits

If your child has been awarded DLA it is always a good idea to check if you are entitled to an increase in any means-tested benefits such as Universal Credit, or tax credits that you are already getting, or if you might be entitled to any means-tested benefits that you are not currently getting. 

If you're already receiving any means-tested benefits or tax credits you should notify all of the offices which pay them that your child is now getting DLA.

Note: You can still get the extra amounts below in Child Tax Credit and Universal Credit even if your child is not included in your claim do to the "two child limit".

Universal Credit is assessed more generously when a child receives DLA. This is because families will qualify for an extra disabled child addition which will increase the amount of Universal Credit they are awarded. If your child is awarded the higher rate care component of DLA, a higher disabled child addition will increase the amount of Universal Credit even more. 

Similarly Child Tax Credit can be higher. It means that families will qualify for an extra disability element which will increase the amount of Child Tax Credit they are awarded. 

If you still receive an amount for your child in your Income Support award, your child’s award of DLA means you will qualify for a disabled child premium in your Income Support calculation. If your child is awarded the higher rate of the care component of DLA, an enhanced disability premium will increase the amount of Income Support even more.

If you get help with your housing costs through Universal Credit or Housing Benefit, getting DLA for your child may increase the amount you are awarded if you are not already getting your rent covered in full. 

If you do not receive any Housing Benefit but you are liable to pay rent, your child being in receipt of DLA may mean you now qualify for housing costs paid within Universal Credit. Universal Credit and Housing Benefit are both means-tested so your income and capital will affect the amount you may receive. 

Getting a benefit check

You can find out what benefits you are entitled to and how much you should be paid by getting an online benefit check (see note below) or see our talk to us page for details of how to get further help.

Note: You can get a benefits check online by visiting either of the following websites:

It will take about 20 minutes to complete. These online tools are not suitable for everyone. Special rules apply to some groups of people, for example students, people under 18, people in permanent residential care, UK nationals who live abroad and people who are not British or Irish citizens.

Exemption from the benefit cap

If your child is in receipt of DLA, this will mean that you will be exempt from the benefit cap.

DLA and Carer’s Allowance

If your child is awarded the middle or higher rate of the care component of DLA, you may be able to claim Carer’s Allowance for providing them with care.

Help with transport costs


If your child is awarded the higher rate mobility component of DLA then you may be able to apply to the Motability scheme. Through this scheme you can use your child’s mobility component to lease or buy a car, wheelchair or scooter. If you’re unable to drive and need help paying for lessons, or require help getting a deposit for a car through the scheme, then you may qualify for a grant. To find out more or apply for the scheme contact Motability.

Blue Badge scheme

If your child is awarded the higher rate mobility component of DLA then you should qualify for a Blue Badge which will give you parking concessions. You might also qualify for a blue badge if your child meets certain conditions. Contact your council for further information. In Northern Ireland, contact the Blue Badge Unit on 0300 200 7818.

Road tax

You may be exempt from paying road tax if your child gets the higher rate mobility component of DLA. For information on how to apply see the website

Public transport concessions

All local councils operate schemes for disabled people to help with the cost of travel. Such help is not directly linked to whether or not your child receives DLA. In some areas, a named carer accompanying the disabled person is also entitled to free travel.

Such schemes vary from one council to another so get in contact with your local council for further information on what is available in your area. In Northern Ireland, all bus and rail transport is operated by Translink – you can contact them on 028 9066 66 30.

Companion Entitlement (Scotland only)

If your child receives the middle/higher rate of the care component of DLA, or if they are registered blind, or live in a care home and are eligible to receive the middle/ higher rate of the care component of DLA, you can apply for a Companion Card, allowing a companion to travel with them for free. Contact your council or see the Transport for Scotland website for further information. 

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What happens when your child turns 16 years old?

About Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

PIP has replaced DLA for people who are aged 16 to State Pension age. Children who get DLA who are turning 16 will be invited to claim PIP shortly after their 16th birthday, even if they have an indefinite award of DLA.

Note for Scotland: Young people in Scotland will be able to continue to claim DLA as long as they remain eligible until their 18th birthday. They can also choose to apply to the DWP for Personal Independence Payment before reaching 18 until the Scottish Government launches child disability payments. For more information you can visit website here.

For more information about the new Child Disability Payment in Scotland, visit the Scottish Government website here. The new Child Disability Payment is due to open in pilot areas for applications from 26 July 2021. Initially, this will be available in three pilot areas only and is confined to families applying for disability assistance for the first time. Families currently getting Disability Living Allowance for Children do not have to take any action.

Elsewhere in the UK, the DWP (Disability and Carers service in Northern Ireland) will write to the appointee of children coming up to 16 years old to explain about PIP and to check whether the child will continue to need someone to act on their behalf. If they do not, then once the child turns 16 the DWP (Disability and Carers Service in Northern Ireland) will write to them directly inviting them to claim PIP. If they do still need an appointee because they can’t manage their own affairs the DWP (Disability and Carers Service in Northern Ireland) will begin the process of making the appointeeship.

DurIng March 2020, all face-to-face assessments were suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been announced that face-to-face disability assessments for Personal Independence payments will resume from May 2021. Face-to-face assessments will take place alongside existing paper-based assessments, and telephone assessments will continue to take place where suitable. For the latest updates, you can visit the website. You can also see our A-Z of changes.

PIP decision

If a young person makes a claim for PIP, their DLA will continue to be paid until a decision is made on their PIP claim. When the decision on their PIP claim is made, their DLA will end even if they currently have a long-term or indefinite award. If the young person is awarded PIP it may be the same amount, or more or less than their current DLA. This could affect other benefits that the young person, or others in their household, may receive.

To find out more about PIP you can see the PIP section of our website.

Special rules for terminally ill people

Those who are being paid DLA under the special rules for the terminally ill will be invited to claim PIP at the end of their existing DLA award.

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Residence and presence

To satisfy the residence and presence tests, your child must meet both the following conditions:

  • they must generally have been present in Great Britain (which for this purpose also includes Northern Ireland) for 104 weeks out of the 156 weeks before claiming (two out of the last three years – see below)
  • they must be habitually resident. If you are the child’s parent or guardian and your child lives with you, you’ll also need to be habitually resident.

‘Present’ means physically present in Great Britain, although some people may be treated as being in Great Britain 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 first birthday. If they are aged 6-36 months, the test is 26 weeks in the last 156 weeks.

Note: The past presence test shouldn’t be applied to British National children returning to Great Britain from a period of residence abroad. The past presence test also doesn’t apply if your child is terminally ill.

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

Seek further advice if you are unsure about your position or the application is turned down because you are not seen as habitually resident. To find out about advice agencies in your area, see the Advicelocal website

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