Your guide to care and support

Disability Living Allowance

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is a benefit that helps with the extra costs that disabled people face as a result of their disabilities. DLA is not means-tested, and it is tax free. You don’t need to have paid any National Insurance contributions to claim DLA.

In April 2013, a new benefit called Personal Independence Payment (PIP) started to replace DLA for working-age adults (aged 16 to 64) with a disability, in a controlled and phased approach.

You can now only make a new claim for DLA if you're claiming for a child under 16. For more information, visit DLA for children on GOV.UK.

DLA has two components (parts): mobility and care. People can receive just one component or both together. The care component is paid at three different rates and the mobility component is paid at two rates.

Whether someone qualifies for DLA, and what rate they're paid, will depend on the amount of personal care they need or the level of their mobility difficulties outdoors.

Claiming PIP

Anyone aged 16 to 64 making a new disability benefit claim must now apply for PIP.

Most DLA claimants will not be assessed for PIP until at least October 2015 but in some areas, claimants are already being asked to claim PIP.

Qualifying ages for DLA

Claiming DLA if you've reached pension age

If you’ve reached pension age and haven’t claimed DLA before, you should claim Attendance Allowance instead.

If you’ve reached pension age, and you had a claim for DLA that ended within the last year, you can make a renewal claim for DLA. If it’s more than a year since your DLA award ended, you must claim Attendance Allowance instead.

If you've reached pension age and are already getting DLA

Once you have qualified for DLA, it’s possible to continue getting it after you reach 65. However, there are some differences that can affect changes to a DLA claim if you’re 65 or over.

If you already get the mobility component and your mobility problems get worse, you can’t move to a higher rate of mobility component after you’ve reached pension age. You also can't start to claim the mobility component if you only received the care component previously.

If you’ve reached pension age, you’re only getting the mobility component of DLA and you start to have care needs, you’ll normally only start getting the DLA care component if you qualify for it at the middle or highest rate. If you would only qualify for the lowest rate care component, you won’t get this unless you can show you qualified for it before your birthday.

DLA care component has a six-month qualifying period for people who have reached pension age.

To qualify for DLA, you have to show you have been disabled throughout the three months before the date DLA is due to start being paid. You must also show that you’re likely to satisfy the disability rule for at least six months after it starts.

DLA for care needs

Lowest rate care component

You will be paid the lowest rate of the DLA care component if you need attention, including help with washing, dressing, eating, help with communication, or prompting to do something. You qualify if this help is needed for a significant portion of the day (usually at least an hour in total) and you are unable to do something requiring physical and mental co-ordination, such as cooking a main meal.

Middle rate care component

You will be paid the middle rate of the DLA care component if in addition to the requirements for the lowest rate, you also need:

  • supervision to avoid putting yourself or others in substantial danger
  • someone to be with you while they are on dialysis

You will qualify if this help is either:

  • attention, needed frequently throughout the day
  • supervision, needed for most of the day
  • prolonged or repeated attention during the night, or someone needs to watch over you at night
  • someone to be with you while they are on dialysis two or more times a week

Highest rate care component

You will be paid the highest rate of the DLA care component if in addition to the requirements for the middle rate, you are able to show that you have a pattern of needs that happen during both the day and the night.

DLA for mobility needs

To get the mobility component of DLA, a person's disability must be severe enough for them to have any of the following difficulties:

  • they are unable or virtually unable to walk, or have no feet or legs 
  • they are assessed as being both "100% disabled" because of loss of eyesight and not less than 80% disabled because of deafness and need someone with them when they are outdoors
  • they are severely mentally impaired with severe behavioural problems and qualify for the highest rate of the care component
  • the effort of walking could threaten their life or seriously affect their health 
  • they need guidance or supervision from another person when walking outdoors in unfamiliar places
  • they have been certified as severely sight impaired and have visual acuity below a certain level

Lower rate mobility component of DLA

You will get the lower rate of the mobility component of DLA if you need guidance (such as help avoiding obstacles) or supervision from another person when walking outdoors in unfamiliar places.

The mobility component takes into account a person's ability to walk outdoors. If you have problems walking indoors, that may count towards the care component of DLA.

You have to show that the guidance or supervision you need will, in fact, help you to walk outdoors. For instance, if you are agoraphobic but can be persuaded to go outdoors if someone is with you, then you may qualify.

Higher rate mobility component

You will get the lower rate of the mobility component of DLA if you have a physical disability that affects your ability to walk outdoors. People with severe learning disabilities that have a physical basis may qualify for the higher rate of the mobility component.

The higher rate mobility component of DLA is paid if a person's disability is severe enough for them to have any of the following walking difficulties:

  • they are unable or virtually unable to walk (this may be due to symptoms such as breathlessness, dizziness or pain)
  • they have no feet or legs 
  • they are assessed to be both "100% disabled" because of loss of eyesight, and not less than "80% disabled" because of deafness, and they need someone with them when they are outdoors 
  • they have a severe mental impairment with severe behavioural problems and qualify for the highest rate of care component
  • the effort of walking could threaten their life or be likely to lead to a serious deterioration in their health
  • they have been certified as severely sight impaired and have a visual acuity of less than 3/60 (meaning they can only read the top line of an eye test chart from three metres away)
  • they have been certified as severely sight impaired and have a visual acuity of between 3/60 and 6/60 (meaning they can only read the top line of an eye test chart from six metres away), a complete loss of peripheral vision, and severely restricted central vision (sometimes called tunnel vision)

Your walking ability may vary from day to day. It can be useful to keep a diary so you can describe both good and bad days. If you normally use an aid, prosthesis or medication, that will be taken into account.

Claiming DLA for a terminal illness

The law on DLA says that someone is regarded as terminally ill if they have a progressive disease and their death from that disease can reasonably be expected within six months.

Although there must be a reasonable expectation that death will occur within six months, Attendance Allowance will normally continue to be paid for three years under the special rules. At the end of this time, the claimant may be asked for further information about their health and how it affects them so that their entitlement can be reassessed.

If your claim is accepted under the special rules, you will automatically qualify for the highest rate care component of DLA. You will not automatically qualify for the mobility component of DLA. However, if you satisfy the disability rules for either the lower or higher rate of the mobility component, you will not have to wait for the usual qualifying period.

If you claim under the special rules for terminal illness, it is a good idea to discuss the claim with your GP or consultant. The GP or consultant will need to complete a form (called DS1500), which asks for information about the claimant's diagnosis and treatment. The DS1500 form should be sent to the Disability Benefit Centre with a DLA claim form.

You can get a claim form:

When claiming under the special rules, the questions about help with care do not have to be completed. However, if a claim is being made for the mobility component of DLA then the questions about mobility need to be completed.

Making a claim on behalf of someone else

A claim can also be made on another person’s behalf by a carer, family member, friend or professional person. The person who is terminally ill doesn't have to sign the claim form. They will simply be notified that they have been awarded the benefit, and payment will be made to them.

DLA and children

To receive DLA, a child under the age of 16 must satisfy all of the rules that someone over the age of 16 would have to satisfy. They also need to demonstrate that they need a lot more attention and supervision than other children of the same age. However, if they have a terminal illness, these rules do not have to be satisfied.

Because of these extra rules, there is a separate DLA claim form for children.

Babies do not qualify for DLA until they are three months old. If you are under 16 and terminally ill, you can make a claim for DLA under special rules that ensure the claim is dealt with quickly.

DLA care component

The only way that someone under 16 can qualify for the lowest rate care component is if they need attention for a significant portion of the day.

There is no minimum age for the care component, but because of the three-month qualifying period the component cannot be paid until your baby is three months old (unless they are terminally ill).

DLA mobility component

The higher rate of the mobility component can only be paid from the age of three. The lower rate of the mobility component can only be paid from the age of five.

The three months before a child’s third or fifth birthday can count as the qualifying period, so that DLA can be paid from the third or fifth birthday onwards.

To qualify, you have to show that the child needs a lot more guidance or supervision than other children of the same age.

The government's official online source of information on Employment and Support Allowance is GOV.UK.

Page last reviewed: 15/01/2015

Next review due: 15/01/2017

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