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Chapter 9: Disability living allowance
This chapter covers:
1. What is disability living allowance (here)
2. Who is eligible (here)
3. Amount of benefit (here)
4. Claiming disability living allowance (here)
5. Challenging a decision (here)
6. Other benefits and tax credits (here)
Basic facts
– Disability living allowance (DLA) is paid to disabled people who need personal care or who have mobility difficulties.
- You must be under 16 to make a new claim.
– Getting DLA allows you to claim universal credit as a full-time student, provided you satisfy certain other conditions.
– Getting DLA allows you to claim income-related employment and support allowance as a full-time student. You may also be able to claim housing benefit as a full-time student and you may get a disability premium.
– DLA is not means tested.
1. What is disability living allowance
Disability living allowance (DLA) is a benefit for disabled people who need help with personal care or who have mobility difficulties. Unless you are under 16, you cannot make a new claim for DLA and must claim personal independence payment (PIP) instead (see here).
DLA has two components:
care component, paid at either the lowest, middle or highest rate;
mobility component, paid at either the lower or higher rate.
You can get either or both components.
Students already getting DLA can continue to do so, but will be invited to claim PIP instead at some point. Starting college or university does not usually lead the DWP to reassess your entitlement to DLA.
The amount you get is not means tested, and so is not reduced because of student support or other income.
If you are a full-time student getting DLA and you satisfy certain other conditions, you are eligible for universal credit (see here). If you are a full-time student and get DLA, you are eligible for income-related employment and support allowance. You may also be eligible for housing benefit.
2. Who is eligible
Full-time and part-time students can continue to get disability living allowance (DLA). You cannot make a new claim unless you are under 16, but should claim personal independence payment (PIP) instead if you think you may be entitled.
If you get DLA and your condition changes, which means you should qualify for a different rate of DLA (see below), or your DLA award is due to end, or you turn 16, you must claim PIP instead. Otherwise, at some point you will be reassessed for PIP.
Care component
To get the care component, you must have a physical or mental disability that means you need the following kinds of care from another person. What is important is the help you need rather than the help you actually get.
You get paid either the lowest, middle or highest rate.
Lowest rate
You get the lowest rate if you meet either (or both) of these two conditions.
You need attention in connection with your bodily functions (see here) for a significant portion of the day. This attention might be given all at once or be spread out. It should normally add up to about an hour or more, or be made up of several brief periods.
You cannot prepare a cooked meal for yourself if you have the ingredients. This is a test of whether you can manage all the tasks involved in preparing a main meal for one on a traditional cooker – eg, planning the meal, reading labels, chopping vegetables, carrying pans and using the cooker.
Middle rate
This is for people who need care either during the day or during the night, but not both. You get the middle rate if you meet one (or both) of the day care conditions or one (or both) of the night care conditions.
 
Care during the day
You need frequent attention throughout the day in connection with your bodily functions (see here). This means you may qualify if you need help several times, not just once or twice, spread out throughout the day. If you need help just in the mornings and evenings, for instance, you might get the lowest rate instead.
You need continual supervision throughout the day in order to avoid substantial danger to yourself or others. The supervision must be frequent or regular, but need not be continuous.
 
Care at night
You need prolonged or repeated attention at night in connection with your bodily functions (see here). You should qualify if you need help once in the night for 20 minutes or more. You should also qualify if you need help twice in the night (or more often), however long it takes.
In order to avoid substantial danger to yourself or others, you need another person to be awake at night for a prolonged period (20 minutes) or at frequent intervals (three times or more) to watch over you.
Highest rate
This is for people who need care during both the day and night. You get the highest rate if you meet one (or both) of the above day care conditions and one (or both) of the above night care conditions. You also get the highest rate if you are terminally ill – ie, you have a progressive disease and could reasonably be expected to die within six months.
Attention with bodily functions
This is help from someone else to do personal things you cannot do entirely by yourself. ‘Bodily functions’ are things like breathing, hearing, seeing, eating, drinking, walking, sitting, sleeping, getting in or out of bed, dressing, undressing, and using the toilet. However, any help in connection with an impaired bodily function can count if it involves personal contact (physical or verbal in your presence) and it is reasonably required.
For example, a blind student might need the help of a notetaker or reader, or a guide around campus or around town. A deaf student might need an interpreter. A student with arthritis might need help getting in and out of chairs.
You must need the help of another person to qualify for DLA. If you only need artificial aids, you cannot get DLA.
You cannot count help with domestic chores, unless someone is helping you to do them for yourself.
If you have dyslexia, you could argue that you qualify for DLA, but only if you need someone to be with you to help you read and write - ie, someone sitting beside you reading to you or helping you develop reading skills.1CDLA/1983/2006; CDLA/3204/2006 This could count as attention with the bodily function of seeing or of the brain.2KM v SSWP (DLA) [2013] UKUT 159 (AAC), reported as [2014] AACR 2
 
1     CDLA/1983/2006; CDLA/3204/2006 »
2     KM v SSWP (DLA) [2013] UKUT 159 (AAC), reported as [2014] AACR 2  »
Having a social life
The kind of help you need must be reasonably required. This means that you need it to enable you as far as reasonably possible to live a normal life. You can include help needed to take part in social activities, sport, recreation, cultural or political activities, provided the help required is in connection with a bodily function.
Mobility component
There are two rates of the mobility component.
Lower rate
This is for people who can walk, but need guidance or supervision. You qualify if you are able to walk but, because of your disability, you cannot walk outdoors without guidance or supervision from someone else most of the time.
You can still qualify if you are able to manage on familiar routes. If you cannot manage without guidance or supervision on unfamiliar routes or you cannot manage anywhere, you should qualify. For example, someone with learning disabilities may qualify even if s/he has learned the route to and from home and college if s/he still needs guidance in other places.
Higher rate
This is for people who cannot walk or have great difficulty walking because of a physical disability. You qualify if:
you are unable to walk; or
you have no legs or feet; or
you are virtually unable to walk. This takes account of the distance you can walk before you experience severe discomfort. There is no set distance at which you pass or fail this test. Some people have passed who can walk 100 metres; others have failed who can walk only 50 metres. The speed at which you walk and how you walk also count; or
the exertion required to walk would be dangerous or could cause a serious deterioration in your health; or
you are deaf and blind; or
you have a severe visual impairment.
Someone who is severely mentally impaired may also qualify if s/he gets the highest rate care component and meets other conditions.
Claiming for children
You can claim DLA for a disabled child. There is no lower age limit for the care component, but the cooked meal condition for the lowest rate does not apply to children under age 16. You can claim the higher rate mobility component for your child from age three and the lower rate mobility component from age five.
Because all children need care or supervision to some extent, there is an extra test. As well as passing the disability test, children under 16 must have needs substantially in excess of the normal requirements of other children their age to qualify for the care component. For the lower rate mobility component, children under 16 must need substantially more guidance or supervision than other children of their age.
3. Amount of benefit
Weekly rate from April 2020
 
Care component
Lowest rate
£23.60
Middle rate
£59.70
Highest rate
£89.15
Mobility component
Lower rate
£23.60
Higher rate
£62.25
4. Claiming disability living allowance
You cannot make a new claim for disability living allowance (DLA) unless you are under 16; you must claim personal independence payment (PIP) instead (see here).
If you still get DLA, you will be reassessed for PIP at some point.
DLA is usually paid directly into your bank account, and usually paid every four weeks in arrears.
5. Challenging a decision
If you think a decision about your disability living allowance is wrong, you can ask the DWP to look at it again. This process is known as a ‘mandatory reconsideration’. Provided you ask within the time limit (usually one month), the DWP notifies you of the decision in a ‘mandatory reconsideration notice’. If you are still not happy when you get this notice, you can appeal to the independent First-tier Tribunal. If it was not possible to ask the DWP to reconsider the decision within a month, you can ask for a late revision (within 13 months), explaining why it is late. You can also ask the DWP to look at a decision again at any time if certain grounds are met – eg, if there has been an official error.
6. Other benefits and tax credits
If you meet certain other conditions and are a full-time student getting disability living allowance (DLA), you are eligible for universal credit (UC) (see here). If you are a full-time student and get DLA, you are eligible for income-related employment and support allowance (ESA). You may also be eligible for housing benefit (HB).
DLA is paid in addition to UC, income support (IS), ESA and HB, and may qualify you for an additional premium in IS, ESA and HB.
If you claim other benefits or tax credits, make sure the job centre, Tax Credit Office or local authority office dealing with your claim knows you or your child get DLA.
If you, your partner or a child for whom you are responsible get DLA, you are exempt from the benefit cap (see here and here).

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