Disability benefits

If you have a long term disability and you find it difficult to do things like:

  • washing and dressing
  • managing treatment or therapy
  • dealing with household finances
  • socialising
  • finding your way around
  • walking

you might be entitled to disability benefit.

Disability benefits have a ‘qualifying period’ which means you have to have had the condition for a certain amount of time and you have to show you are not likely to get better within a certain amount of time. They are not included as part of your income for tax or other benefit purposes and you can claim whether or not you are working. Getting a disability benefit can sometimes help you qualify for other types of help.

What benefit is applicable to me?

We have specific guidance for the following situations you might be in:

  • I’m looking on behalf of a child under 16
  • I am between 16 and 64
  • I am 65 or over
  • I already get a disability benefit – is this likely to change in the future?

Disability Living Allowance – for people under 16

DLA is for children under 16 who have a disability which means they need more help and supervision than other children of the same age. It has components for care and mobility which affect how much is paid.

There are 3 rates for care:

  • low (need a little help during the day)
  • medium (need help regularly throughout the day)
  • high (need help day and night).

There are 2 rates for mobility:

  • low (needs extra supervision)
  • high (needs help with walking).

You can claim the care element for your child from age 3 months. You can claim the high rate for mobility from age 3 and the low rate from age 5.

If your child meets all of the following they may be eligible

  • They are aged under 16
  • Need extra looking after or help with walking
  • They are in Great Britain when you claim
  • They’ve been in Great Britain for at least 2 of the last 3 years if over 3 years old, at least 13 weeks if under 6 months old and at least 26 of the last 156 weeks if between 6 months and 3 years
  • They are habitually resident in the UK, Ireland, Isle of Man or the Channel Islands
  • They are not subject to immigration control
  • They’ve had difficulties for at least 3 months and you expect them to last for at least 9 months.

DLA looks at the help the child needs in certain areas

Care Mobility
Difficulty getting in or out of bed, getting up in the morning, going to bed or settling at night. Needing extra supervision when out to keep them safe (low rate)*.
Difficulty getting dressed or undressed, bathing/showering brushing teeth. Difficulty walking and/or a severe visual impairment and/or blind and profoundly deaf (high rate).
Using the toilet or continence aids.
Needing extra supervision during the day to keep them safe.
Eating and drinking.
Have blackouts or seizures.
Needing extra help with development (learning physical or sensory skills, socialising and play).
Have difficulty speaking or communicating.
Needing extra help with social activities.
Needing help or reminders for things such as taking medication or doing therapy.
Needing help during night with medication, therapy, toileting or managing continence aids, needing reassurance and settling, or someone to watch over them.

*Exceptionally you can claim the high rate for mobility for a child that can walk but needs very high levels of supervision because of profound learning disabilities and behavioural problems

How do I claim?

Telephone the DWP claim line on 0345 7123456 and request a form, or download it here

Complete and return the form within the deadline if ordered by post, together with medical, school and other information to support your claim. This can include a statement from someone who knows the child like a teacher, specialist nurse or social worker or someone who looks after them regularly.

What happens next?

  • Your information will be sent to a decision maker who will look at the information and decide on the award; this usually takes 6-12 weeks. The DWP will then write to you with their decision. Any award will be paid from the date you requested a form, if you returned it within the deadline. Otherwise it will be dated from the date it was received.
  • If you don’t get an award you can ask for the decision to be looked at again. If you are still refused you can appeal (hyperlink to section ‘What if I am refused benefit?).

My child has a terminal illness, does this affect the process?:

  • You claim under the ‘special rules’ part of the form
  • Your claim will be processed and you will be informed within 2-3 weeks
  • The child doesn’t need to meet the qualifying period or show they have difficulties with any of the activities listed above
  • They will automatically get the high rate for care
  • You will need to provide a DS1500 medical report completed by your child’s doctor, nurse or palliative care nurse
  • To get the mobility element they must pass one of the mobility tests

For people between 16 and 64 – Personal Independence Payment

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) has two components, daily living and mobility, both of which can be paid at a standard rate or at an enhanced rate depending on the severity of your condition:

If you meet all of the following you may be eligible if:

  • you’re aged 16 to 64
  • you have a long-term condition or disability and difficulties with activities related to daily living and/or mobility
  • you’re in Great Britain when you claim
  • you’ve been in Great Britain for at least 2 of the last 3 years
  • you’re habitually resident in the UK, Ireland, Isle of Man or the Channel Islands
  • you’re not subject to immigration control (unless you’re a sponsored immigrant)
  • you’ve had difficulties for at least 3 months and you expect them to last for at least 9 months.

PIP looks at the difficulties you have with the following activities

Daily living Mobility
Preparing food Planning and following journeys
Eating and drinking Moving around
Managing medication/therapy monitoring a health condition
Washing and bathing
Managing toilet needs or incontinence
Dressing and undressing
Communicating verbally
Reading and understanding signs symbols and words
Engaging with other people face to face
Making budgeting decisions

How do I claim?

  • Call the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) on 0800 917 2222. Click here to find out how to claim if you’re in Northern Ireland. If you cannot manage this yourself, someone can speak on your behalf but you will need to be with them when they call. The call takes about 15 minutes.
  • You’ll be asked for the following details so try and have them ready before you call:
    • Contact details and date of birth
    • National Insurance number
    • Bank or building society details
    • Doctor’s or health worker’s name
    • Details of any time you’ve spent abroad or in a care home or hospital

What happens next?

  • You’ll be sent a “How your condition affects you” form, which you’ll need to return to the DWP within 30 days with any medical, educational, care or other evidence you have to support your claim. If your condition varies and you have good days and bad days you should explain this on the form. Try and work out if you have more good days than bad days and vice versa.
  • In most cases after you return your form you will have a face-to-face consultation with a health professional, usually at an assessment centre. You may be seen at home if it would be extremely difficult for you to attend a centre for health reasons.

How does the assessment work?

  • The assessor will look at the information you provided and ask you questions about the difficulties you have from day to day.
    They will recommend points for each task and produce a report based on the assessment.

Tip: It is usually a good idea to take someone with you to the assessment (your main carer perhaps). They can provide information if you have difficulties with the questions or have an unrealistic idea of how you manage the activities day to day or have difficulty with verbal communication. They are not allowed to answer for you.

The DWP will write to you and tell you what points you have been awarded for each activity and the final award (the amount of money you’ll get), if any.

How does the points system work?

  • If you score 8-11 points for daily living or mobility you will receive the standard rate for that component.
  • If you receive over 12 points you will receive the enhanced rate. It doesn’t matter whether you need the help during the day or at night.

Is the benefit backdated?

The award will be paid from the date you first telephoned DWP to register a claim. If you don’t get an award you can ask for the decision to be looked at again. If you are still refused you can appeal. For more information on appealing a benefit decision, click here.

I have a terminal illness, does this affect the process?:

  • You claim under the ‘special rules’ part of the form.
  • Your claim will be processed and you will be informed within 2-3 weeks.
  • You don’t have to attend a face-to-face consultation.
  • You don’t need to fulfil the three-month qualifying period for either component
  • You will automatically get the enhanced rate for daily living but will need to meet the conditions for the mobility component.
  • You will need to provide a DS1500 medical report completed by your doctor, nurse or palliative care nurse.

Attendance Allowance: For people 65 and over

Attendance Allowance (AA) is payable if you have difficulty managing personal care tasks like washing and dressing yourself, due to a disability or long-term health condition. It has two components depending on whether you need help during the day only or both day and night.

If you meet all of the following you may be eligible if

  • You’re age 65 or over.
  • You’re ‘habitually resident’ in the UK, Ireland, Isle of Man or Channel Islands.
  • You’re in Great Britain when you claim.
  • You’ve been in Great Britain for at least 2 of the last 3 years.
  • Not be subject to immigration control (unless you are a sponsored immigrant.
  • You’ve had care needs for six months and unlikely to improve in the near future.

You cannot claim AA if you are already receiving another disability benefit (hyperlink to What if I already have a disability benefit).

AA looks at your difficulties with certain activities:

  • Difficulty getting in or out of bed.
  • Difficulty getting dressed or undressed.
  • Needing physical help or supervision with activities such as bathing/showering brushing teeth and shaving.
  • Difficulty moving around indoors, getting in and out of chairs, or getting to and from the toilet, in and out of the bath.
  • Being forgetful and needing reminders for things such as taking medication or doing therapy.
  • Getting dizzy, stumbling or falling.
  • Needing supervision to prevent you putting yourself or someone else at risk.
  • Managing home budgeting and finances.
  • Socialising or attending appointments.
  • Eating and drinking.
  • Using the toilet or managing continence aids.
  • Needing help at night to take medication, go to the toilet, or needing reassurance and settling.

You need to show that you need frequent help or supervision and prompting to carry out these activities. You don’t have to be already getting help so you can get AA even if you are living alone.

How do I claim?

What happens next?

  • Your information will be sent to a decision maker who will look at the information and decide on the award; this usually takes 6-8 weeks. The DWP will then write to you with their decision. Any award will be paid from the date you originally applied, if you returned it within any deadline. Otherwise it will be dated from the date received.
  • If you don’t get an award you can ask for the decision to be looked at again. If you are still refused you can appeal (hyperlink to section ‘What if I am refused benefit?)

I have a terminal illness, does this affect the process?

  • You claim under the ‘special rules’ part of the form.
  • Your claim will be processed and you will be informed within 2-3 weeks.
  • You don’t need to fulfil the six month qualifying period or show you have difficulties with any of the activities listed above.
  • You will automatically get the day and night rate.
  • You will need to provide a DS1500 medical report completed by your doctor, nurse or palliative care nurse.

I am already getting a disability benefit – could there be any changes to this in the future?

Limited benefits claims

  • Your award may be for a limited period only rather than an ‘indefinite award’. If so, you should get an invitation to renew about 3 months before the award ends. If you haven’t heard anything, contact the DWP – they do not automatically renew if they do not hear from you.
  • For children awards are usually limited. This is because the gap between a disabled child and another child of the same age might reduce as they get older, or because a disabled child might need extra supervision as new skills develop.

If your condition changes

  • If your condition improves you are expected to tell the DWP and your award may be reduced or ended.
  • If your condition gets worse and you think you may be entitled to a higher award you can request a reassessment because of a ‘change in circumstances’.
  • If you go into hospital, a care home, or prison or legal custody for more than 28 days your claim is suspended though your entitlement remains. When you go home again it will restart. If you return or move from one to another within 28 days then those spells are linked and count as one. You or someone who looks after you must tell DWP if you move into one of these places and when you go home. If you go into permanent care your entitlement depends on how your care is funded (hyperlink to Funding support from health and social care)

Moving between DLA, PIP and AA

  • If a child is receiving DLA they will be invited to claim PIP shortly before they reach 16. They may not necessarily qualify for PIP as the eligibility criteria are different from DLA
  • If you are an adult on DLA you will be invited to apply for PIP shortly before your existing award ends, or if you want to be reassessed because your condition has got worse. All adults currently on DLA will at some point be invited to claim PIP unless they were 65 or over on 8.4.13. Those people will remain on DLA permanently.
  • If you are on DLA or PIP and are 65 or over you will remain on the mobility award you had on your 65th birthday, regardless of any worsening of your mobility. If your care needs increase after age 65 you can request a reassessment because of a change of circumstances.
  • If you are on DLA or PIP and over 65 you cannot also claim AA