Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is a tax-free benefit for disabled children and adults to help with extra costs you may have because you are disabled. It is not based on your disability but the needs arising from it. For example, if you need someone to help look after you.

From 20 June 2016 Personal Independence Payment (PIP) has replaced DLA for people aged 16 to 64 years. 

Disability Living Allowance - introduction

Who can get Disability Living Allowance?

The information in this section is a guide only. Disability and Carers Service (DCS) can answer any questions you may have about claiming and getting Disability Living Allowance.

You may get Disability Living Allowance if:

  • you have a physical or mental disability, or both
  • your disability is severe enough for you to need help caring for yourself or you have walking difficulties, or both 
  • you are under 65 when you claim

If you are aged 65 or over, you may be able to get Attendance Allowance.

You can get Disability Living Allowance whether or not you work. It isn't usually affected by any savings or income you may have.

Special rules - if you are terminally ill

If you have a progressive disease and you are not expected to live for more than another six months there are special rules for claiming to make sure you get your benefit more quickly and easily.

Medical examinations

You will not usually need a medical examination when you claim for Disability Living Allowance. If you are asked to have one you can find out more from the link below.

How much do you get?

Whether you can get Disability Living Allowance and the amount you get is based on your current needs and circumstances. If your needs or circumstances change, your benefit may increase, decrease or stop.

If you are unsure about a change of circumstance you can contact the Disability and Carers Service for advice:

Disability Living Allowance has two parts called 'components':

  • a care component - if you need help looking after yourself or supervision to keep you safe
  • a mobility component - if you can't walk or find it very hard to walk, or you need help getting around

Some people will be entitled to receive just one component; others may get both.

The care component and mobility component are paid at different rates depending on how your disability affects you.

It’s important that you give the Disability and Carers Service (DCS) accurate information so that you get the right amount. If any of the information you have given changes, then you must tell the DCS. They will then check that you are still receiving the correct amount.

How it's paid

Disability Living Allowance is normally paid directly into any account of your choice which accepts Direct Payment of benefits. This might be a bank, building society or other account provider.

You may be able to get someone else to collect your Disability Living Allowance if you wish. For help with this please contact your bank, building society or other account provider.

If you would like more information about how you can be paid by other means, please contact Disability and Carers Service.

Effect on other benefits and entitlements

If you start to get Disability Living Allowance it might increase the amount of other benefits or credits you're entitled to, such as Income Support, Employment and Support Allowance, Pension Credit, Housing Benefit, Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit.

Disability Living Allowance is normally ignored as income for working out these income-related benefits and credits.

Disability Living Allowance and your carer

If you have someone looking after you, they may be entitled to claim Carer’s Allowance or Carer’s Credit.

How to claim

Claim straight away - if you delay you may lose benefit. You can find out how to claim at the link below

What else you need to know

To get Disability Living Allowance you must be in Northern Ireland, or be treated as living here, and meet certain other conditions about your residence and presence.

Also changes to your circumstances can affect the amount of Disability Living Allowance you get or whether you get it. For example, this could be a stay in hospital or if your disability gets worse or better.

Disability Living Allowance  replaced with new benefit

From 20 June 2016 Personal Independence Payment (PIP) has been introduced for new claims if you are aged 16 to 64 years. 

If you are aged 16 to 64 years and already claiming DLA you will be invited to claim PIP when:

  • Your benefit is due to come to an end or you report a change in your health condition or disability on or after 20 June 2016
  • Your fixed period DLA award expires on or after 7 November 2016
  • You turn 16 years of age on or after 7 November 2016

Like DLA, PIP is a non-means tested benefit, and will be available to people with disabilities whether they are in or out of work.

From December 2016 if you are aged 16 to 64 years and have not yet been invited to claim PIP you will be randomly selected for PIP assessment.

Those claimants with an indefinite award for DLA will not be contacted until December 2016 at the earliest, and everyone will be invited to claim PIP by December 2018.

People aged 65 years and over on 20 June 2016 will continue to receive DLA provided they continue to meet the eligibility criteria.

The Department for Communities will write to you to let you know if you are required to make a claim to PIP.

Disability Living Allowance - eligibility

You may be eligible for Disability Living Allowance if you have walking difficulties or need help with your personal care. You must have had these needs for three months and expect to need this help or have these difficulties for at least another six months.

Eligibility

If you are already getting Disability Living Allowance when you reach 65, it may continue if you still have care and/or mobility needs.

If you have care needs

To get the care component of Disability Living Allowance, your disability must be severe enough for you to either:

  • need help with things such as washing, dressing, eating, getting to and using the toilet, or communicating your needs
  • need supervision to avoid you putting yourself or others in substantial danger
  • need someone with you when you are on dialysis
  • be unable to prepare a cooked main meal for yourself (if you have the ingredients), if you are aged 16 or over

There are three rates of care component depending on how your disability affects you:

Lowest rate

If you need help for some of the day or you are unable to prepare a cooked main meal.

Middle rate

if you need help with personal care frequently or supervision continually throughout the day only, or help with personal care or someone to watch over you during the night only, or someone with you while you are on dialysis.

Highest rate

If you need help or supervision frequently throughout the day and during the night.

You can get Disability Living Allowance for your care needs even if no one is actually giving you the care you need, even if you live alone.

If you have mobility needs

To get the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance, your disability must be severe enough for you to have any of the following walking difficulties, even when wearing or using an aid or equipment you normally use:

  • because of a physical difficulty, you are unable or virtually unable to walk without severe discomfort, or at risk of endangering your life or causing deterioration in your health by making the effort to walk
  • you have no feet or legs
  • you are assessed to be both 100 per cent disabled because of loss of eyesight and not less than 80 per cent disabled because of deafness and you need someone with you when you are out of doors
  • you are severely mentally impaired with severe behavioural problems and qualify for the highest rate of the care component
  • you need guidance or supervision most of the time from another person when walking out of doors in unfamiliar places

There are two rates of the mobility component depending on how your disability affects you:

Lower rate

If you need guidance or supervision out of doors.

Higher rate

If you have any other, more severe, walking difficulties.

Certain categories of severely sight impaired people are also eligible to claim the higher rate mobility component of Disability Living Allowance.

You need to be certified as severely sight impaired by a consultant ophthalmologist and be aged between three and 64 on 11 April 2011. You must also:

  • have a best corrected visual acuity of less than 3/60
  • have a best corrected visual acuity of 3/60 or more, but less than 6/60
  • have a complete loss of peripheral visual field and a central visual field of no more than ten degrees in total
  • You may be entitled to only the care component or only the mobility component, or you may be entitled to both.

If you are claiming for a disabled child

Your child must need a lot more help or supervision than other children of the same age.

You can claim for care needs before a child is aged three months. However, benefit will not be paid before the child reaches the age of three months unless they are paid under ‘special rules’ (see below).

You can claim for mobility needs form age three, if your child:

Special Rules - If you are terminally ill

If you have a progressive disease and are not reasonably expected to live for more than six months, you can get Disability Living Allowance more quickly. You can get the highest rate of the care component whatever your care needs are. And, you can get the care component and (if you meet the conditions) the mobility component, without waiting three months.

You can make a claim for someone under the special rules without them knowing or without their permission. If they satisfy the relevant conditions, they will get a letter saying that they have been awarded Disability Living Allowance. Special rules will not be mentioned in the letter.

To claim under these special rules you will need to:

  • complete a Disability Living Allowance claim form
  • get a separate completed form DS1500 from your doctor, specialist or consultant to send with it

You can find out more about caring for someone who is terminally ill in the ‘caring for someone’ section.

Your circumstances

Your entitlement to Disability Living Allowance and the amount you get is based on the information you told Disability and Carers Service.  If this information changes, it is your responsibility to tell Disability and Carers Service. They can then check you are still entitled to the benefit and whether you are getting paid the correct amount.

If you are not sure what changes you need to tell Disability and Carers Service about, please contact the Disability and Carers Service directly.

Living in Northern Ireland and if your circumstances change

There is extra information about being in Northern Ireland, or being treated as living here, and other conditions about your residence and presence which you need to meet Disability Living Allowance.

There is also extra information about how a change to your circumstances may affect your Disability Living Allowance.

Disability Living Allowance - rates and how to claim

Disability Living Allowance is paid at different rates depending on how your disability affects you. There are several ways you can get a claim pack (information below).

Disability Living Allowance rates

Disability Living Allowance is in two parts - the care component and the mobility component. You may be able to get just one component or both.

Care component  Weekly rates
Highest Rate  £82.30
Middle Rate  £55.10
Lowest Rate  £21.80
Mobility component  Weekly rate
Higher Rate  £57.45
Lower Rate  £21.80

Your individual circumstances will affect how much you can get. The claim pack gives some examples of different levels of care and mobility needs.

How to claim

Claim straight away - if you delay you may lose benefit.

You can get a claim pack by:

  • phoning Disability and Carers Service
  • contacting your local Social Security/Jobs & Benefits office
  • downloading a form from this website (see below)

Download a form

You can make a claim by downloading the relevant form, filling it in and then printing it out. If you prefer you can also print out the form and fill in it by hand.

When you have filled in the form you can either:

Call the Disability and Carers Service

You can call and ask to be sent a claim pack.

  • phone: 0300 123 3356
  • textphone: 028 9031 1092 

If you request a claim pack, the date of your phone call will be treated as your date of claim from which Disability Living Allowance can be paid, as long as you send your form back within 6 weeks of that date. If you delay making a claim, you may lose out on benefit.

Contact your local Social Security/Jobs & Benefits office

If you request a form from your local Social Security/Jobs & Benefits office, the date of request will be treated as your date of claim from which Disability Living Allowance can be paid, as long as the form you receive is returned within 6 weeks of that date. If you delay making a claim, you may lose out on benefit.

Once you have made your claim

Once you have made your claim, you can get advice on Disability Living Allowance from the Disability and Carers Service.

It will usually take around 35 working days to deal with a new claim, unless the claim is made under the special rules, in which case it will be dealt with much more quickly.

Effect on other benefits and entitlements

If you claim Disability Living Allowance you may be entitled to other benefits and entitlements.

Will my claim affect my carer?

Your Disability Living Allowance claim may also affect the entitlements of your carer.

See below:

For more information, you should contact the office dealing with your claim for the benefit or credit concerned or contact the Disability and Carers Service.

If you think a decision about your benefit claim is wrong

If you think a decision about your benefit claim is wrong you can ask the Disability and Carers Service to explain it. You can also ask to have the decision reconsidered and, if you're still unhappy, you can, in most cases, appeal against the decision.

If you're not happy with the service you receive

If you have any comments about the way your benefit claim has been handled and the service you received, you can contact the Disability and Carers Service.

Disability Living Allowance - your circumstances

Your entitlement to Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and the amount is based on the information you told the Disability and Carers Service. If there are any changes to the information it is your responsibility to tell them. They can check your entitlement to DLA and how much you should get.

Report a change of circumstances

Your disability or medical condition

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is not based on your disability but the needs arising from it. So even if your disability doesn’t change, your needs and ability to cope may change. You might:

  • have changed your medication
  • need more or less help carrying out daily tasks
  • find it more difficult to walk or it takes you more time to walk the same distance

Examples of changes include a change in:

  • care arrangements- you or someone you claim for goes into hospital or a care home
  • your condition- surgery, such as a hip replacement, could relieve your walking difficulty
  • medication-more effective medication could enable you to go out without supervision
  • mobility aids-with the fitting of a false leg, you might now be able to walk without severe discomfort
  • personal care needs - you may now need help several times in the night to get out of bed and get to the toilet

The changes may be gradual, so it may be difficult to pinpoint the date they started. If you are unsure if the change affects your benefit, it's your responsibility to contact the Disability and Carers Service to find out.

Hospital

Changes in circumstances include you, or someone you claim for, going into or leaving hospital.

Care homes

Changes in circumstances include you, or someone you claim for, going into or leaving a care home.

Going abroad to live or visit

If you are going to live abroad permanently you cannot usually get Disability Living Allowance.

If you move to another country in the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland and you already receive Disability Living Allowance, you may continue to get it under certain circumstances.

If your visit abroad is temporary, you may continue to get Disability Living Allowance if:

  • your absence from Northern Ireland does not last more than 13 weeks (this includes going on holiday)
  • your absence is only to get medical treatment for a condition which began before leaving Northern Ireland

Living in Northern Ireland

To get Disability Living Allowance you must

  • be habitually resident in Northern Ireland
  • be in Northern Ireland when you make your claim
  • have been in Northern Ireland, Great Britain, the Isle of Man, Jersey or Guernsey for at least two out of the last three years (the period is 13 weeks for babies under six months old and does not apply at all for people paid under special rules).
  • not be subject to immigration control

Immigration control does not stop you from getting Disability Living Allowance if you are either:

  • a family member of a national of a European Economic Area country
  • working in Northern Ireland as a national of a country which has an equal-treatment agreement with the European Union - that is Turkey, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and San Marino
  • living with one of these workers as a member of their family
  • a person who has been allowed to come into or stay in the UK because someone has agreed to be responsible for your maintenance and accommodation

You may be treated as living in Northern Ireland if you are:

  • a member of HM Armed Forces serving abroad or a member of their family
  • a mariner or civilian airman working abroad
  • working in the United Kingdom sector of the continental shelf (for example, on an oil rig)

See section below on 'Payment of disability benefits in other European countries'

What else you need to know

It's your responsibility to tell the Disability and Carers Service (DCS) about any changes.

Your benefit may continue at the same rate, increase, decrease or stop depending on the change.

If you are claiming Disability Living Allowance on behalf of someone else, it is your responsibility to tell the DCS about any changes.

If the Disability and Carers Service overpay you, you will normally have to repay the money. You may be prosecuted if you fail to tell them about a change.

Disability Living Allowance - medical examination

Some people who make a claim for DLA may be asked to have a medical examination. This is usually because more information about your disability or illness is needed before a decision on your claim can be made.

What is a medical examination?

A medical examination involves an interview and sometimes a medical examination with a Health Care Professional (HCP) who has completed specialised training on disability and benefit awareness.

The medical examination is likely to be different from what you would expect from your own doctor. The HCP’s examination is not to diagnose or discuss treatment of your medical condition; it is to assess how your condition affects you and the HCP may not need to carry out a physical examination.

Who does what?

The people and organisations involved in the medical examination process are:

  • the Disability and Carers Service (DCS) – part of the Department for Communities that handles benefit claims
  • Medical Support Services (MSS) – who organise medical examinations on behalf of DCS
  • the decision maker – a non-medical person within DCS who is responsible for making a decision on your benefit claim
  • the HCP – the HCP carries out the medical examination.

Why you’ve been asked for a medical examination

You may have been asked for a medical examination for several reasons. It doesn’t mean the information you’ve provided on your claim form is being treated as suspicious or that your claim will be turned down. One of the reasons for a medical examination may be to check you’re receiving the full amount of benefit you’re entitled to.

When you first apply for DLA, you are sent a claim form to complete. Your completed claim form is assessed by the decision maker, who must decide:

  • whether to approve your claim
  • whether you’re entitled to one or both of the benefit’s two components (the mobility component and the care component) and
  • how much benefit you’re entitled to receive

Decision Makers may ask for a medical examination if they need more information before they can make a decision, or they’re unsure about any details.

The Decision Maker can approve your claim without a medical examination if they’re happy with the information that they have obtained.

Special rules – if you are terminally ill

If you have a progressive disease and are not reasonably expected to live for more than another six months, there are special rules to help you get your benefit quickly and easily. It is very unlikely that you will have to attend a medical examination.

Renewal claims and reviews

If you’ve been awarded DLA for a fixed period, you will have to make another claim to renew your benefit just before your entitlement ends. This is called a ‘renewal’ claim. Renewal claims are treated exactly the same as new claims, so you may be asked to have a medical examination.

If you have been awarded DLA for an indefinite period, you will not usually have to make a renewal claim. However, indefinite awards can sometimes be reviewed and you may need to have another medical examination as part of the review.

Your medical examination

The medical examination will usually take place in your own home (or where you live), or at a Medical Examination Centre near where you live. You should be given seven days’ notice of your examination but you can ask for an earlier appointment if this does not suit and MSS will try to rearrange it.

If you miss your first examination appointment, the HCP must make a second attempt to visit you. If you miss two appointments, or you refuse to attend, your benefit claim may be turned down.

You can:

  • have a friend, relative or support worker with you at the medical examination
  • ask for an interpreter if you need one
  • ask to be examined by a healthcare professional of the same gender as yourself

You need to let MSS know ahead of time if you want an interpreter or same gender HCP. They will try to find one for you, but this may not always be possible in some areas.

Disability Living Allowance medical examination - what it involves

Your Disability Living Allowance medical examination is designed to give a general picture of how your illness or disability affects you over time, not a snapshot of your health on the day of your appointment.

What the medical examination involves

It's important to tell the Health Care Professional (HCP) if your condition fluctuates and whether this is a good or bad day for you.

Before your medical examination, it's a good idea to think about how your illness or disability affects your everyday life. You might like to think about:

how much help you need during the day and during the night
what problems you have with getting around
if you can do more on some days than others, what a typical day is like for you

What you need to have with you

The HCP will ask to see some identification before the examination starts, to make sure you're the person they've been asked to visit.

A passport is sufficient for this purpose. If you do not have a passport then Medical Support Services will advise what identification you should bring to the examination.

Your medical examination may include a sight or hearing test, if this is relevant to your disability. The HCP may want to observe you using any aids you would normally use.

What happens at the medical examination

How long will it take?

As a rough guide, you should allow about an hour for your examination. Sometimes medical examinations can be completed in much less time, especially if the HCP is looking at only one specific issue.

The interview

The HCP will interview you about the kind of help you need and any problems you have getting around. It's important to give the HCP as much detail as you can. If someone else is attending the medical examination to support you, the HCP may ask for your consent to interview that person separately. The HCP will write a statement to record what is said in the interview. This information will provide the decision maker with a clearer picture of your needs.

The physical examination

The HCP may decide a physical examination would be helpful. They should always explain what is involved first and check that you're happy for the examination to go ahead. It's important to tell the doctor if you feel any discomfort. They will not ask you to carry out any action that causes you discomfort.

The HCP also writes a report about the examination and returns it to the decision maker. This report is usually written after the examination and you will not normally see it before it is submitted to the decision maker.

The Health Care Professional's report

You can request a copy of the HCP's report from the Disability and Carers Service. They will send it to you by post.

Disability Living Allowance medical examination - what happens next

The Disability and Carers Service (DCS) will make a decision about your benefit, taking into account the Health Care Professional's report. You will be told about the decision once it has been made. If you disagree with the decision, you can ask for it to be looked at again by someone else.

Making a decision

The decision maker will consider the report along with all the other information provided for your claim and decide whether to approve your claim and what level of Disability Living Allowance you may receive.

You will receive a letter stating their decision.

Confidentiality

All the medical information related to your claim, including the Health Care Professional's (HCP) report from the medical examination, is confidential and will not be released to anyone outside of the Department for Communities (DfC).

Sometimes the HCP may want to send some information about your medical examination to your local doctor (GP). In that case, Medical Support Services (who organise medical examinations on behalf of DCS) will write to you and ask if you're happy for them to give your GP the information.

They will not pass on the information to your doctor if you do not want them to.

When you will hear about your benefit decision

It normally takes about 35 working days to process a DLA claim, from the day DCS receives your claim form. You can check on the progress of your claim by calling Disability and Carers Service.

If you are unhappy with the medical examination

If you are unhappy with the way the medical examination was carried out, you can complain to Medical Support Services. The complaints procedure is explained in the letter you received about your medical examination. You can also complain to the HCP at the time of the examination. If they cannot resolve the problem, they will give you a brochure explaining the formal complaints procedure.

You can also contact Disability and Carers Service for advice on making a complaint to Medical Support Services.

If you disagree with the benefit decision

If you think the decision about your benefit claim is wrong, or you disagree with the level of benefit you've been awarded, you can:

The Health Care Professional's report

You can ask to be sent a copy of the HCP's report at any time.

If you appeal against the benefit decision, you will be able to see the doctor's report as part of the appeal process.

Repeat medical examinations

Your Disability Living Allowance award will be for either a fixed or an indefinite period. The decision maker will set the length of your award depending on whether your disability or illness is permanent or your needs may change.

If your award is for a fixed period, you'll be invited to make a new claim six months before the award runs out. This is called a ' renewal claim'. Renewal claims are processed exactly the same way as new claims, so you may be asked to attend a medical examination again.

If your benefit award is for an indefinite period, you will not usually have to make a renewal claim. However, indefinite awards can sometimes be reviewed and you may need to have another medical examination as part of the review.

Disability Living Allowance - effect on other benefits and entitlements

If you claim Disability Living Allowance you may be entitled to other benefits and entitlements. Your claim may also affect the entitlements of your carer.

Your benefits

If your claim for Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is successful, you may get extra money paid with your:

  • income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit
  • Housing Benefit
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credit

Your benefit could be affected if someone claims Carer’s Allowance for looking after you

If your claim for Disability Living Allowance is successful, you may get an extra amount for severe disability with an income-related benefit or Pension Credit.

If someone is paid Carer’s Allowance for looking after you, you may not be able to claim this extra amount.

You should contact the Disability and Carers Service for more information.

Your Disability Living Allowance will not be affected.

Disability Living Allowance and your carer

If you have someone looking after you, they may be entitled to claim Carer’s Allowance or Carer’s Credit.

Carer’s Allowance

If you have someone looking after you for 35 hours or more each week, they may want to claim Carer’s Allowance.

Your carer cannot claim Carer's Allowance until you are awarded Disability Living Allowance at the middle or highest rate of care. Your carer's claim must be within three months of your Disability Living Allowance decision being made or they could lose the benefit.

Your carer can find out more information on Carer's Allowance, including how to claim at the link below.

Carer's Credit

If your carer cannot claim Carer's Allowance they may want to apply for Carer's Credit.

Your carer may be entitled to Carer’s Credit if they look after one or more people, for a total of 20 hours or more a week.

Carer’s Credit is a weekly Class 3 National Insurance and Earnings Factor credit for carers which can help to build a better basic or additional State Pension.

Your carer can find out more about Carer's Credit and how to apply at the link below.

If you would like more information

For more information, you should contact the office dealing with your claim for the benefit or credit concerned or contact the Disability and Carers Service.

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