Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is split into two parts, or ‘components’ - Mobility and Care - but you apply for both on the same form. Here we give detailed information about the DLA Care criteria for children under the age of 16. You may find it useful if you are trying to work out if your child should qualify for a particular rate of the Care component or if you are appealing a decision about the Care component.
For general information about DLA please see our information about DLA for children 3.08.
We also have detailed information about the mobility component of DLA for children.
DLA Care can be paid at three rates: low, middle or high.
- The low rate is awarded if the child needs additional care for over an hour per day.
- The middle rate is awarded if the child needs additional care or supervision all though the day or at night time.
- The high rate is awarded if the child needs additional care and supervision all through the day and at night time.
The DLA criteria only takes into account certain types of care.
The DLA rules take into account the care that the child needs which is ‘substantially in excess’ of the care needed by a non-disabled child of the same age. If a child needs help with an activity that another child the same age would not need help with, that would count. An example would be a 15 year old who needs someone with them to prompt them though the stages of taking a shower. Care could also be ‘substantially in excess’ if it is the sort of help that all children of that age need, but for your child takes a lot longer, for example if it takes a long time to get a five year old dressed.
Because the DLA department are looking to see what additional care is needed it is important to give a lot of detail about exactly what care you are providing and how long it takes as this is how to show that the care is ‘substantially in excess’ of other children of the same age.
Attention and Supervision
The DLA rules take into account two types of care: ‘attention with a bodily function’ and ‘supervision’.
‘Attention’ is practical help from another person which is in relation to a bodily function. A bodily function is anything to do with the body and how it works, for example eating, drinking, washing, dressing and sleeping. ‘Attention’ can be physical help such as washing a child’s hair or doing buttons up on a coat (if they are old enough for other children of the same age to be able to do this without help), or can be non physical help such as prompting a child though the stages of getting dressed, or encouraging a child to eat.
Supervision looks at the need for someone to supervise the child in order to avoid substantial danger. All children need some degree of supervision, so particularly with younger children it is important to give a lot of detail to show that the quality and degree of supervision is greater than other children.
In the DLA rules, what counts is the care that is ‘reasonably required’ rather than the care that is provided, or is available or that the child accepts. For example if it is very stressful and time consuming to get a child to brush their teeth you might not manage to get them to brush their teeth twice a day, but help with brushing teeth is still needed twice a day, so that is what counts. Another example is a child who needs help to eat, but doesn’t get this at school. You can argue that the fact they come home from school having not eaten their lunch shows that they ‘reasonably require’ help to eat lunch, even if this help is not provided.
Definition of night time and day time
Night time is defined as when the household shuts down for the night, or would shut down for the night if it were not for the caring responsibilities. For example if you would usually go to bed at 10.30pm if you could and then get up at 6am, that is what counts as night time, even if in reality you are often up at night caring for your child.
This definition means that in most cases getting a child ready for bed and settling them to sleep counts towards the day time part of the rules, because it happens in the evening when the adults in the household would usually be up anyway. If a child then wakes in the middle of the night and you have to get up, that would usually count towards the night time needs, because if it were not for the child waking you would be in bed.
How does my child qualify for the lower care rate?
To qualify for the DLA care component at the lower rate your child must need ‘attention’ in relation to ‘body functions’ which is ‘substantially in excess’ of the care required by other children of the same age and this additional help must be needed for an hour or more per day.
How does my child qualify for middle or high rate care?
To qualify for middle care the child must meet any one of the four rules listed below.
To qualify for high care the child must meet one of the day time rules and one of the night time rules listed below.
The two day time rules are:
- Frequent attention is needed throughout the day in connection with bodily functions.
We discussed the meaning of ‘attention’ and ‘bodily functions’ above. Key to this part of the criteria is that the attention must be needed frequently and must be spread throughout the day. For example a child who needed a couple of hours additional help in the morning to get up, washed and dressed but then needed no more additional care during the rest of the day would not qualify for middle or high care under this rule because the care needed is not spread throughout the day, they would instead qualify for low care because the additional help is more than an hour.
- Continual supervision is needed throughout the day to avoid substantial danger.
For this rule it is important to describe how the supervision needed is a lot more than the supervision needed by other children of the same age. Explain what dangers you are avoiding by providing the additional level of supervision.
The two night time rules are:
- Prolonged or repeated attention is needed at night in connection with bodily functions.
Prolonged means about 20 minutes and repeated is twice or more, we discussed the meaning of ‘attention’, ‘bodily functions’ and ‘night time’ above. For example if you have to be up at night time for more than 20 minutes to help a 14 year-old to get up, use the toilet and then get back to bed you could qualify under this rule. Soothing a child back to sleep can count as attention with a bodily function, but only if it is ‘substantially in excess of the sort of help that other children of the same age need.
- The child needs watching over at night for a prolonged period or at frequent intervals to avoid substantial danger.
‘Watching over’ means someone being awake to watch over the child. Prolonged means about 20 minutes and repeated is twice or more, and we discussed the definition of ‘night time’ above. For example if a child wakes in the middle of the night, and you have to get up to watch over them because it is dangerous to leave them unsupervised, you could qualify under this rule.
For advice and information about benefits and to request a telephone appointment, please contact our Welfare Rights Service by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by completing our contact form.