Filling out benefit forms can be difficult. We hope that the following tips make filling out a Disability Living Allowance (DLA) form a bit easier.
- The DLA criteria does relate to autism. Everyone claiming DLA for a child has to fill in the same generic claim form which can be off-putting because some of the questions can appear to only relate to physical disability. Where the form asks what help the child needs, this not only means physical help, but also non-physical help such as prompting, encouraging, reminding, explaining and supervising.
- Don’t just tick the boxes. Always write an explanation about why you have ticked the boxes to indicate that your child needs help in a certain area. Include as much detail and as many examples as possible.
- Ask someone from outside your household to help. You may take all the help you give your child for granted, but what’s normal for a family with a child with autism may be unusual for other families. What counts is the care that the child needs that is ‘substantially in excess’ of the care needed by non-disabled children of the same age, so you need to focus on how the care you provide is different to what other parents have to do.
- Understand the criteria. DLA is not awarded based on diagnosis, instead it looks at specific criteria that relates to the child’s care needs and mobility difficulties. If you know the criteria you know what sort of information is relevant to include in the form.
- Keep a diary. Some parents find it useful to keep a diary for a few days detailing the help they give their child, including how long it takes to do daily tasks. This can be helpful when answering the questions about how long activities like washing, dressing or eating take to complete.
- Be accurate. It can be upsetting to explain all the things that your child needs help with, but it’s important to give an accurate picture of their care needs.
- Include other documents. If you have any letters or reports that give information about your child’s needs send copies in with the claim form.
- Don’t assume that the person making a decision about your claim will know anything about autism. Explain all the extra care that your child needs as if explaining to a person who knows nothing about autism and nothing about your child. Don’t be afraid of repeating yourself.
- Remember that you are filling out the form for a good reason. People with autism have a disability and can be entitled to disability benefits.
- Think about getting help from professionals. Your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau, advice services, or professionals involved with your child (eg social workers, paediatricians, teachers, speech and language therapists) may all be able to help with structuring and writing your form. Check with them in advance to ask if they are in a position to help.
- Keep a copy of your completed form. This has a number of benefits, such as providing all the information relevant to your claim should you need to appeal against a decision or ask for a review. It will also help when the benefit award period ends and your claim is renewed, since you have to fill in a renewal form giving almost the same information all over again.
- Try your local NAS branch. Visit www.autism.org.uk/branches or www.autism.org.uk/directory to see there is an NAS branch or a parent support group in your area. It might help to talk to other parents who are going through or have been through the same process. If you are a member of an NAS branch or local parent group, think about arranging DLA meetings. Invite a local welfare rights worker or similar, if possible.
How to apply
To order a DLA claim form telephone the DLA office on 08457 12 34 56 (or the Disability and Carers Service on 028 9090 6182 if you live in Northern Ireland).
Your DLA form will be stamped with two dates. The first is the date you ordered the form. The second date is six weeks after the date you ordered it. If you return the form by the second date and are awarded DLA, it will be backdated to the date you ordered the form. Don’t worry if you miss the second date, you can still return the form it just means that you will not get the benefit backdated.
Alternatively, you can download a claim form if you live in England, Scotland or Wales, or from here if you live in Northern Ireland.
In most cases, once you have submitted the claim the DLA office will write to the child’s school and ask them to fill in a short form about the child. It’s a good idea to talk to the school and find out which member of staff usually completes these forms, check that they have an up-to-date understanding of your child’s needs.
For advice and information about DLA or any other benefits please contact The National Autistic Society Welfare Rights Service. You can book a welfare rights telephone appointment by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or completing our contact form.
I have young twins with autism and have found the last year or two extremely stressful. We have also found ourselves slipping into debt, partly because we did not know how to fill in the DLA claim forms properly. Recently their review came up, and this time round I made the time to pore over the NAS guidance notes online. I found the information extremely useful. The result was that both children were awarded the higher rate DLA for both care and mobility, which is an immense relief. Now we can plan for the future and dedicate more time to caring for the children rather than worrying about money all the time.
I would like to thank the NAS for providing this valuable support service.
Quick link to this page: www.autism.org.uk/18330