Sally Hattle from the Money Advice Unit joined SPACE for a hugely informative workshop on how to apply for Disability Living Allowance (DLA).

What is DLA?

Any child who has a disability – including autism, ADHD and neurodiverse conditions – might qualify for DLA.

DLA helps to meet the extra costs that you might have as a result of your child’s disability. Sally explained you don’t need a formal diagnosis to make a claim, and you can also include private diagnoses.

However with or without a diagnosis you will need to demonstrate that your child needs significantly more care or supervision than other children of the same age who don’t have a disability.

If DLA is awarded it can be spent on whatever you wish whether that is special diets, clothing and equipment, taxi fares, special interests, or savings for your child.

How do I apply?

Sally explained that The Money Advice Unit is available to help you make a claim and you can contact them on 01438 843 456. At the time of the workshop the waiting list was approximately 4 weeks but this can of course vary.

If you decide to make the application yourself, Sally recommended phoning the DLA helpline to ask for a date stamped DLA claim pack. This means any payments awarded will be backdated to this date. You then have 6 weeks to complete and return the form and you can complete it either online or on paper. Note that if you are going to complete the form with the help of the MAU they will advice you on when to request the form based on their waiting list times.

Before you apply

The more information you can provide about the additional care and supervision your child requires compared to other children their age without a disability the better. Sometimes as parents and carers we get so used to meeting our child’s needs we normalise them.

Sally recommended keeping a note for a few days or a week all of the different amounts of care your child needs during both the day and the night. Note down all the adjustments you are making, all of the different ways you help them, all of the behaviours they may demonstrate, everything you do to keep them safe – no matter how small these may seem to you. It will all help you demonstrate the support you give your child and be a helpful aid in remembering everything when you are filling in the form or getting help from the Money Advice Unit.

Sally also recommended taking your time – even if you have been keeping a diary you are likely to miss some things and you can always come back and add to the form later when other things pop into your mind.

The application itself

Give as much information as you can and don’t downplay your child’s condition and the help and support they need. Use examples where you can to draw as full a pen picture as possible – a decision will be made by someone who has never met your child so help them feel as if they know them. Sally flagged up that some of the questions can feel quite repetitive so make sure your answers are consistent. And some of the boxes to be filled in are quite small but there is room for additional information at the end and you can attach additional sheets if necessary.

The advice Sally gave was absolutely exhaustive. She literally went though every question on the form and helped workshop attendees think about what questions to ask themselves to draw out as much information as possible to help the claim. If you were to do the form with the help of the MAU they would go through this process with you. For example, some of the questions to ask yourself on a question about eating and drinking included:

  • How do they eat?
  • Do they use cutlery?
  • Do they overstuff? Do they hoard food?
  • Does their food need cutting into small pieces?
  • Do they need to be encouraged or reminded to take small bites, chew, swallow?
  • Do they fidget at the table? Do they mess around? Do they have to get up and leave?
  • Do they need to eat in a separate room?
  • Do you have to persuade them to start or carry on eating?
  • Do they take a particularly long time to eat?
  • Do they bolt their food down?
  • Do they make a lot of mess that needs cleaning up afterwards?
  • Do they have a special diet that needs specific preparation?
  • Are they brand specific?
  • Do you have to shop around to ensure you have favourites in stock?
  • Do they have special plates that they will only eat off?
  • What happens if you introduce new foods?
  • Do they have a sense of when they are full?
  • Do they drink too much? Not enough?
  • Etc etc

What to include with your application

You are asked to include supporting evidence with the form if you have it. This can be medical reports, speech and language/physio/OT assessments – anything that supports what you’ve said in the form. If your child hasn’t been assessed yet it can be helpful to include referral letters as they often provide a concise outline of a child’s needs and why they have been referred. Make sure you agree with any reports before including them – it is up to you want you send.

And finally…

It’s a big form. Applying for DLA can be time consuming and much like the EHCP process, because you are focusing on what your child can’t do it can be tiring and emotionally draining. But also like the EHCP process it is worth it. Make sure to look after yourself.

A huge thank you to Sally for such an informative, actionable workshop. The feedback from attendees was great:

“Thank you so much. Incredibly useful”

“Thank you SO much”

If you think your child could be eligible for DLA you are probably right. Keep an eye on our Facebook and Eventbrite pages for information on when the next DLA workshop will be or get in touch with the Money Advice Unit on 01438 843 456 who will be able to help.