A Guide to Benefits for disabled children
It is advisable to seek specific advice about your own family’s circumstances, particularly if you are from abroad or not normally resident in the UK.
Working Families runs a campaign for parents of disabled children who work or want to work, see Waving not Drowning.
Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payment
If you have a disabled child under 16, you may be able to claim a benefit called Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for them. DLA has two components. The mobility component may be paid if your child has problems with getting around, and the care component may be paid if they have care needs which are more than most children of their age.
You cannot get the mobility component for a child under three. There is no age requirement for the care component, but you cannot usually claim it for a baby under three months old. This is because your child must have had care needs or mobility problems for at least three months before they can be entitled to DLA, unless they are terminally ill. It can be difficult to claim DLA for a young child and it may help to get specialist advice.
If your child is 16 or over and on DLA, they will be invited to claim Personal Independence Payment (PIP) instead of DLA, unless they are terminally ill (when they stay on DLA until their award expires). There is more information about the move to PIP on the Contact a Family website.
If your child is 16 or over and doesn’t have an existing DLA claim, they will have to claim PIP.
DLA and PIP, claimed for you or your children, do not depend on income so are not affected when you move into or out of paid work.
DLA and PIP are complex benefits. It is advisable to seek personal advice when applying because the claim forms are long and you are more likely to be successful with professional advice.
DLA and PIP are ‘passports’ to other benefits and services – for example, you may get more Child Tax Credit (see below) if your child receives DLA or PIP.
Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit
You should also be able to claim Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit (if you have an existing claim) for your child. You may get more Child Tax Credit if your child gets DLA or PIP, because there is an extra element of Child Tax Credit included in the calculation. Make sure you tell the Tax Credit Office what rate of DLA or PIP your child is getting. If you are making a new claim for Child Tax Credit you will be told to claim Universal Credit instead. This also has extra elements for children on DLA or PIP.
Working Tax Credit (WTC)
WTC can be claimed by a lone working parent or a couple in which one or both partners work (see Working Tax Credit). The basic amount you are awarded is tapered off as your income increases. You may also qualify for help with childcare costs (see Childcare element of Working Tax Credit).
If your disabled child is 16 or over and works 16 hours or more, they may be able to claim WTC themselves, as long as they receive DLA or PIP (see Working Tax Credit). You should get advice if you need to make decisions about whether you claim for your child or they claim for themselves (see transition guide). You can’t get Child Benefit or Child Tax Credit for a young person who claims WTC.
If you are making a new claim for Working Tax Credit you will be told to claim Universal Credit (UC) instead. You can’t get Child Benefit or Child Tax Credit for a young person who claims UC. If you are not sure whether a young person does have to claim UC, get advice, as it can be less generous than Working Tax Credit.
If you are a carer for your disabled child and they get the middle or higher rate care component of DLA, or the daily living component of PIP, you may be able to get Carer’s Allowance (see Benefits if you care for a disabled person). If you are thinking of taking up work you may want to consider the effect it may have on your entitlement to Carer’s Allowance.
Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
Over 16s who are not working and would have difficulty working because of illness or disability can claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) (see Benefits for disabled adults). The test for ESA can be quite difficult to meet and it is worth getting advice if your child is unsuccessful. Young people claiming DLA/PIP can claim ESA while still in education. However, you can’t claim Child Benefit or Child Tax Credit at the same time as your young person claims ESA, so you may need advice about which to claim, or you can research the amounts involved. You can look at the different benefit amounts which would be paid depending on who claims by using an online calculator like the one on the website Turn2Us. Even if your young person claims ESA, you can still be their appointee for the benefit, if that is necessary (that means you would be responsible for making the claim and reporting all changes of circumstances).
In some parts of the country, a young person claiming income-related ESA will be told to claim Universal Credit (UC) instead. You can be an appointee for UC if necessary (it is usually claimed online). You can’t claim Child Benefit or Child Tax Credit for a young person who is claiming UC, so you may need advice. UC can be less generous than income-related ESA, for example if your child gets PIP, and/or is thinking of working, so also get advice if you are not sure if they do have to claim UC. For more information on ESA and the different types you can claim see the GOV.UK guidance.
Direct Payments (DP)
If your disabled child, having been assessed by your local authority, is entitled to services, you can choose to have direct payments (DP) and buy the services yourself. DP are for the stipulated services and are not affected by what you earn.
Disabled Facilities Grant
If your local authority provides a grant to alter your home to suit your disabled child’s needs it is not affected by your income.
Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction
Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction (help with the council tax from your local authority) depend on your income. These benefits also depend on how many dependent children you have and the calculation will be different if your children are on DLA or PIP, so make sure the local authority know about this. In addition, the number of bedrooms allowed for in the Housing Benefit (HB) calculation could be higher if your children are unable to share a room because of disability and they are on DLA or PIP. Again make sure the local authority are aware.
If you make a new claim for Housing Benefit, you will be told to claim Universal Credit instead. The same bedroom rules apply.
If you move into work, you may, depending on your income, still be entitled to such help but you need to inform your local authority for the benefits to be recalculated. You can use the calculator at the website www.turn2us.org.uk to check your entitlement.
The Family Fund gives discretionary grants to families with severely disabled children under 18. They have their own definition of ‘severely disabled’. The grants are for things not supplied by statutory authorities. Usually the grants are made to families on benefits, but the fund may also be able to help other families on low incomes.
Help with health costs
You can qualify for help with health costs, for example prescriptions and sight tests, if you receive some benefits such as Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, or the Guarantee credit of Pension Credit . Some people on Universal Credit or tax credits may be entitled, and you may also be able to apply for help if you are on a low income. Prescriptions are free for under 16s, and under 19s in full-time education.
This advice applies in England, Wales and Scotland. If you live in another part of the UK, the law may differ. Please call our helpline for more details.