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A Guide to Benefits for disabled children

Last updated: 2 Aug 2021

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.

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 transition to PIP on the Contact website (it’s well worth looking at this website for information on the rights of families with disabled children).

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. Whilst your child is under 16, you claim for them as an appointee. When they reach 16, they can claim in their own right or if appropriate, you can continue to be an appointee, but don’t assume this happens automatically as you may need to show why they are unable to act as the claimant themselves.

DLA and PIP are ‘passports’ to other benefits and services – for example, you may get more Universal Credit (see below) if your child receives DLA or PIP.

Contact can help you will any questions you have about benefits for a disabled child. Your local Citizens Advice may be able to help fill in forms, or there may be a local disabled persons’ or carers’ organisation which can help.  Scope may be able to help you find organisations local to you who can help with claim forms.

More about DLA for children is here, or if you are in Northern Ireland, here. For PIP, information on how to claim is here, or if you are in Northern Ireland, here.

Child Benefit

You should also be able to claim Child Benefit. You don’t get extra Child Benefit for a disabled child but you may be entitled to additional amounts of other benefits if your child gets DLA or PIP. 

If your child is over 16, they will have to meet additional conditions for you to carry on getting Child Benefit, to do with being in full-time education. The rules are the same as for children who are not disabled; if your child leaves full-time education, you may no longer be entitled to Child Benefit for them.

You can’t get Child Benefit for a young person who claims UC (see below). If you are not sure whether a young person should claim UC or it would be better to continue to claim for them, get advice.

Carer’s Allowance

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. As a carer, depending on your other circumstances, you may also be entitled to Income Support, but this will usually only apply if you are already getting it.

Universal Credit

If you are on a low income and you are not already claiming Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Housing Benefit or tax credits, you could consider claiming Universal Credit (UC). This is a benefit which will replace those benefits and so if you claim it, they will usually stop. You could end up worse off, so always seek advice. However, if you are not claiming these benefits, UC may be worth claiming. It can include extra amounts for a disabled child who is on DLA or PIP, called a disabled child element.

Over 16s who are not working and would have difficulty working because of illness or disability can claim Universal Credit themselves (see Benefits for disabled adults). However, you can’t claim Child Benefit, or a child element or disabled child element in Child Tax Credit or Universal Credit, in respect of a young person at the same time as they claim UC, 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 UC, 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).

When your child first claims UC, they will need to submit a medical certificate (evidence that they are not fit for work) and be referred to a work capability assessment. If they are found to have limited capability for work or limited capability for work-related activity they can continue to get UC whilst under 18. If they are found capable of work, it’s worth seeking advice in case this decision can be challenged.

Continuing to claim for your child could be worth more money overall than your child claiming UC, but it depends on all the circumstances, so get advice if you are not sure what you/your child should claim (you could also look at our transition guide). 

Child Tax Credit (CTC)

Child Tax Credit is a benefit for people on low incomes responsible for children. You can normally only get this if you have an existing tax credit claim. 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. You can still get Child Tax Credit added to your claim if you already get Working Tax Credit (this isn’t a new claim).

If your child is over 16, they will have to meet additional conditions for you to carry on getting Child Tax Credit, to do with being in full-time education. The rules are the same as for children who are not disabled; if your child leaves full-time education, you may no longer be entitled to Child Tax Credit for them.

You can’t get Child Tax Credit for a young person who claims UC. If you are not sure whether a young person should claim UC or it would be better to continue to claim for them, get advice.

Working Tax Credit (WTC)

WTC is a benefit for people working a certain amount of hours and on a low income. It is usually only available if you already have a tax credit claim (see Working Tax Credit).  You may also qualify for help with childcare costs within Working Tax Credit (see Childcare element of Working Tax Credit).

If you are making a new claim for tax credits you will be told to claim Universal Credit (UC) instead. However, you can get Working Tax Credit if you already get Child Tax Credit (or vice versa).

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. In Northern Ireland, you may be entitled to help with the rates.

These benefits 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 usually be told to claim Universal Credit instead. It can include a housing element to help with the rent, and the same rules about the number of bedrooms apply. You can only make new claims for Housing Benefit in very limited circumstances, such as, if you are in temporary or certain types of supported accommodation. If you are on Housing Benefit and you move to new rented accommodation within the same local authority, you should be able to stay on Housing Benefit as long as there is no gap in your claim.

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.

Family Fund

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 in England for under 16s, and under 19s in full-time education (as well as for some other groups, such as pregnant women), and they are also free in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to everyone.

This advice applies in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. If you live in another part of the UK, the law may differ. Please call our helpline for more details.

If you have further questions and would like to contact our advice team please use our advice contact form below or call us.

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The information on the law contained on this site is provided free of charge and does not, and is not intended to, amount to legal advice to any person on a specific case or matter. If you are not a solicitor, you are advised to obtain specific legal advice about your case or matter and not to rely solely on this information. Law and guidance is changing regularly in this area.