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Please Note: Disability Living Allowance has been replaced Personal Independence Payment for anyone considered to be of working age. You can no longer make a new claim for DLA if you are aged between 16-64. If you are already claiming DLA and are aged 16-64 you will be moved onto PIP at a later date.

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is a benefit for those with disabilities.

It is for people who need help looking after themselves and those who find it difficult to walk or get around. You don't need to have someone looking after you to qualify.

DLA is tax free, not means tested and you don't need to have paid any National Insurance contributions.

It is paid on top of any earnings or other income you may have. It is almost always paid in full on top of social security benefits or tax credits.

DLA is divided into two parts:

  • A CARE COMPONENT - for help with personal care needs, paid at three different levels.
  • A MOBILITY COMPONENT - for help with walking difficulties, paid at two levels.

You can be paid either the care component or the mobility component on its own, or both components at the same time.

DLA is for you, not for a carer or a parent.

You can qualify for DLA whether or not you actually have someone helping you. What matters is the effects of your disability and the help you need, not whether you already get that help.

Special rules - if you're terminally ill

If you're not expected to live more than 6 months, there are 'special rules' so you get DLA more quickly. You must:

  • complete a DLA claim form
  • include a DS1500 form - you can only get these from a doctor, specialist or consultant

You can do this on behalf of someone else without their permission. The letter about the money awarded won't mention 'special rules'.


To qualify for DLA you must pass a series of non-disability tests and also satisfy at least one of the disability tests. Most of the non-disability tests have exceptions to the standard rules, so off-the-cuff advice may not always be correct.

To qualify for DLA, you must:

  • Be under 16, and
  • pass both the backwards and forwards qualifying period tests, and
  • pass the residence and presence tests, and
  • not be subject to immigration control.

RATES OF DLA - 2019/20

You can get one of the three rates of care component and one of the two rates of mobility component. You'll always get the highest rate to which you are entitled. Each person in your family who qualifies for DLA may claim it.


Highest - £61.20
Lowest - £23.20


Highest - £87.65
Middle - £58.79

Lowest - £23.20



To qualify for DLA care component your care needs must ultimately stem from disability - both physical and mental disabilities may help you qualify. You must need care, supervision or watching over from another person because of your disabilities. You must be 'so severely disabled physically or mentally that ... you require [from another person]':

During the day

  • 'frequent attention throughout the day in connection with [your] bodily functions' or
  • 'continual supervision throughout the day in order to avoid substantial danger to [yourself] or others' or

At night

  • 'prolonged or repeated attention in connection with [your] bodily functions' or
  • 'in order to avoid substantial danger to [yourself] or others [you require] another person to be awake for a prolonged period or at frequent intervals for the purpose of watching over [you]' or

Part-time day care

  • '[you require] in connection with [your] bodily functions attention from another person for a significant portion of the day (whether during a single period or a number of periods)' or

Cooking test

  • '[you] cannot prepare a cooked main meal for [yourself] if [you have] the ingredients'.


You'll pass the disability test for the highest rate if you satisfy:

  • either (or both) daytime tests; and
  • either (or both) night-time tests.

Basically, your care or supervision needs are spread throughout both the day and the night.

If you are terminally ill, you qualify automatically for the highest rate even if you need no care at all when you claim.


You'll pass the disability test for the middle rate if you satisfy:

  • either (or both) daytime tests; or
  • either (or both) night-time tests.

Basically, your care or supervision needs are spread throughout just the day or just the night.

If you are undergoing dialysis 2 or more times a week and normally require some help with the dialysis, you may qualify automatically for the middle rate.


You'll pass the disability test for the lowest rate if you satisfy either (or both) the part-time day care or cooking tests. There is an upper age limit for this rate: you must be under 65 when you first start to satisfy either of the lowest rate disability tests. There is also a lower age limit: if you are under 16 you cannot use the cooking test, but you can use the part-time day care test.


This is the disability test for the lowest rate care component. You must be aged 16 or over to qualify for the lowest rate on this basis. The upper age limit for starting to qualify for the first time is the day before your 65th birthday. But if you claim before your 65th birthday, the lowest rate can be maintained and renewed.

You have to show that you are 'so severely disabled physically or mentally that... [you] cannot prepare a cooked main meal for [yourself] if [you have] the ingredients'.

The cooking test is intended to be a hypothetical or abstract test. It is intended to gauge the level of disability rather than examine your ability to cook.

The test looks at whether you can carry out all the activities necessary to prepare a cooked main meal without help from another person.

The cooking test covers people whose disabilities mean they cannot cook at all, even if they had help. It also applies to people who don't normally cook, and to those who do cook but cannot prepare the type of cooked main meal at issue or who need some help to carry out the tasks they are capable of.

The process of preparing a cooked main meal includes:

  • Planning what to prepare for the cooked main meal - e.g. each type of food, seasoning, and the quantities required

The law says you already have the ingredients for the main meal, so it's debatable whether or not preparation also includes getting them from their usual storage places;

  • Carrying out all the stages in the correct order and to the required timings:
  • Washing, peeling and chopping fresh vegetables, meat, etc.
  • Using taps - e.g. to fill a saucepan.
  • Using a cooker - e.g. lighting the gas, adjusting the heat, opening and closing an oven door.
  • Putting the food into pans, stirring, tasting, checking whether its properly cooked.
  • Lifting and moving full or hot pans on or off a cooker, or bending to lift pans into or out of the oven (explain why it is reasonable for you to want to use the oven (e.g. to prepare a reasonable variety of suitable meals, or to use a low-level grill).
  • Dishing up your meal.


This means active help from another person to do the personal things you cannot do for yourself. It does not matter whether you actually get the help; what counts is the help you need. It must also be help that would need to be given in your presence, not, for example, over the telephone.
To count as 'attention', the help you need because of your disability must be in connection with your 'bodily functions' and it must be 'reasonably required'.


These are personal things such as breathing, hearing, seeing, eating, drinking, walking, sitting, sleeping, getting in or out of bed, dressing and undressing, going to the toilet, getting in or out of the bath, washing, shaving, communicating, speech practice, help with medication or treatment, etc. Anything to do with your body and how it works can count.

Indirect or ancillary attention counts but is often forgotten. Think about the beginnings and ends of particular activities. If there are other tasks involved during the course of attending to a bodily function, these can count if they are done on the spot. For example, if you need help to change bedding because of incontinence, then rinsing out the bedclothes if it is done straight away also counts, as can soothing you back to sleep. If you need help with eating, then cleaning up spills also count.

If there is part of an activity you need help with (and you could not carry on without it) that also counts. For example, you may be able to dress yourself, but you cannot get your clothes, or you need to be prompted to dress.

It is irrelevant that you can manage most of the activity by yourself. If it takes you a long time to do something, e.g. getting dressed, you may reasonably require help even though you persevere and eventually manage by yourself.

If you are deaf, the assistance of an interpreter to communicate counts, as does assistance in developing Communication Skills. The extra effort involved in the two-way communication if one of you is not adequately skilled in Sign Language may also be included as 'attention'. Help to overcome problems communicating or interacting with others may count if, for example, you have a learning disability. This is because brain function also counts as a bodily function.


To pass the 'frequent attention throughout the day in connection with [your] bodily functions' test you must show that during the daytime you need this help frequently and throughout the day - during the middle of the day, as well as in the morning and evening. The fact that you can manage most of your bodily functions without help does not mean you fail this test; it depends on the pattern of your accepted care needs.

'Frequent' means 'several times - not once or twice', and the pattern of help must be such that, looking at all the facts about your accepted care needs as a whole, it is true to say you need 'frequent attention throughout the day'. It is difficult to give a clear dividing line between passing the test and not. The best advice is to give as full a picture of your care needs as you can. Describe the help you need, why you need it, and when it is provided. Are your care needs spread throughout the day, or in 2 or 3 parts of the day? Is the care provided when you need it or when your carer is available? Would it be better for you if help was provided at other times or for longer? If your care needs vary because your condition fluctuates over time, give an idea of the pattern of those needs over, say, a month or whatever period of time accurately reflects your circumstances. The decision maker must then focus on what you need and the pattern of those needs, rather than the length of time it takes to meet your needs and the gaps between the attention.


During the night the help must either be 'prolonged' (at least 20 minutes) or 'repeated' (needed 2 times or more).

There is no fixed time for the start of the night. It depends on when your household closes down for the night. 'Night' will normally when your carer goes to bed and ends when they get up in the morning.

Night time for a disabled child is when a parent is in bed. So any attention a parent gives after their child has gone to bed but before the parent's own normal bedtime would be daytime attention. However, if a parent or carer stays up late or gets up early to attend to you, that should count as night-time attention. If you live alone and keep unusual hours, like getting up at 4:30 am, your care needs may count as night-time care between the more usual bedtimes of 11:00 pm to 7:00 am.

What is 'Continual Supervision'?

Supervision is more or less what it says: you need someone around to prevent any accidents either to yourself, or other people.

The words used are 'continual supervision'. This means frequent or regular, but not non-stop. You can apply even if you don't need supervision every single minute.

The supervision doesn't have to prevent the danger completely, but it must be needed 'in order to effect a real reduction in the risk of harm to the claimant'

The supervision must be 'reasonably required', rather than medically required. For example, you may be mentally alert and know what you should not do without someone on hand to help. Medically speaking, you could supervise yourself. But the question is whether or not you reasonably require supervision from someone else.

What is 'Watching Over'?

'Watching over' has its ordinary English language meaning: so it includes needing to have someone else being awake and listening, as well as getting up and checking how you are.

Remember the care component is based on the help or supervision you reasonably need from another person, not the help or supervision you actually get. Your care needs must stem from physical or mental disablement, but it need not be medically essential to have that help or supervision. Rather you should show that, given all the circumstances, the help is reasonably required.

Nor do you have to need that level of help every night in the week. It depends on the normal pattern of your needs - 3 or 4 nights a week may be sufficient, perhaps less if the dangers would be very grave.


Special rules for some kidney patients undergoing renal dialysis help them qualify for the middle rate of care component.

Depending on when and where you dialyse, you'll be treated as satisfying the disability tests for the day or for the night. You must show that:

  • You undergo renal dialysis 2 or more times a week; and
  • The dialysis is of a type which 'normally requires the attendance or supervision of another person during the period of the dialysis'; or
  • Because of your particular circumstances (e.g. age, visual impairment or loss of manual dexterity) during the period of the dialysis you require another person to supervise you in order to avoid substantial danger to yourself, or to give you some help with your bodily functions.


If you are dialysing as an outpatient and getting help from hospital staff, you won't automatically satisfy the disability tests, but it does help you pass both qualifying periods for DLA (three months backward test and six months forward test).



Higher rate

To qualify for the higher rate mobility component you must be aged 3 or over. For tests 1, 2 or 3, you must be 'suffering from physical disablement' (but if it is accepted that you have severe learning disabilities which have a physical cause, you may also qualify). Your 'physical condition as a whole' must be such that:

  • you are unable to walk or
  • you are virtually unable to walk or
  • the 'exertion required to walk would constitute a danger to [your] life or would be likely to lead to a serious deterioration in [your] health' or
  • you have no legs or feet (from birth or through amputation) or
  • you are both deaf and blind or
  • you are entitled to the highest rate care component and are severely mentally impaired with extremely disruptive and dangerous behavioural problems.

The higher rate mobility component is paid to people who have a severe visual impairment.

Lower rate

To qualify for the lower rate mobility component you must be aged 5 or over. It doesn't matter that you are able to walk but you must be 'so severely disabled physically or mentally that, disregarding any ability [you] may have to use routes which are familiar to [you] on [your] own, [you] cannot take advantage of the faculty out of doors without guidance or supervision from another person most of the time'.


There is an extra disability test for the lower rate for children under the age of 16. They must show that either:

  • They require 'substantially more guidance or supervision from another person than persons of [their] age in normal physical and mental health would require'; or
  • People of their age 'in normal physical and mental health would not require such guidance or supervision'.


Being 'unable to walk' means: you cannot take a step by putting one foot in front of the other. If you have one artificial leg, your walking ability is considered when using it. You are unlikely to count as being unable to walk but you may well qualify on the basis that you are virtually unable to walk.


For the third disability test for the higher rate it is the exertion needed to walk that must cause the serious problem. How far you can actually walk were you to do so is not relevant. What is relevant is the effect of the act of walking on your life or health. People with serious lung, chest or heart conditions may qualify in this way; in one case, a man who had ulcers on his feet caused by his diabetes qualified.

The 'danger' or 'serious' deterioration does not have to be immediate, nor does any deterioration have to be permanent. If you can only recover from the deterioration in your health by some kind of medical intervention (e.g. oxygen, drugs) you should explain this on the DLA claim form. Danger from other causes besides the effort needed to walk (e.g. being run over) cannot be taken into account. If you would get better without medical intervention after a few days rest you won't qualify.


To satisfy this someone must have 100% disablement from loss of sight and 80% disablement from loss of hearing.


You will automatically qualify under the 4th disability test if you have no legs or feet, regardless of your ability to manage with prostheses. However, the first 3 disability tests for the higher rate do take into account your walking abilities when using suitable artificial aids such as a walking stick, a built up shoe, or a prosthesis.

If there is an artificial aid or prosthesis which is 'suitable in [your] case', and you wouldn't be unable or virtually unable to walk if you used it, you'll fail the test.

If you use crutches and can only swing through them, rather than use them to walk with each leg able to bear your weight, then you are unable to walk.

A guide dog does not count as an artificial aid, nor do painkillers. What counts is your walking ability under any painkillers or other medication that you normally take if it is reasonable to expect you to take it. For example, it may not be reasonable to expect you to carry a bulky nebulizer even though it helps when you get breathless.

If you have refused treatment which might have improved your condition, that cannot be held against you: it is your ability to walk as you are that counts.


Although you are treated as passing the qualifying period for mobility component, you must actually pass one of the disability tests to be paid mobility component from the time you claim it.


This way of qualifying for the higher rate mobility component is aimed at people with severe learning disabilities. If you don't pass this test, you may pass the virtual inability to walk test. If you fail both tests, you will probably pass the disability test for the lower rate.

To be entitled to higher rate mobility component on the basis of severe mental impairment, you must pass the following tests:

  • You must be entitled to highest rate care component (even if it cannot be paid because you live in hospital or a Care Home); and
  • You suffer from 'a state of arrested development or incomplete physical development of the brain, which results in severe impairment of intelligence and social functioning'; and
  • You 'exhibit disruptive behaviour' which 'is extreme'; and
  • You 'regularly require[s] another person to intervene and physically restrain [you] to prevent [you] causing physical injury to [yourself] or another, or damage to property'; and
  • Your behaviour 'is so unpredictable that [you require] another person to be present and watching over [you] whenever [you are] awake'.


The lower rate is for people who can walk but cannot generally make use of the ability to do so outside unless accompanied by someone to guide or supervise them. People who are visually impaired or have learning difficulties or mental health problems such as agoraphobia are most likely to qualify.

You may qualify if you are deaf and cannot understand spoken or written words sufficiently to seek or follow directions alone. You might also qualify if you have falls, fits or attacks and need someone with you to deal with the consequences. There is an extra test if you are under 16 years of age.

Your mobility problems must be due to physical or mental disability. If fear or anxiety prevents you from walking on unfamiliar routes, it must be a symptom of a mental disability. If your anxiety is connected to your physical condition, but could nevertheless be described as a symptom of mental disability, you may still be able to qualify. For example, a deaf person needing the reassurance of a companion to overcome anxiety about being on unfamiliar routes may qualify if their anxiety is classed as a mental disability.



DIAL Disclaimer
Whilst all the information given in this document was correct at the time of going to press, DIAL Doncaster cannot be held responsible for any subsequent changes.

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