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Check if you can get DLA for your child

This advice applies to England

It’s very common for a parent to think they won’t be able to get Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for their child when they can. 

DLA isn’t just for children who are physically disabled. It can be given for a wide range of medical conditions including behavioural and mental health conditions as well as learning disabilities and developmental delay. You might be able to claim even if you wouldn’t describe your child as ‘disabled’.

You can get DLA if at least one of the following applies to your child:

  • they need a lot more care, attention or supervision than a child of the same age who isn't disabled
  • they have difficulty walking or getting around outdoors in unfamiliar places, compared to a child of the same age who isn't disabled

Your child must have been disabled or had the condition for at least 3 months, and you must expect it to last for 6 more. You don’t need a formal diagnosis from a doctor to apply, but this can usually help.

If your child is terminally ill and not expected to live more than 6 months, you can apply right away regardless of how long your child has had difficulties for. Read more about applying for a terminally ill child.

Your child needs to be under 16 for you to claim DLA - if they're 16 or over you'll have to claim Personal Independence Payment

If your child's under 3 years old

It can be difficult to get DLA for a baby or an infant because all children of that age need a lot of care. But, you should still apply if your child needs more care, attention or supervision than a child of the same age who isn't disabled or doesn't have a health condition.

For example, most babies would be expected to wake during the night. But if you have to get up to give them a treatment such as an inhaler 2 or 3 times a night, then this means your child needs more care and attention than a baby who doesn’t need an inhaler.

If your child is under 3, you won't be eligible for the 'mobility component' of DLA - read more about components and how much DLA you can get

If your child has lived outside of the UK

The UK, Ireland, Channel Islands or Isle of Man needs to be your child’s main home. This is known as being ‘habitually resident’.

If you’re the child’s parent or guardian and your child lives with you, you’ll also need to be habitually resident.

Check how to prove you’re habitually resident.

Your child must also have lived in Great Britain for a minimum amount of time unless they are terminally ill - this is known as the ‘past presence’ test. Great Britain is England, Wales and Scotland. It doesn’t include Northern Ireland.

How long your child needs to have lived in Great Britain depends on their age:

  • if your child is aged 3 or older, they need to have lived in Great Britain for 2 out of the last 3 years
  • if your child is aged between 6 months and 3 years, they need to have lived in Great Britain for 6 months in the last 3 years
  • if your child is aged 6 months or younger, they need to have lived in Great Britain for 13 weeks

The time spent in Great Britain doesn't need to have been in one go. For example, if your child is 3 and has lived in England for 1 year, the USA for 1 year, and Wales for 1 year, they would be eligible.

If your child hasn’t lived in Great Britain for enough time

They might be eligible if they’re dependent on a parent who has either:

  • worked and paid National Insurance in the EU, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland or Liechtenstein for 2 out of the last 3 years
  • claimed benefits in the EU, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland or Liechtenstein for 2 out of the last 3 years

Your child might also be eligible if they’re dependent on a family member who has a ‘genuine and sufficient link’ to the UK.

A family member has a genuine and sufficient link if they:

  • have lived in the UK for nearly 2 years
  • work or are self-employed, and pay National Insurance in the UK
  • have close family in the UK who they rely on for care and support
  • get certain benefits in the UK

The rules in this area are complicated and it’s best to get advice before you apply. Get help from your nearest Citizens Advice.

If your child or their parent gets a pension or benefit from the EU, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland or Liechtenstein

Your child’s eligibility for DLA could be affected. The rules in this area are complicated and it’s best to get advice before you apply. Get help from your nearest Citizens Advice.

If you or your child are from the EU, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland or Liechtenstein

To apply for DLA for your child, you need to show:

  • you made the claim while you were present in England, Scotland or Wales
  • the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands or Isle of Man is you and your child’s main home and you both plan to stay - this is known as being ‘habitually resident’
  • your child has lived in England, Scotland or Wales for the last 2 out of 3 years if they’re over 3 years old

If you’ve lived in the UK for 5 years or more

You and your child should apply for ‘settled status’.

Check how to apply for settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme.

Your child’s DLA might stop if they don’t have settled status by 31 December 2020.

If you’ve lived in the UK for less than 5 years

You and your child should apply for ‘pre-settled status’. If you’ve got pre-settled status, you’ll still need to show you’re habitually resident to get DLA.

Check how to apply for pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme.

Find out more about staying in the UK after Brexit.

If your child is from a country outside of Europe

If your child is ‘subject to immigration control’ or they have a visa that says ‘no recourse to public funds’ you shouldn’t apply for DLA. If you do, it might affect your child’s right to stay in the UK. 

Get help from your nearest Citizens Advice.

If your child is a refugee

Your child is eligible for DLA if they are a refugee or the immediate family member of a refugee.

Your earnings and other benefits

DLA isn’t means tested, so it doesn’t matter how much you earn or how much money you might have in savings.

Any other benefits you might be getting won’t be affected. In fact, getting DLA could mean that:

  • you can get other benefits, or
  • you can get a higher rate of the benefits that you currently get 

Read more about extra help and support if you’re getting DLA.

Get help and support

You can talk to your nearest Citizens Advice for help understanding if you can claim DLA. You can also talk to a specialist at the ‘Contact a family’ charity - they're experts in DLA for children.

Contact helpline
Telephone: 0808 808 3555
Monday to Friday, 9:30am to 5pm
Calls are free from all phones in the UK.

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