Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

There are a number of benefits that foster carers can apply for on behalf of the children and young people they care for, including Disability Living Allowance (DLA). It is advisable that carers seek guidance from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the child’s Social Worker before applying for any benefits for the child. 

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is a non-means tested benefit paid by the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) to individuals who are disabled in order to provide financial support to meet the additional needs that they have as a result of their disability. 

Disability Living Allowance for disabled or terminally ill children may help with the extra costs of looking after a child who: 

  • Is aged under 16
  • Has difficulties walking, or needs more looking after than a child of the same age who doesn’t have a disability. 

The current DLA rate depends on the level of help the child needs which may be informed by the undertaking of an assessment. 


Entitlement to DLA is subject to meeting all the eligibility criteria stipulated by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). Claims for a child under 16 are only paid when the child's disability means that they have substantial / additional needs above those of an average child of the same age. 

To qualify for DLA, a child must need additional help, above those of an average child of the same age, during the day and/or with everyday living tasks such as: 

  • Getting in and out of bed
  • Going to the toilet
  • Washing and bathing
  • Extra help at school
  • Dressing or undressing
  • Playing and learning
  • Eating and drinking
  • Taking medicines
  • Climbing stairs
  • Turning over in bed
  • Communicating with other people and learning social skills. 

For example, the child may need someone with them to: 

  • Stop the child from hurting themselves, or other people, because of behavioural difficulties
  • Protect the child from dangers of which the child is unaware
  • Prevent accidents. For example, children with learning disabilities or with autism and with poorer road sense could be at risk outdoors
  • Guide a hearing impaired or partially sighted child to walk outdoors safely;
  • Support a child with mental health problems to avoid becoming anxious and panicked in group/crowd situations. 

DLA is paid in two parts – the mobility component and the care component and is paid at different rates according to the child’s needs. A child may receive one or both components. 

The care component is paid at a low, medium and high rate and may be payable to a disabled child from the age of three months, once the child’s needs have been assessed. The mobility component is paid at a low or high rate (i.e. higher? rate from age three and higher rate from age five). 

Any adult caring for a disabled or terminally ill child, providing the child is not in hospital or residential care for more than 28 days, can apply for this benefit. Although the foster carer does not need the permission of the parent to apply for DLA, it would be good practice for the child’s Social Worker to inform the parent of the foster carer’s intentions. 

If a child is in receipt of DLA prior to becoming looked after, the child’s Social Worker should be involved in discussions with the parent concerning the transfer of the DLA to the foster carer. The parent must notify the DWP that the child is no longer in their care and the foster carer must be advised by their Fostering Social Worker to make an application to the DWP to receive it. In the same way, if a child moves placement from one foster carer to another, the foster carer must notify the DWP. www.dwp.gov.uk 

Carers should seek advice from the DWP and must tell their Fostering Social Worker that they have applied for DLA, if they haven’t already spoken with their FSW. 

DLA is paid every four weeks to the child, not the carer. Normally, if the child is under 16 the carer acts as an appointee, otherwise, the young person, providing they are capable, can have the benefits paid to them directly into their own bank accounts. 

Foster carers should set up a separate bank account in the foster carer’s name into which the DLA will be paid. For young people aged over 16, the foster carers should set up a bank account in the child’s name.

DLA expenditure 

The child's social worker and foster carer should agree the manner in which the DLA is to be spent, and this agreement should be recorded on the child's record, placement plan and reviewed during statutory visits to the placement. The Fostering Social Worker should review the agreement in supervision with the carer. 

DLA should be spent by the foster carer in securing services and to support the child's additional needs. DLA is intended to support everyday living, and can be spent on a range of activities and equipment to meet the child's additional needs, e.g.: 

  • Activities that are costly e.g. horse riding, sensory sessions
  • Provision of an escort to enable social events to be attended
  • A special holiday for the child, which could (in exceptional circumstances and prior to agreement) include covering the family’s expenses
  • Extra support including child sitting, using DBS-checked sitters
  • Individual equipment such as a computer or communication aids
  • Specialist and/or replacement clothing, where there is excessive wear and tear on clothing,            

DLA should not be saved for the child to use in later years as this could result in them being penalised. For example, for a child reaching 16, a sum of between £6000 and £16000 in their own bank account will affect their claim for income support and housing benefits. 

The child's bank statement details should be kept by the foster carer, along with records and details of expenditure. These records should be entered onto the child's record as a financial document, on a three-monthly basis by the child's Social Worker. 

Although foster carers are not expected to produce receipts, it would be good practice to do so to show how money is being used for the benefit of the child. Foster carers are expected to record how the DLA is used to promote the child’s outcomes within the placement.


Personal Independence Payment (PIP) 

Disabled children aged over 16 can make an application for a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) which has replaced DLA for anyone aged 16-64 years. To confirm eligibility for a PIP, applicants will be required to undergo an assessment. 

If a child is in receipt of DLA and is approaching 16 years, they will automatically receive an application pack for PIP, approximately 28 days before their 16th birthday. Personal Independence Payment (PIP) 


Further information 

For further information on the appropriate use of DLA, contact the DLA Helpline on 0345 712 3456, Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm who will offer clarify. 

Claiming benefits - advice for members


Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for children