Disability Living Allowance – Fostered Children and Children in Residential Care
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This chapter details Derbyshire County Council's position in respect of applications for Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for fostered children and children in residential care and how once awarded, DLA should be managed by the child's social worker and foster carer. It also covers eligibility and when to claim Disability Living Allowance.Once awarded, the DLA claim number and name of appointee should be recorded in the notes section on the front screen of the child's electronic records.
Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is a tax free benefit payable to people aged from birth to 65 who need help looking after themselves and/or find it difficult to walk or get around because of an illness or disability.
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.
DLA is not affected by a family's income or savings. It does not reduce other benefits. The receipt of DLA may entitle a family to extra support, tax credits, housing benefit and council tax benefit.
The person caring for a child with additional needs may be able to claim Carer's Allowance for looking after the child (see Section 10, Carer's Allowance). DLA is usually paid to the main carer of the child with additional needs and is intended to meet the extra costs of the child's disability.
Upon reaching the age of 16, the benefit should be paid to the young person, if they are able to manage their own finances. A Mental Capacity Assessment can help confirm the young person's ability in relation to this.
DLA is paid in two parts - the mobility component and the care component. Either or both of these payments can be claimed.
The mobility component can be claimed from the age of 3-5 years if the child has had difficulty in walking for at least three months. The 3 month qualifying period can be the 3 months prior to the child's 3rd or 5th birthday.
The mobility component is paid at two rates - the Higher Rate from age 3, the Lower Rate from age 5.
The care component is paid at 3 rates depending on the level and type of additional care needed. It can be claimed from birth but the child must have needed the extra help for at least 3 months to qualify and likely to need help for a further 6 months.
A medical assessment or report may be necessary.
2. Definition of Additional Needs and Rates of Allowance
2.1 Care Component of DLA
To qualify for the care component of 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;
- Taking part in activities;
- Needing someone with them whilst they are on dialysis.
The care component is paid at three weekly rates depending on how much care is needed. 2021/22 rates are as follows:
- Higher - £89.60
- Middle - £60.00
- Lower - £23.70
2.2 Mobility Component of DLA
To qualify for the mobility component of DLA, the child may need someone with them:
- Because they can only walk a short distance due to impairment;
- To stop them from hurting themselves, or other people, because of behavioural difficulties;
- To protect them from dangers of which they are unaware;
- To prevent accidents through increased levels of supervision. This could be the case with children with learning disabilities, autism or with significant behavioural issues;
- To guide a hearing impaired or a severely sight impaired child to walk out of doors safely;
- To support them with emotional or mental health problems to avoid them becoming anxious and panicky in group/crowd situations.
The mobility component is paid at two different weekly rates depending on the severity of the issue. 2021/22 rates are as follows:
- Higher - £62.55
- Lower - £23.70
For further information on DLA rates, please see Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for children (GOV.UK).
3. Claims for DLA
If a child is not already in receipt of DLA, a claim for DLA should always be considered at the beginning of a foster placement (wherever possible in the placement planning meeting) by the child's social worker in conjunction with the child's foster carer and supervising social worker. Advice about eligibility can be sought from the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for children (GOV.UK) or by telephoning the DLA helpline on 0800 121 4600.
If a decision is made to make a claim for DLA, the Child's Social Worker should obtain an application from the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for children (GOV.UK) or telephone 0800 121 4600. For each DLA claim, a form DLAICH child will be needed. If a decision is made not to make a claim for DLA, this decision should be reviewed at regular intervals.
There can only be one appointee for the allowance. This is generally the foster carer as the main carer for the child. The child should have his/her own bank account into which the DLA should be paid. The foster carer(s) for the child should be named as the appointee for the account.
The foster carer should not make a claim in respect to the child without the social worker's knowledge and prior agreement.
If there is a change of social worker for the child, the information about an existing claim should always be passed on by the previous social worker and the new social worker should also be alerted by the foster carer.
Advice about completion of a claim can be sought of the child's social worker.
When a claim has be made, any queries as to its progress should be made to the DLA helpline on 0800 121 4600.
DLA can be backdated to the date of your claim. This is usually the date the form is received or the date that the worker calls the enquiry line (as long as the pack is then returned within 6 weeks).
It usually takes 40 working days to deal with the claim.
If the social worker / foster carer disagree with the decision made in relation to the claim, a written statement of reasons can be requested. If the reasons are inaccurate or believed to be unfair, it can be requested that the claim is looked at again. An appeal can also be lodged. Derbyshire Citizen’s Advice Bureau (Cab) can also be contacted for advice about benefits. See Citizens Advice Derbyshire Districts website for more details.
4. 16+ Claims and Personal Independence Payment
The existence of a DLA/PIP claim should be recorded on the Child & Young Persons Care and Placement Plan (in the placement planning section) and the DLA/PIP reference number should be noted as well as the location for the written agreement for the expenditure of the allowance.
Young people who are already getting Disability Living Allowance will be invited to claim Personal Independence Payment from 7 October 2013.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will review an existing claim before the child reaches 16 and will contact the child's appointee in the months before the child's sixteenth birthday to establish if an appointee is needed from age 16 onwards. In most cases the young person or their appointee will be invited to claim Personal Independence Payment once the young person turns 16.
The social worker, the foster carer and the young person should be involved in the discussion around whether the young person has capacity to make the claim in their own right and if so, what support around this they will require. The assumption should be that they can, albeit with assistance, as this forms an important element of preparing for independence. Further guidance should be sought where necessary, for instance on Mental Capacity assessments or tools to develop and assess financial capacity.
Disability Living Allowance awards which would otherwise have ended on the child's sixteenth birthday will be extended for up to one year, but the payments will end once a decision is made on Personal Independence Payment (or if you do not comply with the transfer process).
The forms for children and adults are different and claims for 16 year olds are on the adult forms.
It is helpful to send supplementary evidence that supports the claim e.g. speech and language assessments, medical reports or statements of special educational need.
5. Changes of Placement / Appointee
If a child has a change of placement or appointee, the old appointee or social worker should ring the DLA helpline on 0800 121 4600 to notify them of the change. Payment will usually be immediately suspended; however a telephone notification must always be followed up with a letter. Telephone notification of the new appointee will not be accepted by the benefits agency.
The social worker should then write a letter informing the benefits agency of the date of the change and including details of the child, DLA claim number, details of previous appointee and details of the new appointee.
The payment will remain suspended until the new appointee writes confirming that the child is now in their care. In order to avoid a delay in payments being made, the two letters (from the social worker and the new carer) can be sent together. The letters should be sent to:
6. Recording and Monitoring DLA Claims and Expenditure
The existence of a DLA/PIP claim should be recorded on the child's Care and Placement Plan (in the placement planning section) and the DLA/PIP reference number should be noted as well as the location for the written agreement for the expenditure of the allowance.
A Written Agreement should be drawn up between the foster carer, the supervising social worker and the child's social worker regarding the DLA claim and expenditure. This should include details of the claim, the rate of DLA which a child is awarded, who is the appointee and the types of activity, support, transport, or items that it is agreed that the DLA will be spent on for that child. This Written Agreement should be stored in the Finance section (subheading additional allowance) of documents on the child's electronic file. This should be reviewed at regular intervals.
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 file as a financial document, on a three-monthly basis by the child's social worker.
Supervising Social Workers will be responsible for ensuring that Foster Carers are aware of their duties within the policy.
Independent Reviewing Officers will have an overview of DLA claims and its use within individual care plans for children and young people.
7. Suggestions as to How DLA May be Used
DLA should be spent by the foster carer in securing services and/or supports to meet the child's additional needs other than those covered by additional fostering payments. DLA is intended to support everyday living. It can be spent on a range of activities and equipment to meet the child's additional needs. These may include:
- Replacing clothing, shoes, glasses for instance if excessive wear and tear or destructive behaviour has caused it;
- Additional foster carer household expenses such as laundry and heating costs where this is directly attributed to the child's additional needs;
- Provision of an escort to enable social events to be attended;
- An extra helper for an outing or a holiday;
- Taxi fares for trips out (once the transport component of the weekly foster carer allowance has been used);
- Extra support such as a child minding service;
- Individual equipment such as communication aids, laptop etc;
- Additional help with personal care;
- Special toys to meet the child's needs;
- Domestic help to allow the carer to spend more time with the child;
- After school clubs, horse-riding or other activities that bring additional costs;
- Anything that will help to support or enrich the child's life or support their placement.
Children in Care and their carers should be encouraged to save as part of developing money management skills. Many will have Junior ISA accounts which can be used for this purpose.
If there is more than £3,000 in an account when the child returns home, this will affect any benefits claimed by the parents.
The account should always be in the child's name.
The child or young person should know where their savings are and how much they have. This information should also be available to the social worker.
9. DLA and Additional Fostering Allowances
If a child is awarded DLA/PIP, this may have an impact on the child's eligibility for access to other Children in Care budgets/schemes for example the Enriching Life Experience (ELE) fund, Special Allowances budget, activities or equipment budget. The child's receipt of DLA will not affect the foster carer's receipt of the Regular Weekly Allowance or enhanced fostering allowances such as Children First or Foster Plus.
Where there are additional costs, arising from a child's special dietary and clothing needs, behavioural needs, transport, medical/health needs, play/learning needs, social needs and educational needs, consideration should be given to meeting these costs from the DLA payments in the first instance before recourse to other budgets.
10. Carer's Allowance
If a child is awarded the high to middle rate of DLA, the foster carer should be encouraged to make an application for Carer's Allowance. However, if they receive other benefits or tax credits, they should first be advised to check any possible impact on those with the Derbyshire Welfare Rights Service before making the application.
The supervising social worker should support the foster carer in making such an application.
If the foster carer is awarded Carer's Allowance, this will not affect any fees paid to the foster carer with the exception of Child Specific Fees. In such situations an amount, commensurate to the carer's receipt of the weekly Carer's Allowance, will be deducted from the payment of the weekly Child Specific Fee.
11. Young People in Residential Care
As with young people in foster care, an adult will need to be identified as appointee. Due to staff or keyworker changes, the unit manager may be considered the most appropriate person to be appointee but this can be agreed between the social worker, the unit and the young person where appropriate. There can only be one appointee for the allowance. The child should have his/her own bank account into which the DLA should be paid.
If a child is not already in receipt of DLA, a claim for DLA should always be considered at the beginning of the placement (wherever possible in the placement planning meeting). Advice about eligibility can be sought from the DLA helpline on 0800 121 4600.
If there is a change of social worker for the child, the information about an existing claim should always be passed on by the previous social worker and the new social worker should also be alerted by the residential unit.
For change of appointee, see Section 5, Changes of Placement / Appointee.
A written agreement should be drawn up between the social worker and the appointee in the same way as when the young person is in foster care, detailing the agreed activities/items that the DLA is to be spent on and kept in documents on the child's electronic file. An audit trail of expenditure should be kept and all bank statements of the young person's account should be stored. These will be uploaded to the electronic file by the social worker every three months.
All other sections of this guidance will apply to a young person in residential care as to one in foster care. Particular notice should be taken of Section 4, 16+ Claims and Personal Independence Payment.