Disability Living Allowance?

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Disability Living Allowance are you missing out?

Disability Living Allowance 

Introduction to Disability Living Allowance:

You don't have to be 'disabled' to claim disability living allowance, as Steve Donnison   and Holiday Whitehead explain.

Disability living allowance (Disability Living Allowance) can make a big difference to people's lives. Awards range from 15.15 to 97.15 a week. Receiving DLA can lead to additional payments of benefits such as income support housing benefit, council tax benefit and tax credits. 

If someone provides care for you, your award of DLA may also entitle them to claim carer's allowance. In addition, Disability Living Allowance is tax free and you can spend it on anything you want. Yet the government have estimated that fewer than half of all those who are eligible actually claim. Why should that be?

One problem is the name. Many people with MS, for example, don't consider themselves to be 'disabled' and so never consider claiming the Living Allowance. In fact, you don't need to be disabled. Thousands of people with long-term health conditions get DLA simply because peeling vegetables is often difficult or painful for them. 

Other common misconceptions are that you can't get DLA if you work, claim other benefits, have savings or haven't paid national insurance contributions. In reality, none of these things matter.

So, if you're under 65 and your living with MS and it affects your day-to-day life, it's worth looking into whether you could make a claim. (People of 65 or over can claim a similar benefit called attendance allowance).

Could you be eligible?
To get an idea of whether you might be eligible, try this test. As a result of your MS, or the medication you take, do you have difficulties with one or more of these everyday activities:

  • walking outdoors

  • walking outdoors alone in unfamiliar places

  • preparing a cooked main meal for yourself

  • moving about indoors

  • taking medication

  • eating and drinking

  • staying safe if you're alone

  • communicating with other people

  • getting in and out of bed

  • sleeping

  • using the toilet

  • washing, having a bath or shower and looking after your appearance

  • getting dressed and undressed

  • social and leisure activities.

Difficulties with living can include: fatigue; stiffness; spasms; pain; severe discomfort; having to take things very slowly or needing someone to keep an eye on you to make sure you're safe. If you need reminding or encouraging to do things, perhaps because of poor concentration, depression or anxiety, this also counts.

If the answer is yes, you do have difficulties with one or more of these activities, then you may be eligible for DLA. Whether you actually receive an award will depend on which activities you 'reasonably require' help with (regardless of whether you get it or not), how often and how long for each time. The detailed rules about who is entitled are complex and the law changes frequently.

If you think you might be eligible, you can get a claim pack by calling the Benefits Enquiry line on 0800 882 200.

Help with your claim
The claim pack is a dispiriting 37 pages long. But, if you have access to the internet, you can download and print off a very detailed guide to filling it in from www.benefitsandwork.co.uk . The guide also tells you more about how the qualifying conditions work.

In addition, there are more than two thousand advice agencies around the UK who may be able to help with form filling. These include:

  • Citizens Advice Bureau. To find out your nearest CAB, check your local phone book under 'C' or visit www.nacab.org.uk

  • Disability Information Advice Lines (DIAL's), staffed by disabled people. Call 01302 310 123 or visit www.dialuk.org.uk to find out if there's a DIAL near you.

  • Independent Advice Centres. You can get information about local centres from UK Advice on 0207 489 1800.

  • There may be someone at your local MS Society branch who can help with form filling and, in addition, share their experiences of claiming DLA with you. If you need branch details, telephone the MS National Centre on 020 8438 0700. A local branch might also help with the emotional side as the whole process of claiming DLA can be lengthy and depressing, with no guarantee of success at the end of it.

  • MS Helpline. The Disability Rights Officer may also be able to help.

Making your case
The DLA claim pack has a page devoted to each of the activities listed above. When you're filling it in, try to give as much detail as possible. Don't just say 'I get very tired.' Instead, explain what the fatigue feels like, how long it lasts and how long you need to rest in order to recover. 

Try to give examples of when you've had problems, e.g. when you overdid something and your health suffered as a result. Also try to suggest a way in which someone could help: 'If someone was with me they could help me wash my back / pull on my underwear, socks and trousers / help me up out of chairs.'

If you can get a letter of support from a health professional such as your GP, neurologist or MS nurse, this can make a big difference. It's important to keep your GP and / or MS nurse up to date with your condition. Letters about the difficulties you face written by your partner, friends, relatives, neighbours or work colleagues can also help.

It may take several months before you get a decision on your claim. If you're not happy with the result you can appeal against it. But do bear in mind that your award can be reduced or taken away altogether at an appeal, so get advice. Your chances of success, however, are good: more than 50 per cent of all oral hearings end up with the claimant winning a higher award of DLA.

Good luck!

Steve Donnison is a freelance welfare benefits trainer and writer . A wide range of free, downloadable, step-by-step guides to claiming disability and incapacity benefits are available from Steve's website at www.benefitsandwork.co.uk
Holiday Whitehead is a practising barrister specialising in employment law and welfare benefits. Details of her employment law training and consultancy services to the voluntary sector can be found at www.holidaywhitehead.co.uk
This article is adapted from one which first appeared in MS Matters, published by the Multiple Sclerosis Society.

2003 Steve Donnison and Holiday Whitehead

Disclaimer. The material on this web site is provided for information only and no undertaking is given as to the accuracy of the information on this or any linked site. You should always get individual advice about any legal matter. The employment information on this site relates only to England and Wales. Please read our full disclaimer. Copyright 2004 -05 Steve Donnison All materials on this site are protected by copyright and all rights are reserved

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