Disability Living Allowance - Children Looked After in Foster Placements

This chapter was introduced into the manual in June 2013.

1. Policy Statement

The aim of this guidance is to achieve a consistent approach to dealing with Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for carers across Children and Family Services (CFS), so that we can be sure that all children Looked After have the same opportunities for claiming and receiving the advantages of additional allowances to meet their needs.

Where a child who is Looked After is in receipt of DLA, this allowance must be properly administered and used to the benefit of the child.

Foster carers who wish to claim DLA on behalf of a child are eligible to make a claim but it is expected that they will discuss this with the child's social worker.

A record should be kept by carers of how the allowance is spent and this record should be shared with social workers and other members of the CFS on request.

Any items and equipment purchased using DLA are the child's property and must move with them. Any DLA money that has been saved should also move with the child if they move placement.

2. Scope of Policy

This policy will apply to all children who are Looked After by Hull City Council within foster care placements, including those provided both "in house" and by fostering agencies. Requirements relate to those situations where a foster carer is the "appointee" who is claiming the DLA for the child.

3. Background

The criteria for qualification for DLA are complex and evolving. There are forthcoming changes to DLA which will be introduced over 2013/14. The Welfare Rights Service (see below for contact details) are able to give advice and assistance to social workers and to foster carers or residential staff in relation to DLA and other benefits. 

There are two parts of Disability Living Allowance: care and mobility. A child may be eligible for one or both of them. There are three rates within the care part: a low rate; middle rate and high rate. There are two mobility rates: a higher and lower rate. Mental and physical disabilities are widely defined and may include children with ADHD and behavioural problems.

A leaflet is available from the Department for Work and Pensions which gives some detail about the level criteria for qualification at the different rates. (See Section 13, Sources for Further Information below for a link to the leaflet.)

Mobility payments can be made for children in residential and foster care. The care component is only payable to children in foster care. However, if the care component can be established it would then become payable if the child leaves residential care to move home or to foster care.

4. Claiming DLA on behalf of a Child

At the start of a placement, where it seems possible that a child may be eligible for DLA it should be discussed at the Placement Planning Meeting. Once the child becomes looked after the child's social worker should contact the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) regarding any existing claims for DLA. If DLA is already being claimed on behalf of the child the existing "appointee" (the person claiming the allowance, usually a parent) can continue to claim, unless the period of care lasts, or is intended to last for more than 12 weeks. However, the child's social worker should be involved in discussions with the parent concerning the transfer of the DLA to the foster carer if appropriate.

Foster carers can claim on behalf of looked after children (including section 20 accommodated). Foster carers who wish to claim DLA on behalf of a child should discuss this with the child's social worker. Parents should be consulted and kept informed of a claim for DLA by the child's social worker unless it would not be in the child's best interest or against the wishes of a competent child. Where a child is section 20 accommodated the agreement of the parent should be sought.

If it is decided that DLA should be applied for, it should be outlined within a Child / Young Person's Plan.

Either the social worker or the foster carer may contact the Welfare Rights Service to gain advice and assistance in making the claim.

5. What should the DLA be spent on?

DLA can be spent on items and services which benefit the child or the carer in looking after the child. The spending of the allowance will depend on the needs of the child and whether the DLA has been granted for care or mobility.

The care components can be used for needs over and above those that are provided on a statutory basis for children, especially where this helps the child cope with the effects of his/her disability including:

  • Outings:
  • Special equipment, e.g. adapted bike;
  • Activities;
  • Treats;
  • Extra costs for holidays and activities;
  • Extra washing costs;
  • Wear and tear on furniture costs;
  • Additional clothing and footwear (e.g. this may need to be specially made);
  • Special dietary or allergy free products, etc;
  • Additional clothing;
  • Electricity and gas to keep the child warm; and
  • Other additional goods or activities that will enhance the quality of the child's life, especially where this helps the child cope with the effects of his/her disability.

The mobility part may be used to assist with

  • Extra transport costs;
  • Taxis;
  • Travel adaptations to cars;
  • Specialist child car seats;
  • Bus passes;
  • Towards the running costs of a vehicle to allow the child to be taken out;
  • If the higher rate mobility part of DLA is paid carers may be eligible to lease a car through the 'Motability Scheme'. (N.B. In this case the lease car would have to be returned or transferred to new carers if the placement ended).

Where Additional Cost payments have been made by Children and Family Services and/or the Fostering Service to cover the cost of such items, these payments should be reviewed with a view to the costs now being covered by the DLA payments for the child. It is important that where possible DLA and Additional Cost allowances are not claimed/used for the same things.

The primary purpose of DLA payments is to promote the child's welfare and assist the carers in caring for the child in the present time. It is not intended to be saved in its entirety but any excess DLA can be saved for future needs.

6. Agreeing how DLA will be spent

DLA is the child's money and children should be consulted about its use in an age appropriate way. How DLA will be spent should be discussed with the child's social worker and within Placement Planning Meetings and an agreement reached. The outcome of these discussions should be recorded within the Child / Young Person's Plan and can be reviewed via the LAC Review process if appropriate. It may be relevant to agree arrangements within the child's Looked After Child Reviews or the child's IRO may suggest a separate meeting for this e.g. if other matters take precedence at the LAC Review or if more appropriate for this to be done with different attendees.

7. Recording Expenditure

Recording is an important part of the foster carer's role and the foster carer should agree with the fostering social worker how information about DLA will be recorded. The carer may have a special book or file with the information in it, which should be regularly updated.

The fostering social worker will from time to time discuss this with the foster carer within supervision meetings and ask to see any record of DLA money which has been spent and/or saved. They will also ask to view the record from time to time. The child's social worker will also have access to these records relating to the child they are responsible for. It may also form part of the discussion at the child's Looked After Child Review (see above).

8. Banking Arrangements for DLA

Foster carers should have DLA money in separate bank accounts to their own. If they have two or more children receiving this benefit, they should have separate bank accounts for each individual child. The bank account should be in the child's name and signatory for the account can be the foster carer.

The allowance will normally be paid into a current account; if more than £500 is accrued the balance over £500 should be paid into an interest bearing account.

9. Where a Child regularly spends time at Home

Where a child goes home regularly a suitable calculation about the DLA allowance should be made. The child's social worker should discuss this with the foster carer and with the child's parent/s before a decision is made regarding how this will be claimed for.

10. Where a Child regularly spends time in Residential Respite Care – the 28 day rule

NB this does not apply to children who receive respite in another foster placement.

If a child (under 16) receiving DLA has respite care of 28 days or more in publicly funded accommodation (such as a children's home), the DLA will not be paid for the days spent in that accommodation. If going over the 28 days is a regular occurrence, the DLA payments will be withdrawn and the carers will be asked to fill in a form giving days in and out of care and the carer may be paid in arrears. The mobility component of DLA is not affected, only DLA care component.

The 28 day limit may be reached in a single block or as the total of a series of days over a period of time e.g. 14 weekends. Any days going into or out of residential care do not count as a day in care. For example, if a child has respite care from Saturday to Sunday, this will not count towards the 28 days; if a child has respite care from Friday to Monday, this will count as two days.

If 28 days are spent without residential respite care, the link will be broken and the calculation towards the 28 days will start again.

The rules for care in hospital are slightly different: for NHS funded care the limit is 84 days.

It is advisable to seek advice from the Welfare Rights Service if respite in residential care is being planned in order to get a realistic picture of its likely impact on DLA.

11. When a Young Person reaches the age of 16

It is particularly important in relation to young people approaching the age of 16 that advice from the Welfare Rights Service is sought as there are forthcoming changes to DLA which will affect young people age 16 and over.

Once a young person reaches the age of 16 they can claim DLA in their own right and it is for them to decide what the money is spent on. A "Welfare Rights Benefit Check" should be obtained for the young person as they approach the age of 16.

Savings levels could potentially affect future entitlement to benefits for a young person. Therefore, once a young person reaches the age of 17 the level of savings should be reviewed, prior to claiming possible benefits at the age of 18 and over.

12. When a Child moves Placement or Leaves to Live Independently

When the child moves placement or leaves to live independently, any items and equipment purchased using DLA are the child's property and must move with them. Any DLA money that has been saved should also move with the child if they move placement.

13. Sources of Further Information

  • The Welfare Rights Service is able to provide advice to foster carers, social workers and other professionals. Contact details below:

General Public contact information

(For members of the general public)

Internal contact information

(For use by social work / residential staff and foster carers)

Hull Community Legal Advice Centre
Essex House
Manor Street

Tel: 01482 317420

Email: advice@hullclac.co.uk

Opening hours:

Monday to Wednesday and Friday: 9am - 5pm

Thursday: 8am - 6pm

The Community Legal Advice Centre also provides outreach advice surgeries at the some customer service centres.

To book an appointment at an outreach venue please telephone the CLAC directly on 01482 317420, visit a customer service centre or telephone our call centre on 01482 300300.

Welfare Rights Service
Essex House
Manor Street

Duty Officer: 01482 487886

General Office: 01482 487880

Email: welfare.rights@hullcc.gov.uk

Consultancy Service:

Monday to Friday: 9am - 5pm*

*except for Wednesday: 1pm - 5pm

The welfare rights service's consultancy service is available for staff to discuss benefit related issues with specialist benefit advisors. Access is via email or telephone.

The welfare rights service also provides a casework and representation service. Referrals can be made using the above contact details.

Training courses covering a range of benefit related issues are available

Trix procedures

Only valid for 48hrs