The Charlie Cookson Foundation are elated to here the news of the recent changes to the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) after petitioning ourselves for so long to help make these vital changes needed for families caring for children with life limiting conditions.
The government has scrapped the rules that previously stopped payment of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) when a child was in hospital.
What were the DLA hospital rules for children?
In the past, once a child had been a hospital inpatient for 84 days (or 28 days if aged 16 or above), their DLA payments were suspended.
In addition, where a child first made a claim for DLA when they were in hospital, they used to have to wait until they were discharged home before those payments could start. Similar rules applied to PIP.
These rules have now been scrapped for children under 18.
Why have the DLA hospital rules for children been scrapped?
In July 2015 the Supreme Court found that the DLA hospital rules breached the human rights of a severely disabled child called Cameron Mathieson.
Following the Mathieson decision, the government introduced an interim policy of not suspending DLA or PIP payments where a child was in hospital. That interim policy has now become law as a result of changes to regulations introduced on the 29 June 2016 in England, Wales and Scotland and from the 6 July 2016 in Northern Ireland.
What are the new rules?
So long as your son or daughter is aged under 18 when they become an inpatient, payments of DLA or PIP continue as normal while they are in hospital.
It does not matter how long they are in hospital for. You do not have to prove how much care you continue to provide to your child while in hospital, nor what extra costs you still incur – all children aged under 18 are exempt from the rules restricting payments in hospital.
If your child first claims DLA or PIP when they are in hospital, payments can start regardless of the fact that they are an inpatient. You do not need to wait until they return home for payments to begin. This is the case so long as they were under 18 when their period as an inpatient started.
When a child on DLA turns 16, they are normally invited to claim PIP instead. However, if your child is in hospital when they turn 16, their DLA payments should be temporarily extended and they will not be invited to claim PIP until they have left hospital.
What about young people who are aged 18 or above?
The hospital rules remain for young people and adults aged 18 or over. This means that if your child is aged 18 or over on the date that their period as a hospital inpatient started, their DLA or PIP payments will be suspended once they have spent 28 days in hospital.
If someone is aged 18 or above and first claims PIP when they are a hospital inpatient (and they do not already get DLA) they will need to wait until they are discharged home before their PIP payments can start.
Young people who turn 18 whilst in hospital are not affected by the DLA/PIP hospital rules. This is because you are exempt so long as you were under 18 when your period in hospital first started.
What about children who are in residential accommodation?
Payments of the care component of DLA or the daily living component of PIP continue to be affected by stays in residential accommodation where these costs are being met from public funds. This applies to children as well as to adults in residential accommodation.
What about payment of other benefits when a child is in hospital?
Some other benefits, for example Universal Credit or housing benefit, can be affected where a dependent child spends a long time in hospital.
Universal Credit payments for a dependent child stop if they are away from home for six months or more – including where this is because they are in hospital. If your child is likely to be in hospital for more than 52 weeks, then depending on your income this may affect the amount of any housing benefit you receive.
If you get Carer’s Allowance for a child under 18, this should not be affected so long as you continue to provide at least 35 hours of care a week to them while they are in hospital. If you stop providing at least 35 hours a week to your child while they are in hospital, your Carer’s Allowance can continue for a temporary period of up to 12 weeks – although this period may be shorter if you have already had other breaks from providing that level of care in the previous 26 weeks.
Contact a Family (2016) ‘Know your rights’