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Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is a non-means-tested benefit introduced in 1992 to help with the extra costs of disability.  It has two components: a mobility component, for those who need help getting around; and a care component, for those with care needs.  An award can consist of a mobility component, a care component, or both components.  The mobility component is payable at two rates, and the care component has three rates.  DLA is being replaced by Personal Independence Payment (PIP) for people of working age, but DLA continues as a separate benefit for children under 16.

Lower age limit for the mobility component

Three is the youngest age at which the higher rate mobility component of DLA may be paid for a child.  This means that parents of a younger disabled child cannot, for example, access the Motability scheme.  The lower rate DLA mobility component may be paid from age five.  There is no lower age limit for the DLA care component.  However, for both components, the child will normally have to have satisfied the disability conditions for three months before the award begins, and be expected to satisfy the conditions for at least a further six months (unless the child is terminally ill – for these purposes this means they are suffering from a progressive disease where death can be reasonably be expected within six months.  If this is the case the three month qualifying period does not apply).

Rationale for the lower age limits

Originally, both the higher and lower rate DLA mobility components had a lower age limit of five.  The forerunner of the DLA mobility component – Mobility Allowance – had had a lower age limit of five since its introduction in 1976, and the rule was carried over to DLA when the new benefit was introduced in 1992.  The original justification for limiting the mobility component to children aged five or over was that children under five were not independently mobile and needed constant supervision.

The age limit of the higher rate mobility component was lowered from five to three in April 2001, as a result of measures in the Welfare Reform and Pensions Act 1999.  The age limit for lower rate mobility remains five.

Pilot mobility support scheme

In early 2018, a pilot scheme – involving Motability and the Family Fund (a charity for disabled children and young people) – got underway to “support families with their mobility needs” in recognition of the fact that some families with severely disabled children under the age of three may face particular difficulties getting around.

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