Claire shares her experience of applying for Disability Allowance for her daughter and gives seven tips for other parents starting this journey.

Is there any financial help available? was a question I hadn’t even thought about amidst my daughter’s diagnosis of coeliac disease, ADHD and dyslexia. Surely if there was, one of the numerous doctors, nurses, assessors, consultants and dieticians we had seen since her diagnosis five years ago, would have told us. It was actually a family friend who encouraged me to look into it.

My friend had adopted two children, one with complex additional needs and after successfully applying for Disability Living Allowance for her four-year-old son, she asked me what type of award I received for my daughter. I laughed, telling her I wouldn’t be entitled to anything. Yes, parenting a child with additional needs is challenging, and consumes so much of my time, energy and finance. But my daughter goes to mainstream school and can do a lot of what other children her age can do, albeit with more support and guidance.

My friend told me to look into it, and surprisingly, I discovered that I was entitled to apply. What great news!

Until I downloaded the mammoth application form. Thirty-nine pages all asking me to describe in detail my daughter’s needs. I procrastinated for weeks. Partly because of the time I knew it would take up, and partly because I didn’t know if I could face describing all the challenges to someone else in black and white – even though living with those challenges is just something we get on with each day. But with support from family and friends I started the process and, as difficult as it was, when six months later we were told we were successful, it was worth it. The extra support that we are able to put in place because of the additional finances has enhanced my daughter’s and our family life.

Here are some tips to help you as you apply for financial support for your child with additional needs:

  1. Find out what you could be entitled to
    Different regions of the UK have different criteria for eligibility. Look online to find out whether you are eligible to apply: England/WalesScotland or Northern Ireland.
  2. Phone to request an application form
    If you are subsequently entitled to an award, this will be backdated to the date you requested the pack, as long as you return the claim pack within six weeks. Unfortunately, I didn’t do this and independently downloaded the form myself, which meant our payment was only backdated to the date the application was received. As the application took me weeks to complete, I missed out on quite a sum.
  3. Print off the guidance and diary that accompanies the form
    The guidance contains useful examples and can give you an idea of the sort of things to include. Additionally, completing the diary over a few weeks allows you to spot needs you may not have thought to include. It can feel overwhelming to write down everything your child finds challenging, and so breaking it down over a period of time can help to minimise this.
  4. Try to complete the form when you have uninterrupted time and when you are not feeling too tired or stressed
    I took a day’s annual leave to start the form when my daughter was in school, and I wasn’t tired after a day’s work. I then added to it over the course of a couple of weeks. However, if you are not able to find a large uninterrupted period of time, or it feels too much for you to do it in one go, then break it down and complete it in stages. Endeavour to say that you will complete questions 1–4 on one day, questions 5–8 on another day, and so on.
  5. Complete the form with someone else
    If you are a couple, you may find it beneficial to complete the form together. My husband and I actually found that difficult to do because of work commitments and finding time when we were both not tired. It might be that one of you has more of an idea of the support your child needs, especially when it comes to caring for their personal needs. Or, one of you may find it easier to articulate this in writing. In our case, I wrote the majority of the application but then my husband put aside quality time to read through it and add things I hadn’t thought about.

    If you are a single parent completing this form, ask a family member or friend who knows your child if they can help you complete the form. Having someone else to help you will bring a different perspective and may enable you to record things you hadn’t thought of. They can also provide emotional support, as this is not an easy task to complete. Couples may also benefit from asking for support from family and friends.

  6. Be kind to yourself and make time to do something that you enjoy during the process of preparing the application
    You may be used to reading challenging reports about your child, but that doesn’t make it easy to read. Writing it all down yourself is even harder and can be extremely emotional. This is especially so when you are encouraged to record the worst-case scenario and describe their needs on their more challenging days. It’s important for you to care for yourself during the process, so make time to do something that you enjoy. After you have completed the form maybe you could unwind over a coffee with a friend, enjoy a long walk, lose yourself in a hobby for an hour, or watch a sports match.
  7. Don’t panic if you remember something you didn’t include
    If, like us, you think of something after submission that you didn’t include in your application, don’t worry. You can contact the DLA and notify them of additional information at any time after you submit the application. Our experience was that everyone we spoke with was really helpful. If you disagree with a decision, you can challenge the decision by asking for a mandatory reconsideration within one month of the date of the decision.

Share on social media

Help us support families today

At Care for the Family we support couples, parents and those who have been bereaved. If you would be able to make a one off donation to support our work, we would be very grateful. Thank you.

We'd love to stay in touch!

Sign up to receive regular updates full of practical articles, top tips, and encouragement, plus hear about our work and events near you.

Skip to content Skip to content