Making a Disability Living Allowance Claim

The information on this page will help you understand the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) claim process and how to complain about delays or poor decisions.

What is the DLA claim process?

  1. You telephone the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to request a claim form. When you receive the claim form you have six weeks to return it, ensure you are given an exact date by which the form needs to be returned.
  2. The DWP will decide whether they need to seek further information.
  3. Once the DWP has all the information they need, a decision will be made about your claim. It should take no more than a few weeks from when you return your form for the decision to be made.
  4. If you are not happy with the decision you can ask for a Mandatory Reconsideration. You must do this within one month of getting the decision. You can send in extra evidence at this stage and the DWP may decide they need further information too. The Mandatory Reconsideration should again take no more than a few weeks. The decision can increase your benefit, decrease it, take it away altogether, or confirm the original decision.
  5. If you are not happy with the outcome of the Mandatory Reconsideration you can appeal to a Tribunal. You must do this within one month of getting the decision.

    DLA claim

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How do I fill in the DLA claim forms?

For guidance on filling in the DLA forms, download the relevant guide below:

Disability Living Allowance: A guide to filling in the claim forms for deaf children under three years old

Disability Living Allowance: A guide to filling in the claim forms for deaf children over three years old

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Why is my child’s DLA decision delayed?

Sometimes the DWP seeks further information and it takes a long time for this to be obtained. Sometimes there are so many claims to be dealt with that the DWP cannot get through them as quickly as it should. There is no fixed time limit for the DWP to deal with a claim, but it should do it as quickly as possible and most claims are decided within eight weeks.

If you think your claim is taking a long time to deal with, the most effective way of hurrying things along is usually to complain.

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Poor decisions about your DLA claim

When the DWP is dealing with a claim, all the evidence should be properly considered. You should find that the decision on your claim reflects the evidence, even if you don’t agree with it. For example you may feel that your child's deafness should be enough to qualify for benefit, but if your claim form describes your child as having minimal difficulties, and your doctor and Teacher of the Deaf are both saying that your child needs very little help and can communicate well, it is easy to see why the DWP might refuse your claim.

However, sometimes you will find that your claim form describes in detail the difficulties your child has, but your claim is still refused. For example if the DWP sees that your child has two hearing aids or cochlear implants and assumes that this means they can hear more or less normally.

You have the right to ask DWP to look at the decision again, and if you are still not satisfied with the decision you can then appeal. However, this is usually quite a long process, and it can be quicker to complain about a bad decision than it is to go through the reconsideration and appeals process. In many cases you can make a complaint and ask for a revision of the decision at the same time. If you choose to complain you should remember that there are strict time limits for asking for a reconsideration or appeal, and you can lose the right to either of these if you complain first and wait to see what the outcome is before asking for a reconsideration or appeal. 

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How do I complain?

If you are unhappy with the way your claim has been dealt with, or if you think the decision is taking too long you can complain.

Usually you start your complaint by writing to the office dealing with the claim. You can make a complaint by phone, but writing makes sure that you have a record of what you have said.

However you make your complaint it is important to make sure that you explain:

  • what you think has gone wrong and why you think this is wrong – for example, you might say "I made my claim on 1 February, which is four months ago and I still haven't had a decision. I think this delay is unacceptable."
  • what you want DWP to do about it – for example, "I would like my claim to be decided in the next two weeks."

If you don’t get a response within the time you have asked, or if you are still unhappy with the response, you can ask for the complaint to be passed to a Complaints Resolution Manager. They should provide a response within 15 working days and should contact you again when they have finished their investigation.

If you still cannot get a satisfactory response to your complaint you can take things further by complaining to the Director General of Operations for DWP. The Director General will ask for an independent internal review of your complaint and provide a full and final response within 15 working days.

If you have been through the whole of the DWP complaints stages and are still unhappy you can ask the Independent Case Examiner to look at your complaint. You must contact them within six months of getting the final reply from DWP, and you must send a copy of the DWP’s response.

If they accept your complaint, they will look at what happened and what DWP did about it. If they think DWP should have done more, the Examiner will ask them to put matters right.

If you’re unhappy with the response from the Independent Case Examiner, you can ask your MP to send your complaint to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.

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Referencing the Equality Act in your complaint

It is often helpful to raise Equality Act issues when making a complaint. Issues such as access to services (e.g. not providing a signer for an interview or insisting on deaf people using the phone) are fairly clearly related to the Equality Act. Other issues, such as poor decisions, may not seem to be related to the Equality Act at first, but they are often due to mistaken assumptions by the DWP.

For example, it is quite common to see in decision letters that a deaf person with hearing aids or cochlear implants is assumed to be able to hear well. This may be because the person looking at the claim has assumed that hearing aids and implants replicate normal hearing, without realising that they have many limitations and weaknesses.

Raising an Equality Act issue may not only help to resolve your case, but hopefully will lead to changes in DWP practice that will benefit all deaf people.

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