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Leah’s Disability Living Allowance claim

Photo: Leah's story

Alison was unsure about claiming Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for daughter Leah (13), and when she did, she was refused. But with our help she took her case to Tribunal.

“My parents are profoundly deaf, so doctors tested Leah’s hearing regularly. The results were always the same – borderline,” says Alison. “We were concerned though – while she’d turn to loud noises like a door banging, she wouldn’t hear us calling her and she’d want the telly really loud.”

Before Leah started nursery, Alison and husband Peter wanted to make sure her hearing really was OK, so took her to a private specialist using medical insurance. “He looked at the previous hearing test results and immediately diagnosed her as moderately deaf,” says Alison.

“We were relieved and when Leah got her hearing aids, it made such a difference. She no longer asked us to repeat ourselves, and answered when we called. She loved her ‘magic ears’, wore them from waking up until bedtime.”

“It didn’t occur to her to apply for benefits until a friend suggested it.”

Leah made good progress throughout nursery and school, well supported by the schools and local authority sensory services. Alison felt all was going well and it didn’t occur to her to apply for benefits until a friend suggested it.

“With Leah moderately deaf, I thought no way would we get it,” says Alison. “But I gave it a try. The forms were 40–50 pages long, and so complicated.” When the claim was turned down, Alison accepted it.

But when Leah was 11, she took her to our Roadshow bus at a school where Alison’s sister worked. There they met Bal, one of our children and families’ support officers. “We tried some great gadgets, such as phones that connect to her hearing aid shoe and cables that helped her hear TV and music better,” says Alison. “All things that would be really helpful now she was that bit older. But they’re expensive.

“When I said we didn’t receive it [DLA] she was surprised and encouraged me to apply.”

"Bal suggested we use Leah’s DLA money to buy some. When I said we didn’t receive it she was surprised and encouraged me to apply.”

Alison couldn’t see how they’d be entitled, but Bal pointed out extra things Alison did for Leah, such as checking on her when she didn’t respond from upstairs, cleaning her hearing aids, taking her to audiology appointments, as well as frequent GP visits for ear infections due to her hearing aids – the ‘care’ part of the DLA.

And the ‘mobility’ part: expense of travelling to appointments and driving her to school because she wasn’t confident getting the bus – traffic noise amplified by hearing aids is stressful, emergency sirens disorientating, and there’s the danger of not hearing oncoming cars.

“What Bal said made sense, especially when I compared all I do for Leah to her younger brother Joseph, who’s hearing,” says Alison. Alison filled in the DLA claim form but again the application was rejected. They appealed but lost.

“Bal insisted we shouldn’t give up, so we took it to Tribunal,” says Alison. “Bal referred us to a National Deaf Children’s Society case worker and I sent lots of information to him for evidence.” On the day of the Tribunal, Alison was terrified. “I felt I couldn’t go through with it, but Bal said ‘you must fight!’” says Alison.

“Bal insisted we shouldn’t give up, so we took it to Tribunal.”

“It was like going into court; I was scared they’d grill me, that I’d give wrong answers. I met the case worker who’d sent the Tribunal panel a copy of the evidence summary in advance.” Inside, as Alison prepared for an onslaught of questions from the panel of three professionals, she was astonished at what happened next.

“They’d read the evidence, had no further questions and granted Leah DLA, ‘low level’ for the care and mobility parts, until her 14th birthday,” says Alison. “I was so relieved!”

With the backdated payment they bought equipment for Leah which has really boosted her independence. “She’s very loud at home but does struggle with confidence with people she doesn’t know, but she has improved,” says Alison.

“We replaced our phone with a type compatible with hearing aids; before she used to have it on loudspeaker, now she gets more privacy. We bought a vibrating alarm clock so she can be independent and wake herself up.

“I’d say to all parents of deaf children, apply for it.”

“We’ll have to reapply for DLA in September, but I’m ready for it, even if I have to take it to Tribunal. I’d definitely have given up without the National Deaf Children’s Society. They showed me how Leah is entitled to the benefit. I’d say to all parents of deaf children, apply for it – it’s money that’s there for the children to use. And it can make all the difference to their independence and confidence.”