Basic Guide to Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
Some Guidelines from a Welfare Rights Officer
For deaf people who have claimed DLA and wish to challenge a decision, it is recommended that you seek representation once it reaches appeal stage. This can be from a Social Worker, Community Worker, Advocacy Worker, Welfare Rights Officer etc.
Decisions on DLA claims from people with sensory loss (deafness, blindness or both) tend to rely more on case law than other disabilities.
As with any disability, deafness itself does not automatically qualify a person for DLA.
You have to show that you require help from another person with your bodily functions (i.e. hearing in your case) and that the help is reasonably required.
There are two components of DLA: the mobility component (help with getting around) and the care component (help with your bodily functions).
There are two rates of mobility component: the higher, for people who are unable or virtually unable to walk (not relevant if the only disability is deafness) and the lower, for people who can walk, but who need guidance or supervision on unfamiliar routes because of their disability. It is possible to qualify for this lower rate through deafness but it is getting harder. If you have already been awarded the lower rate of mobility component get expert advice before you query your entitlement to any component of DLA.
There are three rates of care component: lower, for those who need care for a "significant portion" of the day (usually at least an hour), or who cannot prepare and cook a main meal for one using a conventional oven if they have the ingredients; middle, for those who need help "frequently" (more than twice) throughout the day or night and higher, for those who need help throughout the day and during the night (or need someone to be awake during the night).
Where deafness is the only disability, the middle rate for frequent attention throughout the day is appropriate.
THE CLAIM PACK
The claim form comes in three separate sections:
Section 1: personal details;
Section 2: care needs walking outside and in the home;
Additional Section: "social" care needs inside and outside the home (probably the most relevant section to a deaf person with no disabilities).
In Section 2, the parts relevant to a deaf person with no other disabilities are likely to be:
- cooking a main meal for one on a conventional oven, preparing and cooking fresh
- ingredients (not heating/reheating prepared food in a pan or microwave oven);
- communication (written and spoken) and
- someone to keep an eye on you (e.g. if speaking people knock at the door),
however, other parts may apply in individual cases.
When completing the Additional Section, you must think carefully about what information is requested. It is not only about what you actually do, but what you would do if it were not for your deafness (if it was not more bother than it was worth to communicate with hearing people perhaps?).
For example you may go to the deaf club once a week because you can enjoy yourself without effort, in the company of other deaf people. However, if it was possible without the problems of communication, you may wish to accompany hearing friends to:
pubs, discos, bingo, cinema, theatre, restaurants, football match, ice-skating, swimming, horse-riding, leisure centre, going to the shops (rather than buying essentials), etc. etc., or you may just want to sit around talking/hang out with friends. These are only examples of "where you go or would go if you had the help you need". You will probably have your own "wish list" in your own case.
Where you are asked to write how long you need help for, this is for how long the activity lasts, not the length of time for each interpretation. For example, if you go to the pub for two hours, that is how long you say you need the help for, if you go to the leisure centre say, it is the time you leave the house to the time you get back.
Help that you need at home may include reading (newspapers, magazines, instructions, TV listings, novels, reference books), gardening (plant names, conditions in garden, planting, cutting, feeding) etc. Think of the whole process involved, not just the single task.
For TV, even if a programme has subtitles, you may need help with them (the words may be long or foreign or there may be an "action" scene or something happening you have to watch to understand the plot or on a wildlife programme).
If lipreading is not always possible (insufficient light, person not facing you, person not speaking clearly etc.) say so. Similarly, just because you use a hearing aid, this does not always mean you can hear more.
Again when you are asked to say how long you need help for, it is for the whole activity, not just individual translations.
There is a blank part at the back of the Additional Section: if you need help with something that you think other people would not, or there does not seem to be a suitable place on any of the forms to mention it, write it in this space for further information. Remember the forms are about you and the help you need.
THE DLA AND CHILDREN
For profoundly deaf children needing BSL, there isn't usually a problem qualifying for DLA whilst under school-leaving age. The
case law virtually says that deaf children are entitled till they leave school at 16. However, the same Commissioner who originally found in favour of Fairey/Halliday also (inexplicably) decided the attention needed for sign language use wasn't as great for young adults!This assertion wasn't included in the Fairey/Halliday decision so
unfortunately still stands.
For children with hearing loss who have sufficient hearing, or who don't use sign language, it will be more problematic but probably no more so than for other disabled children (i.e. they have to show that because of their DISABILITY, rather than, for example, age, they need help "substantially in excess" of that of a non-disabled child).
Evidence from others e.g. school (not only from teachers) may help, especially if development is delayed. Any instances of children being refused should refer to Welfare Rights.
D. J. LOWRIE
WELFARE RIGHTS OFFICER