Guidance and Policy on Payment and Use of Disability Living Allowance by Foster Carers

This chapter was added to the manual in January 2019, it is originally from the Northumberland Fostering and Adoption Services Manual and has been updated.

1. Guidance

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is a benefit available to disabled children who require help with personal care and / or supervision over and above that of other children of the same age because of their illness or disability.

The DLA benefit contains both a care and mobility component and is paid at different rates according to the child's needs. DLA care component is paid at a low, medium or high rate and may be payable to a disabled child from the age of three months once the child's needs have been assessed. The Mobility Component is paid at low or high rate i.e. Higher Rate from aged three and Lower Rate from age five. Some children will receive either one or both elements.

Any adult caring for such a child, providing the child is not in hospital or residential care for more than 28 days, can apply for this benefit. Although the foster carer does not need the permission of the parent to apply for DLA, it would be good practice for the child's social worker to inform the parent of their intentions.

If a child is in receipt of DLA, prior to becoming a looked after child, the child's social worker should be involved in discussions with the parent concerning transfer of the DLA to the foster carer.

The parent must notify the Department of Works & Pensions that the child is no longer in their care and the foster carer advised to make an application to receive it. In the same way if a child moves from one foster carer to another the foster carer must notify the DWP and any DLA money transferred to the new carer.

DLA is paid to the child not the carer. Normally if the child is under 16 the carer acts as an appointee. Otherwise the young person, providing they are capable, can have the benefits paid to them direct.

There are no conditions laid down by the DWP as to how the money should be spent. It is intended that the money be used to enhance the child's life so that the child derives maximum benefit from the payment of this benefit.

Examples of how the money could be spent

  • Activities that are costly e.g. horse riding, after school clubs;
  • Provision of an escort to enable social events to be attended;
  • Extra helper for an outing or holiday;
  • Taxi fares for trips out;
  • Special holiday for the child, which could include covering the family's expenses;
  • Caravan expenses so that the child can have regular breaks in a familiar place;
  • Extra support such as child sitting service, using individuals who are DBS checked;
  • Individual equipment such as computer, communication aids;
  • Laundry service and appliances;
  • Replacement clothing where there is excessive wear and tear on clothing;
  • Additional heating costs;
  • Additional help with personal care;
  • Anything that will improve the child's life;
  • Special toys to meet child's needs - which may be of therapeutic value;
  • Domestic help to allow carer to spend more time with child.

Please note that all escorts or helpers must have a current DBS check to ensure their suitability.

2. DLA: Examples of hidden costs:

  • Additional heating;
  • Dieting e.g. greater use of convenience foods to allow carer to spend more time with the child;
  • Additional wear and tear on domestic appliances e.g. washing machine, tumble dryer, microwave etc;
  • Damage to property;
  • Road tax, insurance and maintenance costs of second or larger car (NB exempt from road tax if paid higher rate of mobility allowance and this allowance can also be used to lease a car through mobility scheme, which then includes servicing costs).

3. Policy

The Child's Social Worker will decide who is the best person to apply for DLA on behalf of the Looked After child. (This will usually be the child's Foster Carer, who has day to day care.)

When it is decided that the foster carer is the most appropriate person to manage the DLA for the child:

Foster carers will be expected to set up a separate bank account, in the foster carer's own name, into which the DLA will be paid.

The money is not intended to be saved for the child for use in later years as this could result in them being penalised. For example, this may affect their claim for income support and housing benefits.

The child's social worker must be involved in discussion on how the DLA can be used to improve the child's life.

Foster Carers must:

  • Produce receipts as appropriate;
  • Keep clear records of expenditure;
  • Keep a log of expenditure where a receipt was not possible (a receipt must be provided for all expenditure over ¬£50);
  • Make all records, logs and receipts available for scrutiny by their Supervising Social Worker.

Supervising Social Workers must scrutinise the record at least every 6 months and record this in their supervision record.

Scrutiny of the money process to ensure that the DLA is being spent appropriately is the responsibility of the supervising social worker for the foster carer. If there is evidence that the DLA is not being spent by the foster carer on the child it would be appropriate to make another adult the appointee.