Gary Vaux looks at how disabled people can claim benefits for
I have a client with visual impairment who does not need a lot
of care (he works full time and lives alone), but who does need
help with getting out socially and leading a normal life – can he
get disability living allowance just for that?
Disability living allowance (DLA) and attendance allowance (AA)
are paid to people who need help with personal care or supervision.
However, if a person needs help to take part in leisure activities
these can be just as important.
What matters is whether the person needs help “frequently
throughout the day”. Leisure activities can legitimately be
included in some circumstances. This may mean that the overall
level of care is enough to make a person eligible for DLA Care or
The key judgement on social and leisure activities was taken by
the House of Lords in 1997 in the “Halliday decision”. It concerned
a deaf woman and the help she needed from a signer when she went
out socially. The House of Lords ruled that this type of help does
matter when deciding DLA and AA cases.
The DSS had argued that leisure activities were not essential
and that the lack of them was not harmful to health. The law lords
rejected this very narrow view of what a disabled person should be
enabled to do. If a person has impaired sight or vision, then they
may well need help to access or enjoy social activities. This is
then “attention with a bodily function” (of seeing or hearing)
which brings it within the DLA/AA legislation.
Since 1997, the Benefits Agency has issued an additional section
with DLA and AA claim packs, which asks people, rather
repetitively, what help they need outside the home and within it.
This additional section has now been incorporated into the basic
claim pack. But the BA is still using up old stocks of claim forms
so service users might not get the new form or be sent the
additional section. It is actually vital that this part of the pack
The client referred to in the question posed at the beginning of
this article has been visually impaired since birth. He is
confident with self-care but his social life is restricted.
Whenever he goes out, he needs help with things like locating
toilets, attracting the attention of waiters and bar staff,
checking menus and prices and so on. He needs help with his hobby
(going to football matches) and being an active member of his local
He should describe in the claim pack not just what he does now,
but what he is prevented from doing because of his vision
impairment and the lack of assistance. For example, if he would
like to go the gym every day but can’t because he needs someone to
be with him to set the exercise machines, check the weights, ensure
safety and so on, this too would be relevant and should be included
on the form.
Of course, the Benefits Agency still have to agree that he needs
help “frequently throughout the day” and that the help he needs is
reasonably required – even if he doesn’t actually get that help.
The client is simply trying to enjoy an ordinary life, so the help
he needs would seem reasonable.
For older people with failing vision or hearing, the same rules
apply for attendance allowance. If they have other medical
conditions, it may be enough to tip the balance if they need help
with social or leisure activities, too. For example, if the person
could do their own gardening or shopping with assistance, this
would be relevant (even though gardening and shopping done for them
by someone else wouldn’t help their AA claim).
Even four years after Halliday, we still come across cases where
the law is being applied wrongly, so be prepared to see this one
through to the not-so-bitter end of a successful DLA claim.