Tribunal clears way for care needs to form basis of right to benefit

Many people with behavioural problems may now be entitled to
disability living allowance.

It follows a ruling that eligibility depends on the extent of a
person’s care needs rather than diagnosis of a medical

In an appeal involving a girl with learning difficulties – but with
no diagnosed medical condition – the social security and child
support commissioners tribunal decided that she was entitled to the

The case was brought by Suffolk Council welfare rights service and
the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) on behalf of the 14-year-old
girl, who is in foster care.

Her foster carer had made the claim based on the girl’s emotional
difficulties, learning difficulties and attention deficit disorder
which made funding for additional supervision necessary.

The application was initially refused on the basis that her
condition could not be diagnosed as a medical disability, a
decision overturned by the tribunal.

In their judgement, the commissioners wrote: “Entitlement to DLA is
dependent upon a claimant’s inability to cope with care
and mobility without assistance and with his consequent reasonable
care and mobility needs; and not upon the diagnosis of any medical

CPAG legal officer Stewart Wright said the decision put the focus
of entitlement on to what the person could or could not do rather
than what was wrong with them.

He added: “Potentially it will bring into entitlement those people
– such as those with what may be described as behavioural problems
– with obvious care needs but who have no medical label or
diagnosis to attach to their condition: people who are often the
most socially excluded.”

The commissioners also ruled that future tribunals “should only
call for a child to give evidence if it is satisfied that a just
decision cannot otherwise be made”. Giving evidence in court was
stressful for a child and evidence given in such an environment was
not always reliable.

Suffolk Council’s head of financial inclusion and advice, Jo
Lawley, said: “The last thing we want is to have to take a child to
a tribunal and have them listen to the foster carer saying all the
things that are wrong with them.”

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