Many people arrived at my article on claiming benefits for bipolar disorder by asking Google, "Can you get DLA for bipolar disorder?" so I thought it was an area that I should visit in more depth.
Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is a UK government benefit for people under 65 with care needs, and broadly speaking, yes, you can get it for bipolar disorder, but it depends on the severity of your symptoms and how it impacts on your life.
Why should you apply for DLA?
Although the application forms can seem very daunting, if you are entitled to DLA then it's worth applying because:
- DLA for bipolar disorder is likely to be between £18 and £88 per week.
- DLA is not taxable
- It's not mean-tested
- It's disregarded as income for most means-tested benefits
- If you live alone it may trigger the Severe Disability Premium, which can bring about increases in your means-tested benefits, such as housing benefit, council tax benefit and income support.
Although the Directgov states that DLA is for people who are "physically OR mentally disabled" many of the questions on the form are not mental health friendly and it can be difficult to convey your care needs within the framework provided.
In addition to this, writing about your troubles can be draining which can stop you from painting an accurate picture of just how debilitating your problem might be.
Another problem is that many DLA claims are turned down at first, but change on appeal. Those of us suffering from depression may become despondent and not complete the claim/appeal process.
What to do?
I cannot stress enough, the benefit of having somebody to help you with the form. In order to maximise your chances of success, you should consider enlisting the support of somebody from a charity that deals specifically with mental health problems, e.g. Mind. If you have a Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN) then he/or she may also be able to help you find somebody to help with the claim.
To make an application you will need an application pack (ref DLA 1) which you can download from the directgov website, telephone the Benefits Enquiry Line on 0800 882200 or ask for one at your local DWP office.
Is it worth applying? Needs Checklist
If you have any of the following needs (adapted from benefitsinmind.org.uk) then it is worth reading on, to find out what level of DLA you may be entitled to.
- You need encouragement get out of bed in the morning
- You need help motivating yourself to get dressed
- You need to be reminded/encouraged to take your medication
- You need encouragement to be active within your home
- You need encouragement to take part in hobbies or social life
- You need encouragement to communicate with others
- You need help with your paperwork
- You need encouragement to make yourself wash bath regularly
- You need help to eat properly and regularly
- You need help to cook a main meal
- You need help getting to bed / sleep at nights
- You self-harm
- You feel suicidal
- You can get aggressive
- The way you are makes other people react aggressively to you
- Your concentration is very poor, e.g. you don't make sure that fires are safely out, leave cigarettes burning etc.
- You have ideas or thoughts that frighten you into behaviour which could be dangerous
- You wander off
- You put yourself in situations where others could take advantage of you
- When you become more unwell it happens very quickly
- When you become unwell you try to hide it from others
- You have panic attacks out of doors in unfamiliar places
- Anxiety that makes it hard for you to concentrate / communicate
- You hear voices which distract you
- You suffer from paranoid feelings
- You put yourself at risk in some way
What level may I be entitled to?
Mobility - Lower Rate.
This is paid to you if you need someone with you when you are in unfamiliar places. Think about times when you go out alone to new places, do you suffer from panic attacks, become so anxious that you get lost or put yourself at risk? If so, you may be eligable for the DLA lower rate mobility component.
Mobility - Higher Rate.
You are unlikely to receive the DLA higher rate mobility component for bipolar disorder alone. However if you also have a physical disability, check the enitlement critera on benefitsInMind.org.uk.
Care - Lower Rate
If you have care needs (for example needing encouragement to get out of bed, take your medication or help with your paperwork) for short periods during the day, probably amounting to around an hour, you may be entitled to the DLA lower rate care component. You may also be entitled to this component if you have difficulty cooking for yourself. So if there are days where the prospect of cooking a hot meal seems so overwhelming to you that you don't bother, make sure that you put that on the form.
Care - Middle Rate
If you have care needs on and off throughout the day, need someone close by to keep an eye on you, or have care needs more than once or for over 20 minutes at night, you may be entitled to the DLA middle rate care component.
Are you sometimes at risk of self-harm and need somebody nearby in case you become suicidal or inclined to hurt yourself? Does bipolar disorder lower your concentration, leading you to do unsafe things such as forgetting to turn off the hobs? If so, these are attention needs and will help a decision maker ensure that you get the correct amount of DLA.
Care - Higher Rate
If you have difficulties requiring care and attention frequently throughout the day and night then you may be entitled to the DLA higher rate care component.
If you have both mobility and care needs then you will be awarded both components and the amounts will be added together.
For more information see www.benefitsInMind.org.uk.