Disability Benefits for Single Parents and their Children

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If you, or your children, have a disability or illness you may be entitled to help with the costs of the services and support you need. This advice guide only gives an overview of the disability benefits you may be entitled to.

Note: An award of a disability benefit may entitle the recipient to other benefits, premiums or an increase in benefits they already receive. Claimants may also be entitled to back-dated payments which need to be applied for within strict time limits. You should seek advice from a professional disability rights worker, or call the Lone Parent Helpline on 0808 801 0323, for further information.

Employment and support allowance


If you have a disability or illness that limits your ability to work and, therefore, earn an income you can claim employment and support allowance (ESA). It is for working age adults, of 16 years to pension age, and can be contributory – if you have made the necessary national insurance contributions, or income-related i.e. means tested. Contributory employment and support allowance is usually limited to one year. If you are in receipt of contributory employment and support allowance you will receive a letter eight weeks before the award is due to end inviting you to claim income-related employment and support allowance.


The claiming process should take 13 weeks but in reality can take much longer. It begins when you contact the benefit claim line, the quickest and easiest method, where a worker will ask you questions and fill out an ESA1 form on your behalf. You can also download the form, complete and return it by post or in person, to Jobcentre Plus.

Benefit claim line (Monday – Friday 8am – 6pm):

You also need to supply Jobcentre Plus with a medical certificate from your doctor.

You will then receive an ESA50 form which asks questions about your medical condition, or disability, and how it affects your ability to perform specific everyday tasks. These tasks relate to 17 types of activity called descriptors. You will be awarded points based on your answers to these questions and need 15 points to qualify for employment and support allowance.

You will also be required to attend a medical assessment at a local centre where a medical professional will further investigate the effect of your condition on your ability to work. You can take someone with you to this assessment and can request that it be completed in your own home if need be.

The result of this assessment and your completed ESA50 will determine whether or not you are entitled to employment and support allowance and what group you will be placed in.


There are two groups:

  • the work-related activity group, commonly referred to as the work group
  • the limited capability for work and work-related activity group, generally called the support group.

The work group

If you are placed in the work group because you have been found to have limited capability for work and your medical condition affects what work you can do you are not required to apply for or take a job. If your youngest child is 1 or over you are expected to prepare for returning to work in the future. You will be called into the jobcentre at regular intervals to discuss what steps you have taken to make yourself ready for work.

The support group

If you are found to have limited capability for work and work related activity you are not expected to take, or prepare for, a job but may occasionally be called into the jobcentre for an interview which you need to attend or your benefit will stop.


During the assessment phase you will be paid a personal allowance. If you are awarded employment and support allowance you will be placed in one of the two groups.You will be given an additional amount, called a component, if you are placed in the support group.

Employment and support allowance rates
Personal allowance:£73.10
Support component+ £37.65


If you are found ‘fit for work’ you will not be entitled to employment and support allowance and will need to claim jobseeker’s allowance instead. It is always worth challenging a decision you are unhappy with. You can do this by requesting a mandatory reconsideration which will prompt a re-evaluation of your application. If that fails you can then go on to appeal.

Completion of the ESA50 and the appeal process are complicated so it is advisable to get help from someone with experience in this area such as a advice worker.

Disability living allowance for children


Disability living allowance is given for children who have a disability or illness that affects their ability to participate in everyday life. It can be awarded from birth (but see The mobility component on page 5) up to the age of 16. The child must have suffered from the condition causing the limitations for 3 months before the claim and expect to have the same limitations for at least a further 6 months. It is not awarded as a result of a diagnosis of a specific illness or disability but because of the extra care, support and supervision needed.


Claims are made by completing form DLA1 which can be requested from the benefit claimline or downloaded from the GOV.UK website, completed and returned to the address given on the form.

Disability living allowance helpline (Monday – Friday 8am – 6pm):

Note: If the form is requested from the DLA helpline any award will be back-dated to the date of the request but if the form is downloaded, completed and returned the award is only back-dated to the receipt of the form.

The award is based on the result of answers to questions on six different areas.

Children with life-limiting conditions

If your child has a life-limiting condition you may be able to claim disability living allowance under ‘special rules’. Form DS1500 will be filled in by your child’s doctor, stating that they are not expected to survive beyond six months, and returned along with the claim form. Your child still needs to meet the qualifying conditions for the mobility component but not for the care component which will automatically be awarded at the high rate.


There are two components of disability living allowance: the care component and the mobility component. Each has different rates.

The care component

The care component is awarded to children who need support or assistance in day to day activities. Your child may need help to wash, dress or communicate with others. They may need to be supported and supervised in situations that could cause them, or others, distress or harm. In order to qualify for the care component it must be demonstrated that your child needs considerably more care than a child, of the same age, without that condition.

There are three rates for the care component: high, middle and low.

The mobility component

The mobility component is awarded to children who have physical difficulty getting around or need to be supervised during a journey because they are not able to do it alone or because going alone would put them at risk. Suitable artificial aids are taken into account.

There are two rates for the mobility component: high and low.

Children are not entitled to the mobility component until they are 2 years and 9 months old. As they still need to have passed the three months qualifying period after this age the mobility component cannot be awarded for a child under 3 years old.


Care component lower rate

Disability living allowance rates
Care component middle rate£57.30
Care component higher rate£85.60
Mobility component lower rate£22.65
Mobility component higher rate£59.75


If you are not satisfied with the outcome of your child’s disability living allowance application you can ask for it to be reconsidered and then, if you are still not happy, you can appeal.

This process, as well as making the claim, is difficult and can be emotionally distressing. It is therefore always recommended that you seek advice from a professional.

Disability living allowance for adults

Disability living allowance, for adults, has been replaced by personal independence payment. If you are getting it you will receive a letter telling you it is coming to an end and inviting you to claim personal independence payment. This process is expected to be completed by 2019.

For more information call the Lone Parent Helpline: 0808 801 0323

Personal independence payment


You can claim personal independence payment if you are between the ages of 16 and 65 and have a medical condition, or disability, that affects your ability to participate in everyday life.

You must have had your illness or disability for three months before you claim and be expected to have the condition for nine months after.


You can make a new claim for personal independence payment by calling the Department for Work and Pensions where some details will be taken and the operator will fill in a PIP1 form.

If you are unable to apply by phone someone can request that you are sent the PIP1 form which you can complete at home then return.

Department for Work and Pensions (Monday – Friday 8am – 6pm):

You will then be sent a PIP2 form which asks questions about your illness or disability and how it affects your ability to complete certain tasks such as cooking, dressing and moving around.

You will also be required to attend a health assessment at a local centre or in your home if need be.

If you are awarded personal independence payment it will be backdated to the date of completion, or receipt, of the PIP1 form.

Life-limiting conditions

If you have a life-limiting condition and are not expected to live longer than six months, you can qualify for the enhanced daily living component of personal independence payment under ‘special rules’ in the same way children qualify for disability living allowance (see Children with life-limiting conditions).


There are two components of personal independence payment: the daily living and mobility components.

Each component has two rates: standard and enhanced.

The award you get is based on how you scored on your PIP2 and health assessment.


Personal independence payment rates
Daily living component standard rate£57.30
Daily living component enhanced rate£85.60
Mobility component standard rate£22.65
Mobility component enhanced rate£59.75


If you are unhappy with the award decision you can ask for a mandatory reconsideration and then appeal.

The personal independence payment claim and appeal process is complicated and stressful so it is advisable to get professional help.

Carer’s allowance


You may be able to claim carer’s allowance if you care for someone who is in receipt of disability living allowance care component at the middle or high rate, personal independence payment daily living component at any rate or attendance allowance at any rate.

Carer’s allowance £64.60

  • You must be 16 or over and provide care, day and/or night, for at least 35 hours per week.
  • If you care for more than one person for less than 35 hours each you cannot add the hours together in order to claim carer’s allowance.
  • You can only receive one award.
  • You can still qualify for carer’s allowance, providing you meet the other criteria, if you are disabled or have a carer yourself.
  • The person you care for does not have to live with or be related to you.
  • If the person you care for has several carers only one can receive carer’s allowance.

The person you care for may be entitled to less benefit if you get carer’s allowance for them so it is always best to get expert advice about your options.

You are not entitled to carer’s allowance if you are a full time student.

If you are not working, or give up work to care for someone, you may be able to claim income support (rather than jobseeker’s allowance), the carer premium and carer’s allowance.

As these benefits overlap talk to an adviser about how much you will get.

Earnings and carer’s allowance

You can work and get tax credits as well as carer’s allowance but there is a cap on how much you can earn.

If you earn more than the ‘weekly earnings limit’ of £120 you will not get carer’s allowance. However if you earn over the limit but pay someone, other than a close relative, for childcare you may still qualify as childcare costs can reduce the amount of income taken into consideration for carer’s allowance by up to 50%.

Money from tax credits does not affect carer’s allowance but carer’s allowance is counted as income so could reduce your tax credit award.

Carer’s allowance may affect entitlement to, or the amount of, other benefits you or the person you care for receive. It is always best to get advice before applying.


You can apply for carer’s allowance online at GOV.UK or by calling the Carer’s Allowance Unit for form DS700.

Carer’s Allowance Unit (Monday – Thursday 8:30am – 5pm; Friday 8:30am -4:30pm):


If your application is not successful you can ask for a mandatory reconsideration then appeal if necessary.

Dependants’ leave

If you have people who depend on you for care you are entitled to take ‘reasonable’ time off work to deal with a crisis involving them. You are also entitled to time off for an event that you know of in advance if it is you specifically who is needed or where there is no one else who can help.

Dependants include your family or someone living with you as part of your family. It can also include people who rely on you for support.

Your employer does not have to pay you for this time off but may do depending on the terms of your contract. Dependants’ leave should not be considered as part of any sick leave you have taken but could lead to disciplinary action against you if it is not considered reasonable or it interferes with your ability to do your job.

Parental leave

If you have been with your employer for at least a year you are entitled to 18 weeks off work to spend time with each child under the age of 18.

It differs from dependants’ leave in that it is only for your children and does not need to be used in a crisis.

Parental leave is usually taken in one week blocks but may be taken one day at a time if your employer agrees or your child is entitled to disability living allowance or personal independence payments.

One week equals one of your normal working weeks, so if you only work three days per week you will be entitled to 18×3 days per child.

Your employer can insist that you take no more than four weeks per year and that you give 21 days notice.

Your employer can postpone your leave but only if they have a valid reason for doing so.

Note: ‘Parental leave’ is different to ‘shared parental leave’ (see our Maternity advice guide for details of ‘shared parental leave’).

Get advice

The rules regarding benefit entitlement and how they interact are complicated. If you are awarded employment and support allowance, personal independence payment or carer’s allowance, or your child is awarded disability living allowance, it will have an effect on your other benefit entitlement.

In most cases being awarded a disability benefit will entitle, or passport, you to extra support but in some cases you may find no change, or a reduction, in what you receive.

It is always worthwhile getting advice from a professional rights worker, benefit adviser or call the Lone Parent Helpline on 0808 801 0323.

Useful contacts

Local Council Welfare Rights Worker

All local authorities have a team who deal with benefit enquiries. Some will also deal with debt. Contact your local council.

Department for Work and Pensions:

Telephone: 0800 121 4433

Textphone: 0800 121 4493

For making a claim for personal independence payment.

Citizens Advice Bureaux (CAB)


Offices throughout Scotland offering advice and support on many issues including welfare benefits.

Carer’s Allowance Unit:

Telephone: 0800 731 0297

Textphone: 0800 731 0317

For making a claim for carer’s allowance.

Benefit Claim Line

Telephone: 0800 055 6688

Textphone: 0800 023 4888

For making a claim for employment and support allowance.

Carer’s Trust Scotland:

0300 123 2008


Benefit information and details of local support.

Disability Living Allowance Helpline:

Telephone: 0800 121 4600

Textphone: 0800 121 4523

For making a claim for disability living allowance.



Information on benefits and how to apply for them.

Supporting and inspiring single parent families across Scotland

For further information about OPFS or our services, please contact:

One Parent Families Scotland, 13 Gayfield Square, Edinburgh EH1 3NX

Tel: 0131 556 3899

Email: info@opfs.org.uk

Helpline: 0808 801 0323

Helpline email: helpline@opfs.org.uk

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More help from OPFS

You may also be interested in these related information packs available from OPFS:

Call the helpline on 0808 801 0323, or download them from www.opfs.org.uk.

We have done our best to ensure that the Information contained in this advice guide is correct at the time of publication. Please check dates and details before use. This advice guide is not a comprehensive guide to the law, nor a substitute for legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss or damage that may arise from your use of services offered by third parties.

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