What you need to know about the DLA higher rate mobility component for severe visual impairment
The right of the most severely sight impaired people under the age of 65 to be able to claim the higher rate of the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance is about to become law. This has not been affected by the recently announced benefit cuts. The change will take effect from 11 April 2011. It is the direct result of a concerted campaign by the RNIB supported by Action for Blind People, other charities and many individuals.
Will you qualify?
Visual acuity is the measurement of your central vision and how well you can see detail. It is assessed using an eye test chart which is called the Snellen scale. Your visual field is what you can see around you; this is also called your peripheral vision.
You must meet the following set criteria laid out in the law to be entitled:
- Be between the ages of 3 and under 65 on 11 April 2011
- Be certified as severely sight impaired/blind
- Have a visual acuity, with appropriate corrective lenses if necessary, of less than 3/60 or
- Have a visual acuity of 3/60 or more, but less than 6/60, with appropriate corrective lenses if necessary, a complete loss of peripheral vision and a central vision of no more than 10 degrees in total (sometimes called tunnel vision).
In the above criteria, visual field means the visual field of both eyes in cases where a person has both eyes. Visual acuity means the combined visual acuity of both eyes where a person has both eyes. This is often shown on the Certificate of Visual Impairment as ‘best corrected with both eyes’.
If your sight is too poor to be measured in this way, for example you can only 'count fingers', or you only have light and dark perception, you will qualify. If your visual acuity is better than 6/60 you will not qualify, for example if your acuity is 6/36 or 6/18.
The Pension Disability Carers Service should contact you:
- If you are getting the lower rate of the mobility component on sight grounds at present, you should be contacted by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) from November 2010 onwards to find out whether you may qualify for the higher rate. This will be mainly by telephone, though a paper form (and alternative formats) will be available on request where telephone contact cannot be made. You will be asked if you have a Certificate of Visual Impairment (CVI), or a BD8 certificate, or a registration card if registered in Scotland. You will also be asked what visual acuity is recorded on your registration certificate.
- If your visual acuity is less than 3/60 you will be advised that you are likely to qualify for the higher rate from 11th April 2011, and asked to send in your registration certificate.
- If your visual acuity is 3/60 or more but less than 6/60 you will be also be asked to provide your registration certificate. You will probably be required to provide further verification and consent for the DWP to contact your hospital consultant.
- In some cases, such as where full verification cannot be obtained, or there has been significant deterioration in sight since the registration certificate was issued such that correct entitlement is unclear, the DWP may arrange an eye examination with a local optometrist.
- If you are currently in receipt of the lower rate of the mobility component on sight grounds but have not heard from the DWP by March next year you should contact the DLA office. The likelihood is that you’ve been missed in the 'trawl'.
What to do now
If you think you may meet the criteria for an award of the higher rate of the mobility component of DLA, you need to have your registration certificate at hand. If lost, your GP may hold a copy. If not, there may be a copy on file at the social services department or the hospital at which you are registered. If you think you meet the criteria, but your registration is now incorrect, e.g. due to significant sight deterioration since it was issued, then it may be worth asking your GP for a referral back to an ophthalmic consultant for registration to be re-assessed. Alternatively a recent assessment by an optometrist or ophthalmologist may record your visual acuity and level of visual field loss.
If you are not currently receiving the mobility component of DLA, but experience difficulty getting around outdoors in unfamiliar places and need help from another person you should claim now. You should be entitled to the lower rate component, which could be increased in April if the criteria are met.
What’s it worth?
The higher rate of the mobility component is currently worth £49.85 per week compared to £18.95 for the lower rate.
Entitlement to the higher rate mobility component opens the door to car purchase or rental through the Motability scheme. It qualifies a person to road tax exemption if using their car ‘for the purposes of the disabled person’, and is often asked for when applying for a Blue Badge.
When I stood in the lobby at Westminster to campaign on this issue, knowing how difficult it is to change an Act of Parliament, I didn’t expect to see it happen inside fifteen years, if at all. We have done so well to get this so quickly. Let us now do everything we can to ensure that all those people who meet the criteria know about the change, and how to get their hard fought entitlement.
If you have any questions about any of the information mentioned in this blog, want further advice or a factsheet, please call the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999.