There’s a lot to take in when you, or someone you love, is diagnosed with diabetes. Finding out what benefits you might be entitled to, now or in future, may not be top of your to-do list so here’s a quick overview.
Is diabetes a disability?
Under the 2010 Equality Act, type 1 diabetes is defined as a disability, in that it may have a ‘substantial, long-term, negative impact on a person’s ability to carry out normal, day-to-day activities’. Many people with type 2 diabetes are also covered by this definition. The aim is protect you from discrimination, such as needing time out during the working day to check your blood sugar levels or recover from a 'hypo' (low blood sugar) episode.
It sounds confusing, but if your diabetes is being controlled by medication or diet, the impact of your condition on ‘normal activities’ is decided as if you were not taking medication or following a managed diet i.e. if you were not taking insulin to treat type 1 diabetes, this would have a severe impact on your abilities (it could even be fatal) and so is considered a disability.
What can I claim for?
If you have either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, you will be eligible for certain benefits, depending on the extent to which your condition affects your life. For example, everyone in the UK with diabetes is entitled to free eye checks from the age of 12 – once yearly screening for diabetic retinopathy. And if you’re on any medication for your diabetes, you’ll receive free prescriptions.
There are additional benefits available to those with diabetes related to disability and long-term health, such as if you need help or if you’re unable to work. Whether or not you’re eligible depends on factors like additional health issues and how much diabetes affects your day-to-day activities.
Those most likely to be eligible are the young or elderly, people with mental health issues such as depression, those with learning disabilities, or serious complications. Parents can also claim on behalf of children with diabetes.
If you take insulin or other medication to control diabetes, you’re eligible for an exemption certificate to pay for your prescriptions. People in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland receive free prescriptions no matter how their condition is treated, but those in England who manage it through diet aren’t eligible.
To apply for the exemption certificate, you’ll need an FP92A form from your doctor or Post Office, signed by your doctor. The Medical Exemption Certificate lasts five years and you’ll receive reminders to renew it.
Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
If you’re over 16 and have mobility or care requirements, you may be eligible for DLA, which is given in different tiers according to need. It is tax-free and not means tested.
Parents can also claim DLA for their children. Most claims up the age of 16 are now accepted, following work Diabetes UK carried out with the Department of Work and Pensions in 2016. This established that children with diabetes do have needs above those of children without.
Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
Since 2013, this has replaced the DLA for people aged 16 to 64, for daily living and mobility benefits. Needs are assessed on a points basis and the tier of benefit you receive dictates how much benefit or care you receive.
If you’re over 65 with diabetes, you may qualify for a lower or higher version of this benefit. You’re eligible if you need care to help you carry out basic tasks, such as washing, or for safety reasons.
This is a means-tested benefit available to people reaching minimum age criteria – those with a disability or care needs are more likely to be eligible.
If you care for someone with diabetes, or have someone who cares for you, you may be entitled to certain benefits.
This is a monthly payment for people who are on a low income or out of work. It is currently being rolled out in stages across the UK and replaces some of the other benefits below.
Employment and Support Allowance
Anyone with an illness or disability that affects their ability to work may be entitled to receive this benefit, which has replaced Income Support and Incapacity Benefit since 2008.
People on low income may be able to claim this benefit to help towards the cost of their rent. Qualifying criteria includes factors such as how much money you have in savings.
How do I find out what I can claim for?
The Citizen’s Advice Bureau is a good starting place to check which benefits, if any, you may be entitled to. They can also help if you feel a wrong decision has been made and you want to appeal.
You can also find information and advice at:
- Disability Rights UK – their website has a range of useful guides.
Turn 2 Us provide a range of information and guidance about benefits and grants.
To make a benefit claim, you need to visit gov.uk, download the right claim packs, fill them out and submit them. The website also has lots of information about your rights and the various benefits available.
Diabetes UK have some useful guidance documents for applying for DLA and also have an advocacy service, or you can call their helpline 0345 123 2399. If you need advice once a claim is submitted, find the relevant number via the government’s Disability Service Centre.
Some of the forms you need to fill out are complex and can feel daunting, but it’s worth persisting as the benefits you could claim can make a real difference to your life.