top of page

(UK) One million children to receive disability for ASD/ADHD; COST: $125B/yr

April 23, 2024, Telegraph: One million children to receive disability benefits amid surge in autism and ADHD
Taxpayers face £100bn [$125B]-a-year bill for health and disability claims in 2029, official figures show 


Almost a million children will be receiving health benefits by the end of the decade amid a surge in reported autism and ADHD cases among boys, official forecasts show.

The number of under-18s receiving Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is expected to hit 948,000 in 2028-29, according to figures released by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) – double pre-pandemic levels and equal to around one in 14 children.

DWP predictions also show that taxpayers face a bill of more than £100bn [$125B]  a year for health and disability payments to people of all ages.

This overall surge in payments is driven by a 50pc increase in the financial cost of supporting children and people of working age.

Much of the rise is related to a jump in anxiety and depression among adults, and behavioural disorders and learning difficulties among children.

The total cost of benefits paid to children with a claimed disability or health condition will rise to £5.7bn [$7B] in today’s money by 2028, up from £2.5bn before lockdown.

The cost of welfare payments made to people of working age is set to rise from £50bn [$62B] to almost £80bn [$100B] over the same period. An additional £15.6bn will be paid to pensioners.

Rishi Sunak warned last week that “everyday challenges” in life should not end with people being signed off work as he unveiled a five-point plan to tighten the welfare system.

The Prime Minister vowed to get more people working, adding he “entirely” rejected the argument that this approach amounted to a lack of compassion.

Sam Ray-Chaudhuri, an economist at the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), highlighted that an expected doubling in cases and payments among children could have implications far into the future as many were unlikely to ever join the workforce.

He said: “It’s possible that people who receive these benefits just don’t enter the labour force or are less likely to get a job, then that has other costs to the economy.”

Mr Ray-Chaudhuri described the overall rise as a “concerning trend”.

He said: “The fiscal costs are going to be very significant. A lot of people who are on benefits tend to be out of work. It’s always worrying when the segment of the population that you’d hope would be the healthiest would be among the group where claims are growing the fastest.”

Two thirds of DLA claimants are boys, according to the latest data. 

Among the most common reported conditions are learning difficulties, which include autism and Asperger syndrome, behavioural disorders, and hyperkinetic syndrome, more commonly referred to as ADHD.

The number of children receiving DLA with claimed learning difficulties has climbed by a quarter since lockdown to 319,000, while payments linked to children with behavioural disorders have more than doubled to 157,000. 

Another 70,000 have ADHD. These numbers have all risen sharply, continuing an increase that began almost two decades ago.

Together, these three conditions account for 79pc of all claims.

Increasing numbers of working-age adults are also receiving benefits to support them with conditions such as anxiety and depression, which Mr Sunak has signalled he will end if re-elected.

In addition, four million people are projected to receive £27bn [$34B] in Personal Independence Payments (PIP) for a range of conditions including back and neck pain by the end of the decade. This is up from around two million PIP claimants today costing around £13bn [$16B].

DLA is a non-means tested benefit paid mainly to parents of children who need help with extra caring costs. Payments can rise to a maximum of £9,583 [$12,000] a year for children with the most severe conditions.

Payments are made up of a “care” component as well as extra money for help with getting around.

More than half of children with the most common mental health conditions are awarded a “middle” care rate of just under £3,800 [$4,800] per year, for those who need frequent care or continual supervision during the day.

The majority of these children also receive an extra £1,500 [$2,000] mobility top-up. Experts say long NHS waiting lists and a lack of understanding about learning difficulties is exacerbating the issue.

The average wait for an autism diagnosis in England hit 300 days at the end of last year, according to new NHS data. This represents a 53pc increase compared with a year ago and is well above the 91 day target. There have been reports of parents of some children waiting years for a professional diagnosis.

The IFS has also suggested a shift towards telephone assessments is partly to blame for an increase in claims.  

Just 7.7pc of PIP assessments were made face-to-face in March 2023, according to the latest available data, with 72pc conducted over the telephone or video and a fifth done solely on paper.

Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader said more needed to be done to get people with mental health conditions back to work.

He said: “We don’t want you out of work if you’re depressed or anxious, we want you at work so you can be treated,” he said.

Sir Iain added that many children in deprived areas were being left behind.

He said: “We have a problem of children who haven’t gone back to school since lockdown. All of this is very complex, but it tells you categorically that a lot of this kicked off dramatically during Covid and we’re seeing the after effects of locking people out of schools and away from work.”

A Government spokesman said: “We have seen a rise in the number of people seeking formal diagnoses for conditions like autism and ADHD but any claims for DLA must meet the strict eligibility criteria.”




bottom of page