Financial help for families with disabled children

by Elaine Bennett, Contact A Family. Parents of children with a disability are entitled to a number of benefits.

mother and child

Introduction

It costs up to three times as much to raise a disabled child than a child without a disability.

There are several benefits you are entitled to claim. Each benefit and tax credit has its own set of eligibility criteria. This means you need to meet certain conditions to qualify.

To claim contribution-based benefits, you need to have paid National Insurance contributions in the past.

To claim means-tested benefits, you must be on a low income, with savings of less than a specified amount.

Some benefits, for example Disability Living Allowance (DLA), are paid in full even if you've never worked, and aren't affected by any income or savings you have.

It's important you claim now - even if you are not sure you qualify - as you could miss out if you delay. If you need a full benefits check, charities such as Contact a Family, a local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) or a welfare rights unit can help.

Extra information

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is the main benefit for disabled children.

It's usually paid every four weeks and is not means-tested. There is a care component for children who need help with personal care and there is a mobility component if your child needs help getting around.

There is a DLA claim form available from local benefits offices or by calling the Benefits Enquiry Line on 0800 88 22 00, or the Benefits Enquiry Line Northern Ireland on 0800 22 06 74.

A local advice service may be able to help you complete this form. Telephone the Contact a Family Helpline on 0808 808 3555 for details of local advice services in your area.

You may be entitled to receive Carer's Allowance if your child receives DLA care component at the middle or high rate. There are other criteria too - to find out more get in touch with organisations such as Contact a Family.

If you are out of work or on low earnings, you may be able to claim certain means-tested benefits such as Income Support or Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, housing benefit, council tax benefit, as well as help with NHS costs.

Most families can also get tax credits. Working Tax Credit can be paid to working people on low incomes whilst Child Tax Credit can be claimed by anyone with children regardless of whether they work or not. Child Tax Credit payments can be higher if you have a child on DLA. Both tax credits are claimed on the same form - TC600, available from the Tax Credits helpline on 0845 300 3900.

How to make a magic moment

Having fun and making magic together with your child doesn't have to cost money. There's plenty to do that's free of charge.

Your child's school or children's centre should have information about play and leisure opportunities locally.

Many major attractions and leisure organisations operate schemes where either a parent or other carer gets in free.

How CBeebies can help

Something Special is great fun and helps with any child's development, but it is specially designed for children with disabilities.

There are some really fun activities on the show's website - there are games, songs, clips, stories, as well as Makaton signs to print out.

You could also use the CBeebies iPlayer at home to watch Something Special (or any other CBeebies shows your child enjoys) at a time that suits you.

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Expert opinion

Nine out of ten families with disabled children report some form of financial difficulty, ranging from having little money for treats to serious financial problems.

It is estimated that it costs three times more to bring up a disabled child than a child without a disability. Given this fact alone, it is no surprise that many families struggle financially.

Derek Sinclair, Senior Welfare Rights Adviser at Contact a Family

Top tips

  • Get regular advice about your benefits to ensure you're getting every penny you're entitled to.The benefits system is complicated but there is help available.Getting DLA for your child can lead to additional payments in other benefits such as Child Tax Credit.If you are struggling with repayments and getting into debt, it's important to take action now.Don't panic about finances - there is independent advice available.

Parent's tale

Catherine is a lone parent with three children aged 2, 7 and 9. Her youngest child has global developmental delay.

Catherine is on income support of £67.50 pw (per week), child benefit of £47.10 pw and child tax credit of £158 pw. She telephones the Contact a Family helpline and an adviser does a full benefits check. The advice given includes:

• Claim DLA for youngest child - awarded middle rate care i.e. £49.30 pw.
• Consequently awarded disability element of child tax credit - an increase in tax credits payments of £53.62 pw.
• Claim Carer's Allowance - increase in income of £31 pw.

As a result of following the advice, Catherine's total increase in weekly income is £133.92

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