Finance and benefits
Many families with disabled children live close to or below the poverty line. It costs on average three times more to raise a disabled child than a non-disabled child and it can be difficult to combine paid work and caring.
There are many different sources of financial help and benefits that might be claimed, but families who don't know about them are not claiming the benefits they are entitled to and are missing out on vital extra income.
Why families might have problems with finance and benefits
- they don't know where to go for information and find out about benefits in an ad hoc way
- they feel they should be able to cope and are reluctant to seek help
- they have difficulty understanding benefits information, as eligibility for one benefit is often dependent upon eligibility for another
- they find application forms long and unwieldy to fill in as well as very demoralising, as they focus on what the child cannot do
- families are often not known to statutory agencies so do not receive information about what they are entitled to; the Commission for Social Care Inspection found that only 1 in 13 disabled children were receiving help from social services.
How can you help families with finance and benefits issues
- be proactive in letting families know about sources of financial help
- provide families with detailed information and names of organisations qualified and able to provide advice
- charities like the Family Fund can sometimes provide additional funding to help families with one-off expenses like washing machines and holidays
- organise drop in sessions, where a benefits expert visits a centre to give advice on a regular basis and help families fill in forms.
There are voluntary groups in most local areas providing specialist support to families claiming benefits. Advising families on financial benefits is complex and should only be carried out by properly trained staff. Before signposting families to organisations for financial advice, first find out what services they offer and to whom.
For example, can they advise families on eligibility for benefits, help fill in forms, represent families at appeal tribunals, offer outreach services? Look for organisations that adhere to quality standards or display kite marks such as the Community Legal Services Quality mark.
How Contact can help
We have lots of information and resources that you can share with families or direct them towards.
Benefits advisors on our freephone helpline will make sure parents know about all the different financial help available and give advice on claiming for it.
Our helpline can also put families in touch with local advice agencies who can help them with one to one help, for example form filling, and with national condition support groups, who often provide families advice on claiming benefits specific to their child's condition.
Our parent guides are free to download or to order in print from our helpline. The following guides might be helpful to parents looking for information:
- Claiming Disability Living Allowance for children [PDF] - the main benefit for disabled children; or download our DLA summary factsheet [PDF]
- Disability living allowance - claiming the higher rate mobility component for children with learning disabilities and autism spectrum disorders [PDF]
- Tax credits guide [PDF] - with a 'ready reckoner' to help assess entitlement
- Personal Independence Payment and other benefits at 16 [PDF]; or download our PIP summary factsheet [PDF]
For more parent guides on topics such as sources of financial support, children's services and help with fuel bills, see our full publications list [PDF].
We have lots of advice and information on our website that you might want to share with parents, including: