Money matters for parents of disabled children

Money

Photo: James Cridland

Caring for a disabled child can create additional expenses for parents and have huge implications for family finances. This guide answers some frequently asked questions about financial help for parents of disabled children – for a more comprehensive explanation, visit Cerebra’s website.

When this guide refers to parents it also includes others who are responsible for a child, with the exception of foster carers. There are different guidelines on financial assistance for foster carers of disabled children – for more information please visit www.fostering.net

Q: Can I claim benefits for my disabled child?

A: Anyone who is responsible for a child may be entitled to benefits and tax credits. If your child has extra needs because of a disability, you may be entitled to additional help and/or be able to claim benefits on your child’s behalf. This may depend on the needs of your child, your family’s income or both. If you share care with another parent, you will have to decide which parent has responsibility for the child (usually based on who gets the child benefit).

If your child is under 16, they must normally be living with you in order for you to claim benefits on their behalf. Special rules apply if your child is in residential care or residential education. 

Q: Can I claim benefits for a disabled child if I am not their parent but am responsible for them?

A: Provided you have responsibility for the child, you can claim benefits on their behalf. If the child is under 16 they must normally be living with you.

Q: What happens when my child turns 16?

A: When young people turn 16 they may become entitled to benefits and financial support in their own right, even if they continue to live at home with their parents. Available benefits will depend on whether they are in education, looking for work, claiming disability benefits and/or need help to pay for their care. You will need to work out whether it makes more sense for your child to claim their own benefits or for you to continue to claim them as a dependant.

If your child lacks capacity to make decisions about their finances or to claim benefits, you will need to make arrangements so that you or someone else can do this for them once they reach adulthood.

Q: What care and support is available for my child and can we arrange these services ourselves?

A: Disabled people of any age who need care and/or support to be independent are entitled to an ‘assessment’ by their local social services/children services department. Care services must then be provided to meet any assessed needs. 

You can request that the Local Authority make a regular payment (known as a ‘direct payment’) to you instead of arranging services for your child, so you can purchase the services yourself. 

Q: What other help is available for parents and carers of disabled children?

A: If you are providing ‘regular and substantial care’ for a disabled child or young person, you are entitled to a ‘carer’s assessment’ from social services to see if you are entitled to any services to make caring easier for you. The assessment can be done at the same time as or separately from the child’s assessment. Available services could include a break from caring, respite care for your child, adaptations to your home and/or equipment; or a direct payment to meet your own assessed needs.

You can find more information and a more detailed description of the benefits available to parents and carers of disabled children on visit Cerebra’s website

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