Financial support – government benefits
There are a range of benefits available to parents who have a child with a visual impairment, or to the young person directly once they reach 16.
Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
The Disability Living Allowance (DLA) helps with the extra costs of looking after a disabled child. It is non-means tested, tax free and won’t affect any other benefits you currently receive. There are two elements to the DLA – a care component, based on the level and amount of looking after they require, and a mobility component, based on the level of help they need to get about. There are different rates depending on the level of help required by the child. Many visually impaired children receive this benefit, so it is worth applying. For more information on rates, eligibility, and to apply, visit the Government website: www.gov.uk/disability-living-allowance-children
Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
If your child is 16 or over, they are eligible for PIP, not DLA. As with DLA, PIP can help with some of the extra costs involved in having a disability. PIP is broken down into two parts – a Daily Living Component and a Mobility Component. PIP is non-means tested and is tax free. If your child is nearing the age of 16, you will continue to receive DLA until the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) invites you to apply for PIP. You do not need to do anything until DWP writes to you about your DLA unless your circumstances change. For more information on rates, eligibility, and to apply, visit the Government website: www.gov.uk/pip
You may be entitled to Carer’s Allowance if you care for someone at least 35 hours a week, and they receive certain benefits, including the daily living component of PIP or the middle or highest care rate of DLA. You must be aged 16 or over, not in full-time education and not earning over £123 a week. The Carer’s Allowance isn’t means tested but it is taxable, and maximum earning amounts are subject to annual change. For more information, see the Government website: www.gov.uk/carers-allowance
For more information about being a carer, and the support available to carers, visit www.carersuk.org. Carers UK is independent from the government and provides a lot of advice and information around being a carer in general, as well as connecting carers and campaigning for change.
Carer’s Credit isn’t a benefit as such, but it helps with gaps in your National Insurance record, which is turn safeguards your ability to qualify for the State Pension. For more information, visit the Government website: www.gov.uk/carers-credit
Universal Credit is replacing 6 separate benefits. It is being introduced in stages across the UK. You do not need to do anything until you hear from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) about moving to Universal Credit, unless you have a change in circumstances.
If your child is disabled or has a long-term health condition, you may be able to claim the disabled child element as part of your Universal Credit payment. The rate of disabled child element you get will depend on the rate of DLA or PIP you are getting for them.
You will get the higher rate if your child is:
- already getting the DLA higher rate care component
- already getting the PIP enhanced daily living component, or
- registered blind
You’ll get the lower rate if your child is getting all other rates of DLA or PIP.
If you’re claiming DLA or PIP for a sick or disabled child, the rate of benefit you’re getting can affect your Universal Credit payment.
If you’re a carer for someone in your household who is severely disabled you may be able to get the ‘carer’s element’ as part of your monthly Universal Credit payment. More information is available on the Government website: www.gov.uk/universal-credit
The Direct Payments scheme is a UK Government initiative that gives users money directly to pay for their own care, rather than the traditional route of a Local Government Authority providing care for them. When your child is of adolescent age, the payments can be given to the parent or the person with parental responsibility to use towards a care package. Alternatively, they can be paid directly towards the organisation that is delivering the service.
Direct payments make an important contribution to the independence, wellbeing and quality of life of people with disabilities. They can be used for a variety of services which offer your child stimulation, new experiences and independence, including:
- short breaks
- help to go to a youth club or other activity
- personal care
The way direct payments can be used can vary greatly between different Local Authorities, so it is important to contact the correct person in authority, such as a social worker or someone from the sensory impairment team, to advise on what you can use the payments for. The Carers UK website has a great section on direct payments: www.carersuk.org/help-and-advice/practical-support/getting-care-and-support/direct-payments
Direct payments are normally available if you:
- have been assessed as needing services under the Health and Personal Social Services (NI) Order 1972
- have a disability and are aged 16 or over (including disabled parents)
- are a carer aged 16 or over, including people with parental responsibility for a child with disabilities
- are an older person
You can find out the appropriate Trust that you need to contact by entering your postcode on the Government website: