If you have a disabled child

Date last updated: 22 April 2021

Advice for single parent families with a disabled child

This page discusses the various forms of support you can access if your child has a disability. We use the social model of disability, which acknowledges that people are disabled by barriers in society, not by their impairment or difference. For more information on this, we recommend Scope’s website and Mind’s page on disability.

Benefits

Any new claim for benefits will involve a Universal Credit claim. While Universal Credit has replaced a number of older ‘legacy’ benefits such as income support, a number of benefits relevant to disability continue to exist as separate benefits. 

These include:

  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Carer’s Allowance
  • Child Benefit
  • Council Tax Reduction 

Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is the main benefit for children under 16 with a condition or disability. DLA helps to meet the extra costs that you might have as a result of your child’s disability.

DLA is divided into two components, a Care component and a Mobility component. Your child may qualify for one or both of these components. You will receive a weekly rate for each component depending on your child’s needs.

Care Component

Lowest Rate help for some of the day £23.70 per week
Middle Rate frequent help or constant supervision during the day, supervision at night or someone to help while they’re on dialysis £60.00 per week
Highest Rate help or supervision throughout both day and night, or they’re terminally ill £89.60 per week

Mobility component

Lowest Rate can walk but need help and or supervision when outdoors £23.70 per week
Highest Rate cannot walk, can only walk a short distance without severe discomfort, could become very ill if they try to walk or they’re blind, severely sight impaired £62.55 per week

DLA is usually paid every 4 weeks on a Tuesday. It is paid directly into your bank account.

To claim DLA for a child you need to be their parent or look after them as if you’re their parent. This includes step-parents, guardians, grandparents, foster-parents or older brothers or sisters.

To apply you can print off and fill in a DLA claim form. Alternatively you can phone the Disability Living Allowance helpline and ask for a printed form. 

  • Telephone: 0800 121 4600
  • Textphone: 0800 121 4523

Alternative formats, such as braille, large print, or audio CD are available.

Terminally ill children

There are special rules if a child is not expected to live more than 6 months, so they can get DLA more quickly.

Phone the Disability Living Allowance helpline to start your claim. Ask a doctor or other healthcare professional for form DS1500. They’ll either fill it in and give the form to you or send it directly to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Carer’s Allowance

Carer’s Allowance is the main benefit for carers. You are eligible if you care for your child at least 35 hours a week and they are:

  • on the care component of Disability Living Allowance at the middle or highest rate 
  • Or, if they are over 16, they get the daily living component of Personal Independence Payment

This is not a mean-tested benefit, so it does not matter what savings and income you have. However, if you work you can only get Carer’s Allowance if your earnings after deductions are no more than £128 per week.

Carer’s Allowance is £67.25 a week. You can only receive it once even if you are caring for more than one person. It does count as income for the purposes of tax credits and any means-tested benefits you might claim, such as Universal Credit. However to ensure you are better off an extra amount of £37.50 per week known as the ‘carer element’ is added to any means tested benefit you receive.

You can apply on-line using the government’s Carer’s Allowance webpage. Alternatively if you would prefer to use a paper claim form you can call the Carer’s Allowance Unit on 0800 731 0297 to ask for one.

Carer’s Allowance should be backdated to the start of the DLA/PIP award so long as you claim within 3 months of receiving the decision awarding your child DLA or PIP.

Other Financial support

There are numerous other forms of support out there you may be able to access. In addition to those listed below, you should also read the advice on our Making Ends Meet page.

Grants

You may be able to apply for a grant to help meet your child’s needs. 

Health Costs

You may be able to get help with NHS costs, such as the cost of prescriptions or travel to hospital appointments. Use the NHSBSA online tool to check what help you can get and what to do next.

Parking

You are eligible for the Blue Badge parking concession scheme if your child either:

  • Receives the higher rate mobility component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA).
  • Is aged two or above and has severe walking problems.
  • Is under three and has a condition which means they either need to be accompanied by bulky equipment or kept near a vehicle at all times.

If your child doesn’t qualify for a blue badge automatically under the above rules, they may still qualify under the so called ‘assessed route’. Find out more about the Blue Badge scheme.

Blurred background image - mostly grey with pinks, whites and blues

You might want to share your experiences and get support from friends or other single parents. Joining a group like a Gingerbread friendship group or chatting to other single parents in our online forums can be helpful and supportive.

Local Support Schemes

Your local council has a duty to provide you with help if you have a disabled child. Some services may be provided for free by your council but others may require you to pay some of the cost.

These services can include:

  • Practical assistance in the home, such as help with the personal care of your child, for example help getting in and out of bed
  • Recreational equipment such as a TV, radio or computer
  • Leisure facilities
  • Education facilities (either home-based education or funding for personal care requirements so your child can go to school)
  • Travel and other assistance, such as travel to and from a day centre
  • Home adaptations and disabled facilities, such as handrails or hoists
  • Holidays and short breaks
  • Meals
  • Telephone and other related equipment
  • Other services may be provided by the local authority, such as advice and guidance, laundry services and financial help in exceptional circumstances.

Needs Assessments

To apply for these services, you should contact the social services team at your local council and ask for a needs assessment. You can ask for this verbally, but it is better to ask in writing. Contact has a guide to the assessment process which includes template letters which you can download and use.

You can also ask your GP, health visitor, community nurse, paediatrician, or a voluntary organisation to contact social services on your behalf.

The needs assessment will involve a social worker coming to your home to talk to you about your child’s needs. For example they may ask about how your child communicates, their routine, and if you have any other children to look after. 

After the assessment, the council will decide if you qualify for help and what services should be provided. They should draw up a plan that sets out who is going to do what, where and when to help your child.

The local authority may decide there is no need for services, which could result in your case being closed with no further action taken. If you disagree with this decision, you can challenge it using the local authority’s complaints procedure.

Direct Payments

As an alternative, you can choose to get money to buy these services yourself instead of having them organised by the local council. This is known as direct payments. You will be paid an amount which covers the help deemed necessary by your needs assessment.

Direct payments allow you to have more control over the care of your child as you can choose what services are implemented. They may also be helpful if services in your area are not sufficient or have long waiting lists, meaning that paying for care privately is preferable.

Motability Scheme

The Motability Scheme can help you lease a car if your child is 3 or older and is entitled to either the:

More information about the scheme is on the Motability website, or you can contact them on:

  • Telephone: 0300 456 4566
  • Textphone: 0300 037 0100

Disabled Facilities Grant

If your home needs to be adapted to meet your child’s needs, such as installing ramps or improving access to rooms, you may be able to get a Disabled Facilities Grant to help with the costs. Disabled children under 18 can get the grant without your income being taken into account and the grant will not affect any benefits that you’re getting. 

You can apply for the grant through your local council. The council may send an occupational therapist round to see you to check your circumstances and see what changes you need.

You shouldn’t make any changes to your home until the council approves your application, as this may cause you not to receive the grant. 

You will need to apply separately for any planning permission or building regulations approval. The council may ask you to employ a qualified architect or surveyor to plan and oversee the work. If you get a grant, you can use it towards the cost of their fees.

Education

Special Education Needs

In any classroom, children learn at different speeds and in different ways. Some children need additional help and may have difficulty in certain areas, such as reading and writing, talking and listening, physical activities, or social interactions.

A child who needs a lot of extra help in any of these areas has special educational needs (SEN). Some children may have SEN because of a medical condition or a disability. Other children may have SEN without a diagnosis or a disability.

You can ask your local council to carry out an education, health and care (EHC) needs assessment for your child. They may then get an EHC plan, which will explain the extra support they need and will assist the school’s SEN co-ordinator (SENCO) in making proper adjustments. 

For detailed information on the SEN system, we recommend Contact’s guides for students in England and in Wales.

Rights

Under the Equality Act 2010, it’s against the law for schools and other education providers to discriminate against disabled children. This means that schools can’t refuse to admit a child just because of their disability and can’t prevent them from taking part in activities that other children are involved in, such as break time.

Contact the Equality Advisory Support Service if you think your child has been discriminated against because of their disability.

You can ask to see a school’s policy on special educational needs so you know what support they should offer.

Contact

Contact are the charity for families with disabled children, with detailed advice and information, and a free helpline.

Visit Contact

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