Finding out about financial support, grants and allowances for families of children with a vision impairment, can often be frustrating. Here are some key areas to think about.
DLA is extra money if your child has extra care needs and /or problems with walking. It is non-means tested (it's the same whatever your income), tax free and does not affect any other allowances you receive for your child. DLA is made up of two components. One part is called Care and the other is called Mobility, and each of these components is paid at a different rate.
The two components are:
The forms are long and can be rather daunting, so you might want to ask someone to help fill them in (see Getting help and advice, below). It's also a really good idea to photocopy the completed forms before you return them. Forms can go missing and often parents have to reapply after a period of time.
Getting DLA often opens doors to further information and services.
Call the DWP’s DLA Helpline on 0345 712 3456 and ask for a claim pack. The Helpline is open Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm. If you use a textphone, the number is 0345 722 4433. You can also access the DLA claim form online.
If you live in Northern Ireland, call the Benefits Enquiry Line on 0800 220 674 or textphone 028 9031 1092. You can also visit the NIDirect website.
Our factsheet has lots of useful tips about what information to include on your application form, so that you can make the most effective claim for DLA:
If your child is turning 16 find out about the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) recently introduced by the government. PIP replaces DLA for people aged 16 to 64.
If you spend at least 35 hours a week looking after someone who is getting, or waiting to hear about, DLA at the middle or higher rate for personal care, you can apply for the Carer's Allowance. There are other qualifying criteria, for example income.
For more information, telephone:
Child Tax Credit is payable to families with dependent children whether the claimant is working or not. Nine out of ten families with children qualify and this is paid in addition to Child Benefit.
Working Tax Credit is for people working at least 16 hours a week. This provides a top-up to wages for those on a low income. There is also a specific childcare element of Working Tax Credit, which helps working parents with the cost of registered childcare. Find out more about benefits for families and carers.
For further information about tax credits or to get a claim form, call RNIB's Helpline on 0303 123 9999.
Respite (getting a break)
If your child has additional needs, for example physical or learning needs, as well as a sight problem, you may be entitled to practical help with caring. Our information on short breaks or shared care gives more information.
Crossroads is an organisation that provides a service in your home. They have trained people who can offer practical help, even if your child has complex health needs. You will probably need to ask for a referral from a social worker. To find a local service, visit the Carers trust website.
The local authority may offer you direct payments, that is a cash payment instead of a service, so that you can buy your own respite support or childcare. There are restrictions on what the money can be used for, and each local authority has its own procedure for how it allocates direct payments. Again, you will need a referral to a social worker.
If you want to talk to a social worker, contact your local social care and health office. Alternatively, a professional who knows you and your child well can make a referral for you to a social worker. To find out where your local social care and health office is, telephone your local council.
There are two categories of registration: "severely sight impaired /blind" and "sight impaired /partially sighted". Being registered as severely sight impaired/blind does not necessarily mean that you are totally without sight or will lose all your sight in the future.
There have been recent changes to the way registration works, so you may also hear this referred to as notification or certification.
Standard referral letters can be issued by high street opticians and hospital eye clinics to request help for you from social services. When you visit your high street optician, they will be able to give you a referral letter about your child called "Letter of Vision Impairment". You can fill this in yourself and send it to your local Social Services.
This letter gives you the chance to give them information about your circumstances, and any difficulties or anxieties caused by your child’s sight problem. You can also use this to ask for information about the services available to you.
If you are not offered such a letter by your optician, or if you choose not to send it in to your local social services at this stage, you will have another opportunity to be referred for help from the hospital eye service. Hospital eye clinic staff can, with your consent, fill in a form called 'Referral of Vision Impaired Patient'. This form will tell social services about your child’s sight problem and request an assessment of your need for support.
If your child’s sight is reduced to a certain level, he or she may be eligible to be registered with your local social services department. The eye specialist must complete the form "Certificate of Vision Impairment" to notify social services that your child is eligible to be registered either "severely sight impaired/blind" or "sight impaired/partially sighted".
Registration is optional but it can make it easier to get support and practical help. Call our Helpline on 0303 123 9999 for more information or take a look at our information on registering your sight loss.
There are schemes to support families of children with a vision impairment
This applies if you have a person who is registered severely sight impaired/blind in your household. Find out more about the TV licence concession or contact our Helpline on 0303 123 9999 or firstname.lastname@example.org
In addition to the allowances mentioned above, you can apply to grant-making organisations for financial help with the cost of toys, equipment, holidays or household items that benefit the child and/or make caring easier.
Some grants are funded by the government. Others are funded by charitable trusts and voluntary organisations. Some grants are one-off payments whereas with others you can apply each year.
Find local services and organisations that help blind and partially sighted people in the UK.Search Sightline