Financial support for parents
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.
Grants and allowances for parents
Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for families of children with a vision impairment
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 Care Component, paid on Lower, Middle or Higher Rate according to the care needs of the child. The Mobility Component is paid at just two different rates, a Lower or Higher Rate, according to your child's mobility.
- the Mobility part of the allowance, which is only available to children once they are three years old. However, if you've got a child with additional needs who already receives DLA, you may be invited to apply three months before their third birthday.
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.
How to make a claim for DLA for your child
Call the DWP’s DLA Helpline on 0845 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 0845 722 4433. You can also access the DLA claim form online.
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:
Personal Independence Payment for children over 16
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.
Carer's Allowance for families of children with a vision impairment
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:
- Carers Allowance Unit: 01253 85 61 23
- Benefits Enquiry Line: 0800 88 22 00.
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.
Carers trust (previously Crossroads)
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.
Certification/Registration as blind or partially sighted
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.
Getting a referral letter
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".
Why bother with registration?
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
- Blue Badges help people who have difficulty accessing community facilities because of the distance they have to walk. They allow you to park in disabled parking bays which are closer to shops and public buildings, and can be used in any vehicle in which you are traveling, either as driver or passenger. Blue Badges may be provided for children over the age of two years if they receive the higher rate Mobility Component of DLA are registered blind or have severe difficulty walking. Contact your local council's social care and health office.
- You can apply for a Certificate for Exemption from Road Tax if you receive the higher rate of the mobility component of DLA (not for children under three). Call Disability and Carer Benefits Directorate on 08457 12 34 56
- Motability is a scheme that helps you lease or buy a car if you receive the higher rate of the Mobility Component of DLA (not for children under three). Call 0845 4564 566 for more information.
TV license fee reduction of 50 per cent
This applies if you have a person who is registered severely sight impaired/blind in your household. Find out more about the TV license concession or contact our Helpline on 0303 123 9999 or email@example.com
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.
- The Directory of Social Change publishes "A Guide to Grants for Individuals in Need" - get a copy from your local library or from the Directory of Social Change website.
- Carers Grant is a "limited" central government grant to support carers in getting a break. It may provide grants for such things as holidays, play equipment, toys and play schemes. Contact your local disabled children’s team, a carers' organisation in your area, or see NHS - Carers direct or Carers UK.
- Family Fund Trust gives grants to lower income families with severely disabled children for things that make life easier and more enjoyable. They can provide help with such things as holidays, washing machines, driving lessons, computers and hospital visiting costs. Parents or carers can apply if their child is 16 years or under in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, or 17 or under in Wales. Call 0845 130 4542.
- The Princess Royal Trust for Carers – Carers Fund grants a maximum grant of £200 per year to benefit carers. This might be used for such things as days out, a holiday or a pampering day. Applications need to be made through a local Carers Centre.
- To qualify for Grants from RNIB you need to be registered blind or partially sighted and be on a low income. Priority is given for items which are essential for day to day living. Contact our Helpline on 0303 123 9999.
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