If your child has a disability, it is a strain on parents emotionally and financially. If one of your children has a physical or learning disability, your finances are probably not one of the areas that you want to focus on. However, with mounting medical bills and perhaps the additional cost of specialist equipment and help with the care of a child with a disability, this is something that you may well need to turn your attention to, as research shows that 40% of families with special needs children are placed under financial strain to meet their child’s additional requirements.
No matter what your current financial situation, it is essential that you learn to manage your money and receive the assistance available, as both can help you to cope with the extra costs of raising a child with a disability.
Note that this post was updated April 2016.
Find Out About the Financial Assistance Available
If you live in Canada you may be entitled to receive monetary assistance from the Government known as Child Disability Benefit. This is a tax-free provision for families with a child under the age of 18 who has a severe or lasting disability (at least 12 month duration) that affects either your child’s physical or mental function.
What is the Child Disability Benefit? The Child Disability Benefit (CDB) is a tax-free benefit of up to $2,695 per year ($224.58 per month) for families who care for a child under age 18 with a severe and prolonged impairment in physical or mental functions. The Child Disability Benefit is payable to families who qualify for the Canada Child Tax Benefit (CCTB).
You require a medical practitioner to confirm on Part B of the Disability Tax Credit Certificate that your child’s disability meets the criteria set and once completed you need to send both sections of the form to your local tax centre, where the Revenue Agency will determine whether your family is eligible to receive this support.
In regards to the Child Disability amount, when you apply for the Disability Tax Credit they reassess your taxes from the time the child was disabled (in many cases this is since birth) and will back pay from that time. First they will do the last three years, but if you put it in writing after that that you would like them to go back further they will. This can be thousand’s of dollars to those that did not know they qualified for this monthly amount.
For families living outside Canada, you will need to check the disability benefits available in your own country; information on what is available and how you can apply for this is usually found on your Government’s website. You may be pleasantly surprised to find out what you may be entitled to, as while the amount of Child Disability Benefit you receive in Canada is dependent on your family’s income, this is not necessarily the same elsewhere.
For instance, in the UK children with disabilities or long term ill health will continue to receive Disability Living Allowance (rates between £21.80 and £139.75 per week) until their 16th birthday. Thereafter they will also move to Personal Independence Payments.
In addition to specific disability-related benefits your family may also be entitled to assistance with prescription charges and medical costs, so if you live in a country where these are not provided free of charge you should explore this option. If your child is of school age it is also helpful to find out from your local Education Department whether they may be able to receive any therapy – such as help with their speech and language or physical therapy – through the school they attend.
Review Your Spending
Besides receiving all the financial benefits you may be eligible for, you need to carefully review your family’s finances. If you have outstanding debt, this is an area that needs to be addressed and if you are finding it difficult to repay the money you owe, it is important that you take advantage of the help available for people struggling with debt.
However, as well as clearing your existing debt it is important to avoid future difficulties, so budgeting and adopting strategies to make your money go further can help. For instance, planning your meals for the week, writing a shopping list and sticking to this rigidly at the grocery store is just one way that you can save money, but you can also save on everything from your utility bills and transport costs to family days out. Just be careful when using discount vouchers, as although they can offer great savings, this is only the case if you would have used the product or service anyway.
Raise Money Yourself
With a little imagination there are hundreds of ways that you could potentially raise money to support your child’s additional needs. You could simply have a garage sale or bake sale, or you may like to organize an event in your community such as a 5k run to fund a particular item of equipment your child needs. Alternatively, you could look for local sponsors who may be willing to provide financial assistance to allow you to buy a more costly item for your child.
Managing Healthcare Costs
If you live in a country where you need to pay for your child’s medical care, while you may think that the costs of medical services are fixed, if you phone the billing office you may be able to persuade them to lower the price of care down to that provided by your health cover.
It is also worth finding out about the payment plans offered by your local hospital, which are often available for families struggling financially. You may not want to share with them details of your finances, but doing so is well worth it if you can receive assistance with your payments.
It’s equally important to ensure that you get the most out of your health insurance. If they are refusing to help cover a certain item of medical care, don’t accept the first or second answer they give you; consider using a patient advocate to help fight your corner.
Accept Help From Those Close To You
Although family and friends may be able to help you out financially, when you have money worries those close to you may be able to support you in other ways. For example, they may provide a few home-cooked meals for your freezer or some clothes their kids have now grown out of. Alternatively, if you need to attend a hospital appointment, perhaps they might be able to babysit your pre-school children for you, or they might be able to have your children for an afternoon while you sort some financial matters out.
It’s important not to forget that they can offer much welcome emotional support as well, so if you need someone to listen to your frustrations don’t be afraid to speak with family and friends, as you know you would do the same for them. However, you can also gain support from other parents in similar circumstances to your own; there may be a group in your own community, but if not there are a variety of online support networks.
Lorna thanks Melissa Minogue for this added information:
Melissa wrote, ” Additional Supports:
For those living in Ontario, they may apply to the Assistance for Children With Severe Disabilities. The child will receive up to $465 a month and a drug, dental and optical coverage card. The amount depends on the financial need and the child’s needs.
Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP)
Also, for all Canadian’s, upon being accepted for the Child Tax Credit (which is needed to receive the Child Disability Benefit), the parent can apply for an RDSP for their child. A Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP) helps save for the long-term financial security of a person with a disability. After opening an RDSP, you may be eligible for a Grant or Bond,
Canada Disability Savings Bond
The Canada Disability Savings Bond is money the Government contributes to the Registered Disability Savings Plans (RDSPs) of low- and modest-income Canadians. If you qualify for the Bond, you can receive up to $1,000 a year, depending on the beneficiary’s family income. Over an individual’s lifetime, there is a limit of $20,000. Bonds are paid into the RDSP until the end of the year the beneficiary turns 49 years of age. You do not need to make any contributions to your RDSP to receive the Bond.
I always try to let every Canadian parent that I come cross that has a disabled child know about this information.