Money and benefits
If you have a child with a learning disability you may be entitled to claim certain benefits for yourself, or on their behalf. At the age of 16 your child may be able to claim these benefits for themselves.
Parents have told Mencap that the benefits system can be confusing, especially as it changes so frequently. However, it is important to find out what benefits you and your family are entitled to, and what extra support you may be able to receive.
Getting the right support
If you are finding the process of claiming benefits difficult to manage on top of your caring responsibilities, you may want to get extra advice and support. You can get in touch with your local welfare benefits service or Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB). You can search for your local office on the CAB website.
You can also get in touch with your local Mencap group, or contact the Learning Disability Helpline for further advice on 0808 808 1111. There is also a list of other useful organisations at the end of this guide.
My advice for other parents would be to make sure you know what assessments you are entitled to and to find out about direct payments and personal budgets.
In recent years local authorities (social services in Northern Ireland) have also begun to make changes to the support systems they offer. Instead of providing services directly, many authorities are starting to provide support for people with a learning disability based on their personal needs. This can allow more flexibility in choosing services, and for some people means managing their own money so that they can live more independently.
Some of the schemes currently in place include:
Direct payments - rather than services being provided directly by the local authority, some people with a learning disability, or their families or carers, may be able to receive a cash payment to choose the services they want.
in Control - a project working with local authorities to change the support system for people with a learning disability, older people and people with mental health issues. in Control allows people to gain independence by giving them access to a personal budget and supporting them to choose their own support to meet their needs, choices and preferences.
These pages offer a brief introduction to the various benefits that are available, as well as information about direct payments, in Control and other sources of financial support. This guide also contains lots of links to other useful resources and organisations. Look for the What next? sign for things you can do.
Please note: In Northern Ireland, the Department for Social Development is responsible for social security matters and benefits are administered by the Social Security Agency. Northern Ireland has its own legislation and the structure and organisation of the system is different from England and Wales. However, the rates of benefits and qualifying conditions are similar to those in England and Wales, except that Northern Ireland has rate rebates instead of Council Tax Benefit.
Read our top tips for making sure you get the right benefits.
The social fund is administered by Jobcentre Plus.
The Independent Living Fund (ILF) provides financial support for disabled people to allow them to live more independently in the community rather than in residential care.
The Family Fund provides grants to help families caring for severely disabled children.
Direct payments allow people to receive money directly from their local authority, so they can pay for their own services and live more independently.
Having a personal budget is part of the new system of social care that is called self-directed support.
If you need further information about money and benefits, or other learning disability issues, the following details may be useful.