If you have an autistic child, you’ll know just how much of a financial strain it can put on the family. Managing to live with a disabled loved one is altogether different from struggling to make ends meet. For children needing specialist care, the costs quickly spiral, from having to buy special sensory equipment and toys, to paying for higher utility bills. For this reason, it’s important to reach out and utilise the support offered via external funding.
This often comes in the form of charitable grants, though the government also provides benefits, such as the Disabled Facilities Grant which could help your family.
Across the country, there are dozens of autism charities that specialise in offering emotional and financial support for families living with a disabled loved one. A lot of the charities helping children can provide grants to be used for paying bills, buying equipment or even taking the family away on a short holiday. Whilst some organisations give help for a wide variety of conditions, it’s best to focus on autistic charities initially as these will be most likely to provide the specialised help you need.
- Autism Aware UK
This charity provides families with online support whilst working to increase the awareness surrounding autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). Autism Aware UK has helped fund specialist playgrounds, and could offer financial support to buy equipment.
- The Fred Foundation
This autistic charity is one of the smallest in the UK and, as such, is only able to help a few children. However, the foundation could provide invaluable support, and has recently funded programmes for Applied Behaviour Analysis, so it could be a good grant source.
- The John and Lorna Wing Foundation
If you have an older child who needs help with higher education needs, the John and Lorna Wing Foundation could be ideal. They operate in England and Wales, and provide group and individual autism funding for both research and educational support. Though they don’t have a website, you can contact them by writing to Dr. J.A. Gould at 43 Barnfield Wood Road, Beckenham, Kent BR3 6ST.
- Music for Autism
Sensory play and learning can be extremely important for children with autism; a fact recognised by Music for Autism. This organisation put on interactive concerts for kids to enjoy, and hosts a number of events across the UK. The charity also supports schools with autistic children, as well as special units.
There are numerous children’s charities able to help you, regardless of your child’s disability. Though it is a good idea to focus on specialised organisations to start with, you could also try contacting the following.
- The Caudwell Charity
If your child has a disability, you could be granted funding from the Caudwell Charity. Though they do not fund building projects, clothing or household appliances, they can help with sensory room equipment and soft play toys.
- Children Today Charitable Trust
If you’re looking for special equipment like sensory toys or bikes, the Children Today Charitable Trust could be ideal. Every claim is means tested, but the organisation weighs up the facts sympathetically to try and help as many people as possible.
- EDF Energy Trust
If you’re on a low income and worried about energy costs, the EDF Energy Trust could help. Grants are used to cover utility payments, and you can apply if you’re a domestic customer of EDF Energy, London Energy, Seeboard, Energy or SWEB Energy.
The government offer grants for autism in the form of the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG). This allows you make a wide variety of home modifications so that living with a disabled child is easier. The DFG is available for applicants from England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and depending where you live the maximum payout is up to £36,000.
Money available via DFG’s are aimed at making your home life easier by assisting you to finance essential changes. If you have an autistic child who shows difficult behaviour towards the rest of your family, you might need to build a new bedroom to provide them with their own space, for example. DFG’s are made for exactly this purpose, though it’s important you give the right evidence to back up your application. For this reason, before applying, it is an extremely good idea to contact your local authority and have an occupational therapist assess your needs. With their guidance, you can give your application the best chance to succeed.
DFG Qualifying Criteria
To be eligible for a grant, you need to either own your own home, be a landlord with a disabled tenant or rent your home, either privately, through the housing association or via local housing authority. You will need to supply a certificate stating that your disabled child will continue living on the premises for at least five years after the work has been completed. In addition, though the process is means tested for adults, your income is not taken into account if you’re applying for your child.
Grants in Scotland
DFG’s don’t exist in Scotland. Instead, individual local authorities provide loans, practical assistance and grants depending on your circumstances. The Scheme Assistance will pay for up to 80 percent of all approved costs, and you will need to work alongside a social worker to create a proposal for the intended work.
Trying to make ends meet when you have a disabled child can be extremely difficult, particularly if you are on a low income. For this reason, you shouldn’t be embarrassed of seeking help, but see it as an invaluable lifeline to benefit the wellbeing of your entire family.