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Caring for a child with a disability

Introduction

If you have a child with a disability you need to know about the various services in place to support you. Legally, a child is someone under the age of 18 years. Often however, parents (or other family members) continue to care for children with disabilities long after they reach adulthood.

Children with disabilities are entitled to the same services and family benefits as all other children. The emphasis in the following information is on those services and payments specifically related to disability. They apply whether the child was born with the disability or acquired it later.

Health services

GPs (family doctors) provide free developmental examinations in the weeks following birth. Public health nurses monitor the development of babies in their first months and can provide information and support.

Children with a disability who were born after 1 June 2002 are entitled to an assessment of need of health supports and services and to get an Assessment Report and a statement of the services they will receive.

Health services for children with disabilities are organised and delivered differently in different areas. Your Local Health Office can tell you the services that are available in your area.

Your child may be eligible for a medical card or GP visit card depending on your circumstances. The GP visit card is available to all children under the age of 6, without an income test.

People who have certain conditions that are covered by the Long Term Illness Scheme can get free medicines and appliances for those conditions.

There are charges for public hospitals but some people are exempt, including medical card holders, children up to six weeks of age, children who have certain diseases and disabilities, and children referred from child health clinics or school health checks.

Community care services include public health nurses, social workers, occupational therapists, home help services, chiropody services, speech and language therapy services, respite care and day care.

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) is responsible for the regulation of residential services for children and adults with disabilities.

Education

Children with a disability who were born after 1 June 2002 are entitled to an assessment of need of education supports and services.

The Early Childhood Care and Education Scheme (ECCE) provides free early childhood care and education for children of pre-school age. The Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) provides supports to help children with a disability access the ECCE.

Special needs education provides supports to help children with disabilities in primary education and post-primary education. Many areas have school transport for children with special needs.

There are also supports for third-level students with a disability.

Providing for a child with a disability

Although a child with a disability may be maintained by their parents after the age of 18 this does not provide them with any special entitlement to provision in a parent’s will. If you want to make specific provision for your child, you should get legal advice. One option is a trust from which your child may benefit after your death. Many parents use discretionary trusts to provide for a child with a disability without affecting entitlement to benefits.

You may use a covenant as a tax-efficient way to give money to a child aged over 18, but this could affect the child’s entitlement to Disability Allowance.

Most public sector occupational pension schemes, and some private sector schemes, have provisions that allow for the pension arrangements for dependent children to continue for the lifetime of a permanently incapacitated child.

Income support

You may qualify for supports for carers.

There is a range of social welfare payments for people who have a disability. These include Disability Allowance which your child may be entitled to when they reach the age of 16. If your child takes up employment, it may affect their Disability Allowance. For more information about this, see Disability payments and work.

Work and training

People with disabilities may access rehabilitative training for core life skills or vocational training for work-related skills. Read more about rehabilitation and training services for people with disabilities.

Employment supports aim to help people with a disability gain and retain employment.

Transport costs

Under the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers Scheme, tax reliefs are available for the costs of buying and using a vehicle.

Adapting a home

If you need to adapt your house for your child's needs you may qualify for the Housing Adaptation Grant.

Managing money

If your child is getting Disability Allowance, but is not capable of managing money, you may be the agent appointed by the Department of Social Protection to deal with the money. The money belongs to your child and you must use it for their benefit. If your child has substantial money or assets, they may be made a Ward of Court.

Planning for the future

Most parents of people with disabilities want to try to ensure that their children will be adequately cared for after their own deaths. You should get legal advice if you want to make special provisions for a child with a disability in your will and also ensure that they retain entitlement to benefits such as the Disability Allowance and medical card.

You may appoint a guardian in your will. This however only applies if your child is under 18 when it comes into effect. It is not possible to appoint a guardian for an adult child.

Page edited: 6 December 2016

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Contact Us

If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.