Aids, equipment and adaptations
Caring for a disabled child can sometimes be made easier with the use of certain aids and equipment. Some items such as mobility aids or special beds are expensive and the range available is vast.
In general, social services are responsible for providing
equipment for daily living and non-medical needs, and your health
authority is responsible for providing equipment to meet nursing or
In addition, equipment to help a child access the curriculum may be arranged by a school or local education authority. Our special helpline education specialists can provide further information about your child's rights to support at school.
How to ask about aids and equipment
To find out what aids and equipment you might be entitled to, you can contact a healthcare or personal care professional such as a social worker, GP, district nurse, physiotherapist or school nurse.
An occupational therapist (OT) or social worker will usually visit you in your home to discuss the situation further and carry out the assessment. An OT is a professional who can advise on equipment for daily living and managing more easily within the home.
An adaptation is a change made to your home to make it more accessible and safer for a disabled person. You may be entitled to a grant to cover the costs of any work you need carried out in your home.
Disabled Facilities Grants (DFGs) in England, Northern Ireland and Wales
In England, Northern Ireland and Wales, DFGs are awarded where works are considered essential to enable better access and movement at home or to make it safe for a disabled occupant. A DFG can help with the cost of, for example:
- building a safe play area
- installing a stair-life
- adapting a lighting or heating system
- building suitable kitchen or bathroom facilities
- enabling access to a garden, and other works.
DFGs are not means tested, which means the income and savings of parents and carers are not taken into account for works to meet the needs of a disabled child or young person under 19.
The exceptions are when the young person is getting certain means-tested benefits in their own right or when they are in advanced education.
How to request a DFG
Speak to your local council about making a formal application for a DFG. The statuatory time limit for assessing a formal application is six months. Most local authorities will ask for an assessment from an occupational therapist (OT) or social worker to decide if the work is 'necessary and appropriate' to meet your child's needs.
However, it is important to note that contacting social services or the OT with a request for a DFG assessment is not the same as making a formal application. If you have asked for an assessment without making a formal application, you might face lengthy delays. This is because unlike formal applications, there is no statutory time limit on how long you have to wait to see an OT.
To minimise delays, make a formal application for a grant as soon as you can so you can get a decision within the six-month time limit. You can do this even if you are still waiting for an OT to visit to do an assessment.
The local authority may also be able to provide discretionary assistance where for example the works aren't considered to be `necessary and appropriate' or costs of the works exceed the maximum limit.
Contact our helpline for information about this, if you're experiencing delays or having problems with getting a formal application form.
The Scheme of Assistance in Scotland
In Scotland, 'mandatory grants' are available to home owners and private tenants under a process called the Scheme of Assistance. These are awarded for work regarded as essential to meet the needs of a disabled person. A grant must cover at least 80 per cent of approved costs, with the other 20 per cent being means tested.
Local authority and housing association tenants may also qualify for assistance making their home more suitable. The works have to be assessed as necessary in order for major works to be carried out free of charge by the council. Speak to your local council about making a grant application.
Further advice about help to pay for adaptations can be found on Shelter Scotland's website. The Scottish government has also produced a range of guides with further information about adaptations.
- Read our parent guide Aids, equipment and adaptations [PDF].
- Wherever you live in the UK, you can call our freephone helpline (Monday-Friday, 9.30am-5pm) on 0808 808 3555, ask us a question by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or post a query on our Facebook page.