By Raising Children Network
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Boy wtih disability doing physical therapy on a ball ©iStockphoto.com/ChristopherFutcher

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  • You might be able to get therapy services through the public health system. But if there’s a waiting list, the service isn’t offered or your child isn’t eligible (this might depend on the severity or type of disability, where you live or your child’s age), you might have to pay for private therapy. 
  • The most common pensions or allowances received by primary carers are the Age Pension, Carer Payment and Carer Allowance (child).
 
About 64% of parents of a child with disability report a big financial impact on their family, usually because of lower income or extra expenses, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. But only 67% of these parents currently get formal paid assistance.

Costs to consider

Sometimes a family raising a child with disability might need one parent to cut back on working hours or quit altogether to care for the child. According to research, this is usually the mother. A family dealing with reduced income and extra expenses can find it difficult to make ends meet.

The financial impact of raising a child with disability will vary depending on the disability. The more severe the disability, the more it will cost you to care for your child.

You might need to pay for the following services:

  • a carer for your child so you can take a break
  • modifications to your home or car
  • medication
  • paediatric or specialist services provided within the private health system. If you’re using the public health system, you might need to pay the gap between what Medicare pays and what the service provider charges
  • home help to care for your child or to help with housework
  • aids and equipment (if the costs aren’t fully covered by the health care system).

Many therapy services – such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy – are free. But they might have long waiting lists, and if you want additional services you might have to pay.

The professionals you work with can help you figure out the services you’ll need to help you care for your child, both now and in the future. They might also be able to tell you where you can get financial assistance and other kinds of support. 

Tips for managing your finances

Managing finances can be an issue for many families at the best of times. But recent figures show that 60% of families with at least one child with disability are in the bottom 40% for income. Looking carefully at your financial situation will put you in a good position to make sure you have enough money to cover your costs.

Budgeting
When you’re thinking about anything to do with money, keep in mind that budgets can be really helpful. Start by keeping track of what you spend on different types of expenses for a few weeks – you might be surprised to see where your money is going. See our links to budget planners and money guides.

Priorities for spending are also helpful – what’s essential, and what isn’t? If there’s any spare income after essentials, what do you most want to spend that money on? Also, a savings plan can help you set money aside for unexpected expenses. 

Making the system work for you
Some of your expenses might be tax deductible, depending on your individual circumstances. Talking to a tax agent or accountant could help. Knowing your entitlements and taking advantage of them means extra money in the bank.

Shopping around
If you have private health insurance, compare the benefits and entitlements of different funds. But be aware of eligibility requirements and restrictions. 

    Information about financial support

    The Department of Human Services can give you information about what benefits you might be entitled to.

    The Medicare Safety Net helps with out-of-pocket costs for certain Medicare services. Once you’ve spent a certain amount on approved services in a year, you might be able to get extra Medicare payments for the rest of the year.

    Disability associations can give you information about sources of funding and support for things such as low-interest loans to buy equipment. The government department that deals with disability or health in your state or territory can give you more information.

    Using a financial planner can also be helpful.

      Other parents of children with disability can sometimes offer a wealth of information and support, including advice about financial assistance. Join our online forum for parents of children with disability to make a connection.

      Personal financial advice

      Financial advice helps you make decisions about your money. Good advice from an experienced, well-informed financial advisor might help you save money and become more financially secure.

      Generally, the only people permitted by law to give you personal financial advice are those who work for, or represent, a financial advisory business that holds an Australian financial services (AFS) licence.

      Licensed advice covers superannuation, insurance, shares and managed funds, as well as many basic banking products. People who give advice about loans and buying real estate don’t require an AFS licence.

      An advisory business that gives personal advice must: 

      • give personal advice that suits you 
      • take legal responsibility for its staff and representatives
      • act efficiently, honestly and fairly 
      • meet standards designed to protect you against something going wrong.

      Planning for the future

      At some stage in their journey with disability, many families wonder and worry about the future. As part of a personal financial plan, you might want to consider some of the following products to give yourself and your child extra security:

      • life insurance 
      • a will specifically structured to meet the needs of your child with disability
      • income, trauma or serious illness insurance policies
      • Special Disability Trusts.