Budgeting for child disability: things to think about

If you’re raising a child with disability, it’s likely to affect your family budget. The financial impact will vary depending on your child’s disability. The more severe the disability, the more it will cost you to care for your child.

At the same time as managing extra expenses, you or your partner (if you have one) might need to cut back on working hours or quit altogether to care for your child. It can be hard to make ends meet when you’re dealing with extra expenses and reduced income.

Here are some expenses that you might need to think about:

  • a carer for your child so you can take a break
  • modifications to your home or car
  • medication
  • private paediatric or specialist services
  • the gap between the cost of public health services and what Medicare pays
  • 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 – like 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 and equipment 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.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme, or NDIS, is a single, national scheme that funds reasonable and necessary support to help people with disability reach goals throughout life. Find out when the NDIS will be available in your area.

Tips for managing money

Looking carefully at your financial situation will put you in a good position to make sure you have enough money to cover your costs.

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.

It also helps to think about what’s essential spending for your family and what isn’t. If there’s any spare income after essentials, what do you most want to spend that money on? 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 check the rules for joining different funds and getting money for disability-related expenses.

Information about financial support

It can be hard to work out what financial support you can get to help with raising your child with disability. Our article on navigating the financial support system for child disability can help you get started with Australian, state and territory funding.

You could look at Department of Human Services – People with disability for information about what benefits you might be able to get.

Disability associations can give you information about sources of funding and support for things like 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.

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 legally allowed to give personal financial advice are people 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 need 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.

You could look into choosing a private financial adviser. Or you can use the Australian Government Financial Information Service. This service is free and available to everybody.

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.