Financial support for families with children with disabilities

PUBLISHED: 16:41 17 December 2008 | UPDATED: 11:56 17 June 2010

As DEVON families feel the pinch of recession, a report by Devon County Council and Devon Welfare Rights Unit, which is part of Citizens Advice, highlights a need for more to be done to make sure families with children with disabilities receive their en

As DEVON families feel the pinch of recession, a report by Devon County Council and Devon Welfare Rights Unit, which is part of Citizens Advice, highlights a need for more to be done to make sure families with children with disabilities receive their entitlement to benefits and tax credits.

Three years ago Devon County Council and the Devon Welfare Rights Unit launched a project to contact every family in the county that has children known to have special needs.

It was originally thought that as many as 20% of those families were not receiving their full entitlements to benefits and tax credits, which would have given them more money to meet their care and other costs.

But in fact almost 60% of the 1,200 families that had contacted the service by April 2008 were found to be missing out.

The project has been so successful that Devon County Council has asked Devon Welfare Rights Unit to continue the work.

By the end of November 2008 almost 800 families across Devon have been helped to make claims and it is expected that, when decisions have been made, this will mean almost £3.5million will have been raised in extra benefits and tax credits - over £4,000 per family per year.

Project leaders are still keen to hear from the estimated 1,000 families who have not yet taken up the service.

Those families might be thinking that they are not entitled to anything or may be worried about claiming, but Ian Hobbs, who leads the work for Devon County Council said:

"We would really like every family which has a child with special needs to contact the Devon Welfare Rights Unit. They are experts. The service is free and completely confidential. A short telephone call could make a big difference to family incomes and to the quality of life for both parents and their children. No action will be taken without the parents being in complete control."

A family in East Devon initially contacted Devon Welfare Rights Unit for help with making a claim for Disability Living Allowance for their daughter. Their son has now also been diagnosed with the same condition, and a specialist welfare rights adviser was able to help complete the lengthy claim form.

Both claims were successful and, as well as making good use of the extra income, the family is reassured to know that they can get help with any benefit issues in the future.

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