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. If you have recently learned that your child has a disability, the website informingfamilies.ie provides initial information to answer some of the questions you may have.

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 that are related to disability. They apply whether the child was born with a 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 about the services that are available in your area. The Health Service Executive (HSE) website also provides information about children's disability services.

Your child may be eligible for a medical card or GP visit card depending on your circumstances. If you are getting Domiciliary Care Allowance for your child, they are eligible for a medical card without a means test. The GP visit card is available to all children under the age of 6.

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.

Income support

You may qualify for supports for carers. These include Carer’s Benefit, Carer’s Allowance and the Carer's Support Grant.

Domiciliary Care Allowance is a monthly payment made to the carer of a child with a severe disability who lives at home.

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 our document on disability payments and work.

If your child is blind or visually impaired, they should apply for the Blind Pension 4 months before their 18th birthday.

A tax credit, called the Incapacitated Child Tax Credit, is available to the parents or guardians of children who are permanently incapacitated.

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 relief is available for drivers and passengers with disabilities to help with 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.

Other housing grants and schemes include grants to improve the energy efficiency and warmth of your home.

Managing money

If your child is getting Disability Allowance, but is not capable of managing money, the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection may appoint you as an agent 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., they may be made a Ward of Court.

Planning for the future

You may use a deed of 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.

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 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.

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.

Page edited: 27 September 2018