Getting help with those additional costs
Jason, a former graphic designer is a 35-year-old full-time dad to his sons Samuel (14 months) and Alfie (5). He writes about his experience of applying for Disability Living Allowance on behalf of his youngest son.
After what we both agreed was a smooth second pregnancy, my wife, Heidi, gave birth to our son Samuel in the middle of spring. He was strong from the get-go and we took him home to meet his brother on the same day. It was only over the next few months that we realised, despite his rapid development in other areas, something wasn’t quite right. He wasn’t responding to sounds.
After countless appointments and tests Samuel was diagnosed as hearing-impaired. With the diagnosis in mind, we made the difficult decision that my wife would go back to work and I’d stay at home with Samuel. It was a decision that was met with a lot of opinions and a few that have definitely made us reconsider some of our friendships, but it made the most sense for our family.
When Samuel was around 9 months old, a health visitor mentioned Disability Living Allowance to us. We’d never applied for benefits before, but we were struggling to adjust with only one income and the additional costs associated with Samuel and travelling to his appointments and she told us it could help with the extra expenses caring for a disabled child incurs.
We were very apprehensive at first and worried his hearing loss wouldn’t be ‘serious enough’ to qualify. A friend had applied on behalf of her slightly older child who had been born blind and been declined. Among our new network of mums and dads of disabled children, we’d heard so many negative stories, we didn’t think we stood a chance. We agreed we wouldn’t get our hopes up. If we were successful, great, but we wouldn’t push it.
Then the claim pack arrived, and it seemed overwhelming. So much of it seemed irrelevant and reaffirmed our belief that there was no point in even bothering. Luckily our health visitor put us in touch with Families in Focus, a local charity helping families of children with additional needs. They helped us go through the form and explained that sometimes you need to look outside the obvious. For example, our son needed a lot more comfort than a non-disabled child. We couldn’t soothe him with the sound of our voices or reassure him in the way you usually would. The forms were horrible and made us confront all the additional challenges a hearing-impaired child can face. It forced us to compare Samuel’s needs to our older son and it brought up a lot of emotion for us all.
We were shocked when just 7 weeks later we received a payment into our bank account and a few days later a letter arrived confirming Samuel had been awarded middle rate care.
Our health visitor then encouraged me to claim Carer’s Allowance. I took a while to come around to the idea and felt guilty for even considering it. I didn’t want to be paid for caring for my son, but we eventually reasoned that by doing so, we’d have extra money to provide even better care. It’s helped towards the cost of BSL lessons and access to plenty of other things.
I know we’ll have challenges down the road and I’m already dreading any fights we’ll face when Samuel’s reassessed, but our journey so far has been really smooth and I hope this blog will encourage parents who are reluctant to apply for DLA to give it a go. I didn’t realise that it wasn’t means-tested and even working families could be eligible.
Need some more information about applying for Disability Living Allowance? Check out Scope’s advice and support page here.
How have you found the process of applying for DLA? Were you hesitant to claim? Are you going through it now?