Living with a disability can be hard enough without having to deal with demanding financial circumstances. Whether you’re disabled yourself or care for a disabled family member, there is support available, but it can be difficult to know where to look.
From benefits and tax credits to discounts and grants, this guide contains links to resources and guides that could help you to access financial support.
What counts as a disability in the UK?
In the UK, the Equality Act 2010 protects those with physical or mental health conditions. As explained by the mental health charity Mind, the legislation confirms that you have a disability if:
“You have a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial, adverse and long-term effect on your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.Mind for better mental health – Mind.co.uk
It can be difficult to know whether you qualify for protection under the act, particularly since many people don’t consider themselves to be disabled. In any case, it’s worth knowing that both physical and mental health-related conditions are included. For more information about the Equality Act, you can find a guide to the topic prepared by the mental health charity Mind.
How to handle your money if you become disabled?
Disabilities can affect you at any stage of life, and when you have health problems your finances might not be your top priority. Despite this, getting your money matters sorted can take a weight off your mind and make it easier to face the challenges ahead.
If you cannot work for health reasons, you may wish to claim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). SSP is available for up to 28 weeks if you’re employed but unable to work, with average earnings of at least £120 per week. For more information, visit the Government website page on Statutory Sick Pay to check your eligibility.
If you feel that you are able to return to work, your employer is legally obliged to make any reasonable adjustments that make your work life easier. These might include (but are not limited to) offering flexible working hours, altering your key responsibilities, or providing specially adapted office equipment. For more information on reasonable adjustments, click here to read a guide from The Money Advice Service.
Government financial support for disabled people
The UK government provides an array of financial support for people with disabilities, and have their own support hub available at the following link.
As a primary source of financial support in the UK, certain benefits packages specifically cater for disabled people. As the government continues to roll out Universal Credit in place of a range of other benefits, those with health conditions or disabilities may be eligible for additional support.
Universal Credit can be claimed in place of a wide variety of former benefits, however, you may be required to attend a Work Capability Assessment to determine if your disability affects your ability to work. You can apply via the Government portal here, after which you will be required to complete the Universal Credit capability for work questionnaire UC50.
Benefits calculators can be used to work out what benefits (if any) you may be entitled to, how to claim, and how your benefits might be affected if you are able to start working. There are a number of different calculators available, including:
- Entitled to, for information about income-related benefits, tax credits, contribution-based benefits, Council Tax Reduction, Carer’s Allowance and Universal Credit.
- Turn2Us, for information about income-related benefits, tax credits, Council Tax Reduction, Carer’s Allowance and Universal Credit.
- Policy in Practice, for information about income-related benefits, tax credits, contribution-based benefits, Council Tax Reduction, Carer’s Allowance and Universal Credit.
If you are entitled to Universal Credit or already receive this benefit, you can log in to your Universal Credit account to see your statement, report a change in your condition or circumstances, and see whether anything is required of you for payments to continue.
Even if you’re not eligible for Universal Credit, you may qualify for Housing Benefit or a Council Tax Reduction to help with the accommodation costs. You can check for Housing Benefit here, and Council Tax Reduction here.
You may also be eligible for other benefits aside from Universal Credit, and these include:
- Personal independence payments (PIP) – a tax-free benefit that is intended to help disabled people with the extra costs they may face. PIP is slowly replacing the disability living allowance which was intended for much the same purpose.
- Disability living allowance (DLA) for children – a tax-free benefit for parents with disabled children under the age of 16 to help with the additional costs they may face.
- Attendance allowance – a tax-free benefit for those who are at or above the state pension age and who need somebody to help look after them due to a disability.
- Employment and support allowance (ESA) – a benefit available to those who cannot work as a result of their illness or disability.
Grants for disabled people
There are numerous grants offered by UK charities and trusts that are available to disabled people in the UK. For the most part, charities will expect you to have applied for other forms of support (such as state benefits) before you approach them for a grant, and so it is worth exploring whether you might qualify for local authority funding before deciding to apply.
Just as there are a number of tools that help disabled people to learn about their benefits entitlement, so too are there several tools that allow you to search for relevant grants. These include:
- The Turn2us grants search tool, which allows you to search for grants based on your circumstances, postcode, age, and other criteria.
- The Disability Grants website allows you to search for grants by category, for instance, you might wish to find out what help is available to pay for transport, housing, or specialist equipment.
Before you put yourself or a loved one forward for a grant, you may find it useful to read some advice on how best to tackle applications. Scope, the disability charity, provides a useful guide to this, which you can access here.
You may also find it difficult to complete application paperwork on your own, and if this is the case you could get assistance from an advocacy organisation like the Older People’s Advocacy Alliance (OPAA).
There are some more specific grants that cater directly for disabled adults, children, and their families and carers. These include:
- Holiday grants from the 3H Fund, a charity that aims to help disabled adults, children, their families, and carers who are on low incomes and wish to take a short break in the UK.
- A family support grant from the Family Fund, a charity that helps families with disabled children (agreed 17 and under) who live at home and receive certain benefits. The money can be used to purchase essential goods like washing machines, but also computers and holidays.
Financial support for carers
Over 6.5 million people act as carers in the UK, supporting loved ones who are elderly, disabled, or seriously ill. With so many people caring for others, it follows that they might also need financial support as many of them will not receive any form of payment for the care that they give.
If you are a carer for a disabled person, advice and support are available from Carers UK – the nation’s leading care support charity. Support is also on offer from the Carer’s Trust, a major charity that works to improve support, services and recognition for carers.
As a carer for a disabled person, you could be entitled to extra money. The Carer’s allowance is available to those who care for someone for at least 35 hours per week.
You may also be entitled to Universal Credit if you are not in work or are on a low income. Your Universal Credit entitlement may be more if you spend more than 35 hours each week caring for someone because of their disability.
You could also be eligible for Carer’s Credit if you are under the state pension age and are caring for someone for at least 20 hours each week.
There are lots of discounts available for people who live with disabilities, and those that are relevant to you will depend on your area, interests, and status. That being said, there are some discounts that generally apply no matter where you live, including:
- WaterSure, a scheme which aims to help people who struggle to pay their water bills. If you are on certain benefits and need to use a lot of water as part of your ongoing care, you may be able to cap your water bill at the average metered rate for the area.
- The Warm Home Discount Scheme could also help you to save money on your electricity bill, with up to £140 off during the colder months between September and March. The scheme is available to those who get certain Pension Credits, along with those people with a sufficiently low income.
- Free prescriptions are available to people living in England who have a valid medical exemption certificate (MedEx) reflecting that they have one of a number of recognised illnesses and disabilities.
- The National Key Scheme (NKS) allows disabled people to gain access to more than 9,000 accessible toilets around the country that are usually locked for security and hygiene reasons. To access these toilets, you will need what is known as a ‘radar key’. These gadgets are given out for free by a number of local councils, but others may charge around £3. If your council does not offer help with this, you can buy an official radar key from Disability Rights UK for £4.75.
Once you have your radar key, you can find accessible public toilets using The Great British Toilet Map.
There is also the option to purchase a Diversability Card, an official discount card for people with disabilities. With lots of exclusive discounts on both local and leading brands, this new card will be up and running soon, and will be available to a wide range of disabled people.
Help getting cheaper disability aids and equipment
If you’ve chosen to buy disability or care equipment privately, the chances are you need it as quickly as possible and at the most reasonable price you can find. There’s no shortcut to finding good deals, but there are some things you can do to secure a better deal.
- Independent Living Centre, where you try out certain products and get the advice you need.
- Disability Living Foundation, and could help you to source the equipment you need.
- GOV.UK webpage on VAT relief.
Help with accommodation costs for the disabled
Everybody needs a suitable place to live, but it can be daunting to find a comfortable and convenient home when you live with a disability.
Each local council authority has an allocations policy which dictates how much social housing stock they can allocate to people with additional needs, serious illnesses, and disabilities. To find out if you’re eligible, use the Shelter tool available at the following link.
If you find yourself having to pay rent in advance and are struggling as a result of receiving a means-tested benefit, you might qualify for a government budgeting loan to help you keep going. You can learn more at the GOV.UK website.
Help is also on hand from Habinteg, a housing provider that offers and advocates for accessible, adaptable and affordable homes that meet the unique requirements of disabled citizens.
You might also need to make adaptations to your home to make it more accessible. If this is the case, you could be entitled to dedicated financial support.
- local council’s social services department for a care needs assessment. In Northern Ireland, these assessments are carried out by local trusts, which can be found at the following link.
- GOV.UK website, or the Nidirect website if you live in Northern Ireland.
Transport for disabled people
Most people take getting around easily for granted, but it can be so much harder for people living with disabilities. Fortunately, there are schemes out there that aim to make it easier for disabled people to travel around, saving money and making life simpler in the process.
- The blue badge scheme famously allows eligible holders to use car parking spaces which are reserved for disabled people. These spaces are usually more conveniently situated than other parking options, and even hidden disabilities such as dementia or anxiety disorders could see you qualify. Applications and renewals can be completed via the government website, found here.
- A disabled person’s bus pass could also allow you to get free or discounted bus travel in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. In London, a scheme known as the disabled person’s Freedom Pass grants free travel across the capital – including travel by tube, TfL rail and bus.
- Just as young and older people in the UK can access cheaper train fairs, disabled people can get 1/3 off of rail fares by purchasing a Disabled Person’s Railcard. What makes this offer even better is the fact that if you travel with another adult for the duration of your journey, they’ll also get 1/3 off the price of their ticket.
- Did you know that many airlines allow disabled passengers to select a seat that suits their needs for free? Whilst there are no firm rules that cover all airlines, many have this policy, and it never hurts to ask.
- Disabled people who receive certain benefits could qualify for a car tax exemption or 50% discount, meaning that whilst they’ll still need to ‘tax’ their car, it won’t necessarily cost anything. You can claim your exemption or discount when applying for vehicle tax via the government website.
Help and financial support for disabled people in education
It’s impossible to overstate the importance of education, but learning also comes with many costs attached. Ranging from buying uniform and making lunch for school-aged children, through to transport and accommodation for those at college or university, education can be even more expensive if you or your loved one live with a disability.
Support for disabled children in education
For parents with disabled children, help could be on hand from your Local Education Authority (LEA) – and you can find out which body is relevant to you by using this tool. They could assist with education costs by offering free school meals, or even by contributing towards the costs of school uniforms and extra-curricular activities. Generally this support is only available to families with a low household income and who receive certain kinds of benefits, but special consideration may be given for families with disabled children.
In cases where a child has a disability that affects their ability to learn, they may require a special educational needs (SEN) assessment to determine what extra support they require. Often your local authority will then be required to ensure that this support is provided. For more information, and to find out about these statutory EHC assessments, visit the SEN Help website.
Going to university with a disability
Going to university brings with it all kinds of challenges and opportunities, but it’s often the case that disabled students have more things to think about. Whether it’s finding accessible accommodation or just getting out and about to lectures, it’s important for hopeful university applicants to know that their disability needn’t stand in the way of a first class education and there’s lots of help on offer.
Individual universities are likely to offer their own disability support services, but you can find a helpful guide to university life on the Complete University Guide website. This covers everything from making your UCAS application through to navigating university facilities.
For even more help and advice about applying to university with a disability, you can read up on top tips in Debut’s 4 step guide to applying.
Finally, if you have hopes of one day becoming a teacher yourself, the Get into teaching website plays host to a wealth of knowledge and support that sets out exactly how much of a valuable contribution teachers with disabilities make in classrooms across the UK. You can visit their guide here.
Financial support for disabled students
It’s hard enough to live on a student loan, but if you have additional needs due to an illness or disability, it can be even more difficult. For general information about student loans, visit the Student Loans Company (SLC) website. As the UK’s public body for student loans, SLC will deal with your basic application and will determine how much student finance you can get. For more details and answers to the frequently asked student finance questions, visit the dedicated UCAS page here .
It’s worth keeping in mind that you can usually take up to 60 days’ absence from college or university if you suddenly become ill or are facing difficulties relating to your disability. Within this period, your entitlement to student financial support will not be affected.
As a disabled student, you may also be entitled to additional money to help support your studies. This is known as the Disabled Students’ Allowance, and more information can be found at the following links:
- Disabled Students’ Allowance in England
- Disabled Students’ Allowance in Wales
- Disabled Students’ Allowance in Scotland
- Disabled Students’ Allowance in Northern Ireland
More support may be available for disabled students who are taking a course funded by NHS England or Wales, the Scottish Government Health Directorate, or if you have received a bursary from the Norther Irish Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety. Beyond covering the course costs, these public bodies may be able to provide financial assistance to help with any additional costs that you must cover during your studies. For more information about the support available alongside NHS Student Bursaries, click through to the following guide or contact the organisation that is contributing towards your tuition costs.
Employment with a disability – help and financial support
In today’s world, there’s really no reason why people living with disabilities can’t pursue their passions and work in the field of their choice. There are disabled people working in every sector, and it’s important to remember that not all disabilities are even visible.
Regardless of what it is you want to do, you can find more information about the kind of jobs available and suitable for you by visiting Prospects – one of the UK’s most popular graduate employment websites.
The UK’s National Careers Service also provides a free skills assessment tool which will let you know of jobs that could be right for you just from your answers to several multiple choice questions. Similar tools are also provided by Glassdoor and Team Technology.
To find out more about job prospects for disabled people in the UK, you can read the many reports prepared by the National Development Team for Inclusion – which could give you a better insight into certain sectors.
When it comes to finding work, there are lots of avenues you could explore. Agencies and direct applications work great, but there are also many schemes and employment programmes out there that could help you to get into a new position. These include the government’s Work and Health programme, which is run with the assistance of Jobcentre Plus.
Beyond this you may turn to various private organisations and charities for help finding employment and new opportunities. These include the Association of Disabled Professionals (who provide networking opportunities and advice), Leonard Cheshire (who provide computer skills training to disabled people), the Papworth Trust (who help people with disabilities that have struggled with long term unemployment) and Scope (who aim to help disabled people to gain employment with large corporations and public sector bodies).
Help for self-employed disabled people
Turning to self-employment is never easy, and even less so for people with disabilities. Despite this, being your own boss can be one of the most rewarding choices you can make and can provide you with much needed flexibility that a more traditional job wouldn’t.
First things first, when setting out on your own it’s worth checking your local council’s website to see if they provide any specific business support. You can find out who to contact by using the following local authority tool.
Further advice and guidance is provided by the Growth Hub, along with the Business Support Helpline that can be contacted by calling 0300 456 3565 during usual business hours.
For more specific support and advice, it’s well worth visiting the Disabled Entrepreneurs website. They are a UK organisation run by disabled businesspeople, for disabled businesspeople. In a similar way, Fredericks Foundation provides charitable support to people who want to start their own business despite having grappled with disadvantages during their life.
Finally, once you’ve made it in the world of business, you could find yourself up for a Stelios award. Sponsored by Leonard Cheshire, these are awards given to disabled entrepreneurs, with prize money totalling £100,000. This could really be the boost that your business needs, all whilst recognising your passion and efforts so far.
Debt help for disabled people
Debt issues can be devastating for anybody, but debt can make living with a disability much harder. There’s lots of help available for debt problems, and even more free online resources that could help you to better understand your situation (including Credit Action!).
- The Money Advice Service provides a free and impartial advice service, partnering with a number of other organisations to help disabled people to make their money go further.
- The National Debt Line also provides free, independent and discreet advice on how to deal with problematic debts. They’re contactable either via their website but can also be reached by calling (freephone) 0808 808 4000.
- Stepchange is a specialist organisation providing free, expert advice regarding practical debt solutions for any financial issue UK debtors may face. From help dealing with your creditors through to handling a bankruptcy hearing, Stepchange has a long history of helping people in financial trouble.
- Citizens Advice (formerly known as the Citizens Advice Bureau) offers guidance on a wide range of topics, including benefits, finding work, and debt problems. They aim to “provide the advice people need for the problems they face”, including debt and disability-specific issues.
Help us to do better
We hope that this resource guide proves helpful to people living with disabilities across the UK. Whether you are disabled or simply wish to support people living with disabilities, we’d love to hear from you. Let us know at “chip at creditaction.co.uk” if any of the links above no longer work, if there are new resources to include, or if you or your company offer support to disabled people anywhere in the UK.