Protect benefits for disabled children, urge charities

moneyBlind Children UK (www.blindchildrenuk.org), the National Deaf Children’s Society (www.ndcs.org.uk), RNIB (www.rnib.org.uk) and national deafblind charity Sense (www.sense.org.uk) are today calling on the Government to protect the benefits that support children with sensory impairments in their day-to-day lives.

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is paid to families to help with the additional costs of having a disabled child.  This can include: travel to medical appointments and accessible play groups; communication support and sensory toys; one-to-one support to access extra-curricular activities; and life-saving technology like flashing smoke alarms.

However the Prime Minister has declined to rule out cuts to disability benefits as part of the Chancellor’s forthcoming £12bn welfare savings and his spokesman has indicated that only people with the most severe disabilities will be safe from cuts.

Elizabeth Thompson of North Yorkshire, whose seven-year-old daughter Eleanor has profound deafness in both ears, said:

“I didn’t ask for a disabled child but I have one and DLA helps us have as normal life as we possibly can.  It assists with the fuel for appointments at a hospital which is 100 mile round trip.  Overall it just makes her quality of life and access to resources a bit better.”

Blind Children UK, the National Deaf Children’s Society, RNIB and Sense are now very concerned about cuts to disability benefits ahead of the budget statement on the 8th July. If budgets are cut or eligibility criteria tightened, many children may no longer receive DLA, leaving their families unable to pay for the extra support needed.  This could leave children vulnerable to isolation, bullying, low levels of achievement, and unemployment and poverty in later life.

The charities are now urging their members to write to their MPs ahead of the budget statement on the 8th July to ask them to put pressure on the Chancellor to protect benefits for children with sensory impairments.

NDCS Chief Executive Susan Daniels says:

“Families with deaf children who rely on DLA are not the ‘benefit scroungers’ of popular folklore – they are families working hard to support their children, often in very challenging circumstances.  We know that deaf children can achieve as much as their hearing peers given the right support, but if that support is removed we risk going back to the dark ages when deaf children were condemned to a life of isolation, loneliness and underachievement.

“I urge the Government to recognise the needs of deaf children and ensure that this vital benefit is maintained in its current form for the lifetime of this Parliament.”

Blind Children UK Chief Executive Richard Leaman says:

“Families raising a child with sight loss often face significant extra costs to give their child the same opportunities as their peers. For example low vision aids to enable children to read independently, kitchen equipment to enable children to learn to cook independently and the cost of specialist support during extra-curricular activities.

“While Blind Children UK can help through our range of support services, it’s vital that families facing these challenges are able to rely on the financial support provided by Disability Living Allowance. Without this, children with sight loss may be unable to reach their full potential.”

Sense Deputy Chief Executive Richard Kramer says:

“Deafblind people need support with communication, access to information and mobility. Sense firmly believes that the Government should continue to provide this benefit which contributes to the extra costs faced by disabled people and their families to lead full and active lives.

“It is essential that children who are deafblind or have complex disabilities are given the correct support in early years to reduce the risk of them developing higher level health and social care needs later on.”

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