Financial Help

This page tells you about official financial assistance that you may be eligible for.

I’ve also included info about local attraction discounts you may be able to benefit from if you’ve a diagnosis – and how to apply for a Berkshire Autism Alert Card which will help you access these.   Please scroll down for the relevant sections.

Does my child’s condition mean we qualify for any financial assistance?

If your child is under 16 years and has a SEN diagnosis and if you meet the other criteria below, then you are quite possibly eligible to apply for financial support in the form of DLA (Disability Living Allowance) – its NOT means tested so anyone can apply irrespective of income, if they meet the criteria.

And if you succeed in getting DLA and don’t have much of an income (less than £120 a week) then you may also be eligible for Carers Allowance.

If your child is over 16 years then you can’t apply for DLA – but they have the Personal Independent Payment (PIP) instead – I have to confess I don’t know anything much about this yet as my son is only 9, but you can read up on it yourself…

See further info in the relevant sections below.

Disability Living Allowance

As I said, its NOT means tested (ie anyone can apply regardless of family income) – but to qualify for Disability Living Allowance (DLA) in mainland UK for children, the child must:

  • be under 16
  • need extra looking after or have walking difficulties
  • be in Great Britain, another European Economic Area (EEA) country or Switzerland when you claim – there are some exceptions, such as family members of the Armed Forces
  • have lived in Great Britain for 2 of the last 3 years, if over 3 years old
  • be habitually resident in the UK, Ireland, Isle of Man or the Channel Islands
  • not be subject to immigration control

Please follow this link for more info: https://www.gov.uk/disability-living-allowance-children/eligibility 

Also here in Berkshire, if you need help filling in the form / applying then Autism Berkshire may be able to offer you assistance – they run workshops to help.  See http://www.autismberkshire.org.uk/2017/01/04/dla-workshops-offer-expert-advice-benefit-applications/ 

There is also advice available from Contact, Cerebra and Citizens Advice among others.

Carers Allowance

If you’ve got DLA above (or PIP which is the equivalent for children once they go over 16 yrs) and have an income of less than £120 per week then you may well be eligible for Carers Allowance.

All of the following must also apply:

  • you’re 16 or over
  • you spend at least 35 hours a week caring for someone
  • you’ve been in England, Scotland or Wales for at least 2 of the last 3 years (this does not apply if you’re a refugee or have humanitarian protection status)
  • you normally live in England, Scotland or Wales, or you live abroad as a member of the armed forces
  • you’re not in full-time education
  • you’re not studying for 21 hours a week or more
  • you’re not subject to immigration control

For further information, including how to apply, please go to https://www.gov.uk/carers-allowance 

Personal Independence Payment

As I say, I’m no expert on this as my son is only 9 (sorry!), but you can find out more at https://www.gov.uk/pip

Berkshire Autism Alert Card – for discounted entry to attractions (and other assistance)

I’ve discovered over the past couple of years that so many places in West Berks (or further afield) offer discounted entry if you have a Berkshire Autism Alert Card.  You need an autism diagnosis to apply for one of these, but its easy to do using Autism Berkshire’s website or picking up one of their forms if you see one.   Occasionally places don’t accept the card and you need the actual diagnosis letter, but I’ve only come across this once.

Places typically charge a discounted rate for your child and then you can get in free as their carer, but there are different schemes in operation.  Often if you get a season ticket / annual pass this can work out well, and some places even allow a different carer to use the same pass, but others don’t so you have to have one for each accompanying adult.

Here are some examples of where I’ve been able to use our card to get a discount (or even to jump a long queue and avoid a meltdown during the wait):

  • Milestones Living History Museum (Basingstoke)
  • The Science Museum (Winchester)
  • Marwell Zoo
  • The Isle of Wight Ferry (not for a discount but to jump the queue)
  • Legoland
  • Boscombe Down Aviation Collection (Salisbury)
  • Coral Reef Waterworld (Bracknell)
  • Basingstoke Aquadrome (you need the letter here, they don’t accept the card)
  • Ironbridge – we got access to a quiet area when my son needed some calm

Also, if you’re flying out of Heathrow, you can apply in advance for a special sunflower lanyard for your child to wear (or yourself if they refuse, as my son does!) and this helps alert staff that you may need special assistance.  This has been a godsend for us when going through security especially – and has also allowed us to jump queues to board a plane first or avoid waiting at passport control on our return.  Sometimes you have to ask the staff to jump the queues if they have a lot going on, but in my experience if you’re wearing a lanyard when you do then they never say no!  Its brilliant!  See https://www.heathrow.com/airport-guide/assistance-at-heathrow/hidden-disabilities for details of how to one in advance – or for which desks to go to at the airport to pick one up when you arrive.

My advice would be to ‘challenge’ wherever you go!  Nicely of course.  I’ve found that places and staff are becoming more and more accommodating and understanding and wanting to help.  For example, when we jumped the ferry queue (this isn’t their standard practice, but I just asked because my son was getting close to a meltdown and they went out of their way to help).  Similarly when we went to Ironbridge, my son was really struggling with all the people and too much noise and choice of what to do,  so I went back to reception to ask if there was a quite room where we could go for a while instead of having to just drive the 2 hours home after not having been there long… and they found us somewhere private for us to retreat to until he had calmed down, meaning we managed to stay the whole day in the end…   If you don’t ask you don’t get and I think we need to keep challenging the world to accommodate our fantastic children and allow us to access places or experiences just like other families can!