Here we give details of sources of financial help towards home adaptations or equipment for an individual who has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This can be help from your local authority or from a charitable trust.
Help from your local authority
Disabled Facilities Grant (England, Wales and Northern Ireland)
Disabled Facilities Grants (DFGs) are paid to people who have a disability to help pay for adaptations to their home. The grant is to help people with disabilities to continue living where they are.
DFGs are available through local councils and the council must approve the adaptations before any work is done. Adaptations to housing may be funded up to a maximum of £30,000 in England, £25,000 in Northern Ireland, and £36,000 if you live in Wales.
DFGs are awarded to make a home safer for an individual who as a disability. It can also be used to provide essential facilities within your home, and to make your home more accessible for the person living there who has a disability.
If you apply for the DFG, it must be for a proposed adaptation to your home for the need of the individual who has the disability. For example, we are often asked if a DFG can be used to build an extra bedroom for a child who has autism. Parents often say that their child who has autism may show challenging behaviour towards their siblings, putting the sibling at risk of harm and therefore unable to share a bedroom with them.
If you wanted to apply for a DFG to help pay for the extra bedroom in this case, you must show how the bedroom for the child with autism will help the family to better meet the needs of the child and the safety needs of their siblings. A DFG could be used to adapt a bedroom for your child who has autism, to make it a safe place to leave them unattended during the night.
To be eligible for a DFG, you must be an owner-occupier, tenant (private, local housing authority, or housing association) or a landlord who has a disabled tenant. It will usually be the housing or environmental health department at your local council, or in Northern Ireland your Housing Executive Grants Office, who will deal with DFGs. Applications need to be supported with a certificate stating that the individual who has the disability will be living in the property for at least five years following the completion of the work. Contact your local housing authority for an application form.
Social Services departments (Health and Social Care Trusts in Northern Ireland) employ occupational therapists. An occupational therapist will assess the need of the person who has the disability to see if the housing adaptation is necessary and appropriate for the individual.
There is a means test for the DFG, however this is no longer applicable if you are applying for a DFG to make housing adaptations for a child or young person aged under the age of 19. The means test applies to families who want to make housing adaptations for a person aged 19 or over.
For more information about DFGs please look at:
Home improvement help (England)
This can be a grant or a loan given to you by your local authority to help with repairing, improving or adapting your home. Each local authority has its own application form, rules and conditions about the type of help that can be offered and also what qualifies you to access the help. Contact your local housing authority to find out more about this.
If you rent your home and apply to your local authority for home improvements, you must get permission from your landlord before the local authority will agree to help. If you need home improvement help due to a disability, your landlord cannot refuse without a good reason.
To find out more about Home Improvement help, contact your local housing authority or visit www.adviceguide.org.uk/help_with_home_improvements
Scheme of assistance (Scotland)
In Scotland, the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006 (HAS) is the main legislation for financial and practical assistance in the home. This law introduced the 'scheme of assistance', replacing Home Improvement Grants.
Local authorities are allowed to provide grants, loans, subsidised loans, practical assistance and information or advice to home owners for repairs, improvements and adaptations. Local authorities have their own local policies on the assistance they provide, so the help available will vary depending on where you live.
If you are a home owner you will be eligible for a grant if the permanent structural adaptations to a house are essential to the disabled person’s assessed needs. A grant must also be provided to meet standard amenities intended to meet the needs of the disabled person, for example a bath or shower, sink or toilet.
Everyone who qualifies will get 80% of the approved costs covered. If you or someone else who lives in your household receives income-related employment and support allowance, income-based job seekers allowance, income support or the guarantee credit element of pension credit, then the grant will meet the whole amount of the approved costs.
Your local social work department will decide following an assessment of your needs whether the changes needed to you home meet the requirements for essential work. The assessment will usually be carried out by an occupational therapist and will also consider how urgently you need a grant. There is no upper limit to the cost of the work, or for the amount of grant which can be given. But your local authority will check that the cost of the work is reasonable.
If you are a tenant you can only get a grant or a loan for one of the following:
- for work which has been your responsibility under your tenancy agreement for at least two years before your application
- work for the adaptation of a disabled person’s house to make it suitable for their accommodation, welfare or employment
- for work which is required as a matter of urgency for the health, safety or security of the occupants of a house, including, in particular, work to repair it or provide means of escape from fire or other fire precautions.
Home improvement agencies (HIA) (UK-wide)
Home improvement agencies are local not-for-profit organisations. They provide older, disabled, vulnerable home owners and private tenants with independent advice and help to carry out repairs, adaptations and improvements on their homes.
They visit your home and establish what building works may be needed and if there are any grants or loans that can be accessed to fund the work. They could help apply for the grant/loans and continue supporting you until the work has been completed.
Although the initial visit is free, some HIAs may charge a fee to use their help. This would usually be included in any grants that are awarded. However, it would be completely your decision if you want the HIA to help and all costs would be discussed with you before the agreement is signed.
To find out more and where your local HIA is, contact Foundations.
Help from charitable trusts
The majority of grant-making organisations have criteria for who can apply for financial help. For example, an organisation may only provide financial help towards home improvements for a child. Other organisations may be for individuals living in a certain area, and others may specify what type of adaptations or equipment the organisation may provide funds towards.
Some of the organisations will request that your application for help with funding is supported by a professional, eg they may require a letter in support of you application from your social worker.
A lot of the funds available are means-tested. This means that the organisation will assess your income when deciding if you are eligible to receive funding from them.
Here we give you a brief overview of what each organisation provides funding towards, and also about whom they provide funds to. For information about their eligibility criteria please contact the organisation directly.
The Caudwell Charity (UK-wide)
The Caudwell Charity can provide grants to children under the age of 18 who have a disability or special needs. They can help fund specific items for children such as soft play equipment and sensory room equipment. They do not fund building works, clothing, or domestic appliances. You can download a grant application form from their website or you ask for one by email or telephone.
Tel: 0845 300 1348
Cerebra makes grants for children with neurological conditions. They fund equipment and services to help make life easier and more enjoyable for children. Examples of things they have funded in the past include buggies, outdoor play equipment, sensory equipment, specialist car seats, speech and language therapy, touch screen computers and weighted blanket/vests. You can download a grant application form from their website or you ask for one by email or telephone.
Tel: 0800 328 1159
Children Today Charitable Trust (UK-wide)
Children Today offers financial help towards equipment for children and young people, such as special bikes and sensory equipment (eg bubble tubes). When assessing your application, they will apply a means test. However, Children Today recognise that having a child with a disability can mean that the family have additional expenses and so they say that they will look at each claim sympathetically. To find our more information and to request an application form, contact:
Tel: 01244 335622
Fax: 01244 335473
The EDF Energy Trust
The EDF Energy Trust provides grants to cover the payment of energy bills and other essential household bills or costs, for people who are on low income. To be eligible for their support you must be a domestic customer of one of the EDF Energy Boards. These are London Energy, Seeboard Energy, SWEB Energy and EDF Energy. People who live in a home which is supplied by EDF Energy, but are not the account holder, can still apply to receive a grant from this trust. You can download an application form from their website or complete an online application form.
Tel: 01733 421060
The Family Fund
The Family Fund is a registered charity which helps around 53,000 families in the UK with around £31 million in grants a year. The national governments of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales provide the Fund’s income, as part of their commitment to disabled children and young people. The Fund helps families with severely disabled children and young people aged 17 and under to have choices and the opportunity to enjoy ordinary life. It gives grants for things that make life easier and more enjoyable for the disabled child, young person and their family, such as washing machines, driving lessons, computers and holidays.
The Fund can consider an application if:
- You live in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales.
- You are the parent or carer of a severely disabled child or young person aged 17 or under who lives at home.
- You are eligible for, and can send the Family Fund evidence of entitlement to, one the following:
- Child Tax Credit
- Working Tax Credit
- Income-based Job Seekers Allowance
- Income Support
- Incapacity Benefit
- Employment Support Allowance
- Housing Benefit
- Pension Credit
- You have permanent legal residency in the UK and have lived in the UK for six months.
The Fund will consider any grant request that will make a difference to the life of a disabled child, young person and their family. Whilst families can apply for things such as washing machines, holidays, and hospital visiting costs, they also encourage requests from young people that have a particular meaning to their age group, such as driving lessons, laptops and equipment for college.
The Fund tries to help families caring for a severely disabled child or young person once a year, where the household income is within certain limits. They will usually consider a grant application 12 months from the date of the last grant.
You can download a grant application form from their website or you ask for one by email or telephone.
Tel: 08449 744 099
Fledglings offers advice about organisations that can help you with the cost of more expensive items if you cannot afford to provide them yourself and if your child has special needs. They do not offer financial help to families themselves. Tel: 0845 458 1124
Fax: 0845 458 1124
Florence Nightingale Aid in Sickness Trust
The Florence Nightingale Aid in Sickness Trust can provide grants to people who have disabilities where there is a medical need. They can provide grants for household equipment such as washing machines, or bed linen, for example if a child soils their clothing regularly (the medical need being incontinence). They do not provide funding for housing adaptations, clothing, or general home furnishing. You can download a grant application form from their website or you ask for one by email or telephone. Tel: 020 7605 4244
Sir John Sumner’s Trust (UK-wide but preference for those living in the Midlands)
Sir John Sumner’s Trust provides one-off grants for people in need. They can provide grants for amounts between £30 and £70. To apply for a grant you will need to apply in writing via social services (or an appropriate welfare agency) to the following:
The Secretary to the Trustees
No.1 Colmore Square
Birmingham B4 6AA
The Variety Club (UK- wide)
The Variety Club can help children who have a disability by providing funds for specific pieces of equipment for the direct use of the child who has a disability, such as a sensory room or play equipment. The funding they provide is for families who are on a low income (you don't necessarily have to be on benefits). You will need to complete a form giving details of your child's difficulties, the family situation, with brief details of finance and reasons why your child would benefit from the equipment you are wanting. A letter of support from a professional such as a physiotherapist or occupational therapist (ie someone with qualifications to be able to recommend the equipment or grant you are applying for) is also required. You can download a grant application form from their website or you ask for one by email or telephone.
Tel: 020 7428 8100
Guide to grants for individuals in need
This reference book provides details of a range of funds available to individuals, for the relief of individual poverty and hardship. The book lists charities that provide funds to individuals who have a disability. Many local advice centres (for example, Citizens Advice Bureaus) will have a copy of this book and you can ask if you can access this to search for other sources of funding. Some libraries may also have a copy of this book so ask at your local library for this information.
Doherty J. (2013). The guide to grants for individuals in need 2013/14. London: Directory of Social Change.
Turn2us is a website that helps people access the money available to them in benefits and grants. You can search a database containing hundreds of grant-giving charities that may be able to help.
Citizens Advice Bureaux
You may find it useful to speak to an adviser at your local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) to get help with applying to trusts and charities for grants. You can find the details of your local Citizens Advice Bureau in the phone book or on the following websites:
If you need further information please contact the Autism Helpline on 0808 800 4104.
Quick link to this page: www.autism.org.uk/15357
Last updated: December 2013