Family Fund grants: the who, what and how to apply

with Jim Paterson, The Family Fund

Earlier in the year, the government announced it was giving an additional £10 million to the Family Fund during the pandemic, to families who care for children with disabilities or who are seriously ill and are in financial need.

But who is eligible for Family Fund grants, what can you get them for and how do you apply? Plus, if you have already received a grant before April 1st this year, we have news of a change in criteria to allow you to apply again this year.

Jim Paterson from the Family Fund is here on SNJ to explain all...

Essential grant support for families on lower incomes by Jim Paterson

Coronavirus has had a huge impact on people’s income, ability to work and access to support services, which has particularly increased the existing pressures on many families raising disabled children.

In response to this increased need, the disabled children’s charity Family Fund has received an additional £10 million of funding from the Department for Education and extra funding to support over 500 more families from the Scottish Government to provide more grant support for families raising disabled or seriously ill children and young people in England and Scotland respectively.

Family Fund supports families on lower incomes, who are raising disabled or seriously ill children and young people, with grants for essential items. These items, such as computers and tablets, sensory toys, outdoor play equipment, furniture and kitchen appliances, help break down many of the barriers families face, and make family life easier. Families are able to apply for what they think would benefit their child and their family the most.

The impact of Coronavirus on families

To understand more about the impact on families they supported, Family Fund conducted a survey at the beginning of lockdown, then again at the beginning of May, to find out how the pandemic was affecting them:

  • 94% of families said the health and wellbeing of their disabled or seriously ill children had been negatively affected, an increase from 89% in first few weeks of the lockdown.
  • 89% said their disabled or seriously ill children’s behaviour and emotions were being negatively affected and 82% reported a negative effect on their mental health.
  • 65% said their access to formal support services for their child, such as physiotherapy and mental health services, has declined since the coronavirus outbreak.

These findings highlight how widespread the impact on families has been, and Family Fund has recognised that many families need more help now.

Normally, families can only apply to Family Fund once every 12 months. But, in order to help more families in need of support, Family Fund have changed their application criteria so that any family who has not received a grant since 1 April 2020 can apply again, and are urging families to find out more and apply

Hayley's story

If you're wondering how you might be able to use a Family Fund grant, Hayley has shared her experience of receiving grant funding. Hayley, mum to Isaac, has experienced many difficulties during the pandemic. Isaac, who's 13, is autistic, and has sensory processing disorder, dyspraxia and collagen disorder, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS). He also has macrocephaly, is a condition where the head is enlarged, severe anxiety disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which is mainly focused on germs and food. 

“Isaac struggles to go places where there are a lot of people. This is because of his autism, but also due to his phobia about germs. This has been particularly tricky during the Coronavirus pandemic. He’s struggled to even go into the garden because of his fear of germs and catching the virus. Usually, we would travel to remote places where there are fewer people but even this has proved difficult. On the one occasion I convinced Isaac to leave the house for a walk, he had an anxiety attack as his legs were in pain, he became stressed as there were people around him and he really needed to get home because of his fear of germs.

“This can be typical of any day out, but it has significantly increased over lockdown. His autism means he wants to feel in control, yet as things become out of his control, his anxiety increases, this, in turn, increases his need to feel in control and then his OCD behaviours become more apparent. It’s like a vicious cycle as we try to deal with each condition separately, but also as a whole.” Isaac currently takes sertraline for his anxiety, and Circadin to help him sleep. 

For almost two years, Hayley has battled to secure an Educational Health Care Plan (EHCP) and a place at a special school for Isaac.

“On top of this, I was frequently called by school to collect Isaac as he wasn’t coping. This had a huge impact on my own physical and mental health and impacted Isaac’s siblings as well. As Isaac got older, his anxiety increased and was reflected in his behaviour. He could become physically aggressive towards me, and occasionally his siblings. Three years ago, his anxiety was at a point that we were fighting to keep him out of a children’s mental health unit. We learnt very early on that Isaac needed a physical outlet for his emotions, although this proved difficult when his anxiety meant he couldn’t get out of the house.”

Helping us over the years...

Over the years, Family Fund have been able to help Isaac and his family in a number of ways. 

“Our first award was for a tag-a-long trike. Due to his dyspraxia, he struggled to ride a bike so this helped us get out together. Then, we were awarded an inflatable spa which was incredibly helpful as Isaac is always more relaxed in water and finds it much easier to chat and communicate. He can go it in whenever he wants and it calms him down if he’s anxious.” The spa also helps with Isaac’s sensory overload and his EDS. “It eases any aches or pains he has in his muscles and joints.”

When he got older, Hayley applied for a bike for Isaac. 

“The bike has made such an incredible difference to both Isaac and us as a family. He’s been out on bike rides with us a few times and has actually asked to go out rather than us having to try and convince him that it will be safe. He still struggles some days, but the bike has been a real game-changer for us.”

Find out if you might be eligible for support from Family Fund and apply now.

Read the criteria for applying for a grant here

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Tania Tirraoro

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