Aids, equipment and adaptations - Information for families

Aids, equipment and adaptations - Information for families
Aids, equipment and adaptations

    Information for families
1     Aids, equipment and adaptations
Aids, equipment and adaptations - Information for families

        Caring for a disabled child can sometimes be made
        easier with the use of certain aids, equipment
        and/or adaptations. For some families, having the
        right equipment can also enhance a child’s ability
        to become more independent and help ease the
        process of transition into adulthood.

        Some items, such as mobility aids or special
        beds, are expensive and the range available is
        vast. This guide has information on how to obtain
        equipment from statutory sources and where to go
        for further advice. It also has sources of information
        on equipment for play and leisure, second hand
        equipment, financial help, VAT relief on equipment,
        help adapting your home, and useful contacts.

           Information in this guide
           Although great care has been taken in the production of this
           guide to ensure accuracy, Contact a Family cannot take any
           responsibility for any errors or omissions.

2 Aids,
Aids, equipment and adaptations - Information for families
   Who provides equipment? ................................................................................................. 3
   Health ........................................................................................................................................ 5
   Communication ..................................................................................................................... 6
   Continence .............................................................................................................................. 7
   Mobility ...................................................................................................................................... 8
   Education .............................................................................................................................. 11
   Play and leisure ................................................................................................................... 12
   Second hand equipment ................................................................................................ 13
   Information technology ................................................................................................... 14
   Financial help ....................................................................................................................... 14
   Value Added Tax (VAT) ..................................................................................................... 15
   Commercial suppliers ....................................................................................................... 16
   Consumer rights ................................................................................................................. 18
   Adapting your home ......................................................................................................... 18
   Challenging decisions ....................................................................................................... 22
   Further sources of help and advice ............................................................................. 23
   Frequently asked questions ............................................................................................ 24
   Explanation of terms ......................................................................................................... 26

Who provides equipment?                                                          your area there may be a local agreement
                                                                                 which clarifies who is responsible for
National Health Service (NHS) and                                                different types of equipment.
local authority responsibilities
Both the NHS and your local authority                                            Who does what?
(LA) can provide aids and equipment to                                           The NHS is responsible for providing
disabled people.                                                                 equipment to meet nursing or medical
                                                                                 needs. Often, the LA’s children’s services
Section 2 of the Chronically Sick and                                            are responsible for providing equipment
Disabled Persons Act 1970 (England &                                             for daily living, and the non-medical
Wales), and the equivalent legislation                                           needs of disabled children and young
for Scotland and Northern Ireland, state                                         people.
that a local authority (LA) has a duty to
provide practical assistance and additional                                      Equipment needed to help your
facilities for the greater safety, comfort or                                    child’s independence or meet any of
convenience of people who are assessed
as needing them.
                                                                                      Freephone helpline: 0808 808 3555
This often means providing equipment                                                  Web:
as well as other forms of practical help. In

                                                                                                        Aids, equipment and adaptations                3
Aids, equipment and adaptations - Information for families
their social care needs is usually the
    responsibility of the LA (social work              In general, the health
    department in Scotland or health and
    social services trust in Northern Ireland).
                                                       service cannot charge
    This includes help with arranging                  for any of its services,
    adaptations to the home, or any
    additional facilities for your child’s greater
                                                       including medical aids
    safety, comfort and convenience. It also           and equipment needed
    includes aids and equipment to help
    with lifting and transferring your child,
                                                       for health reasons.
    their personal care, eating, bathing and

    Equipment to help a child access the             Who to contact
    curriculum may be arranged by the                In the first place, contact your social
    school or the education department of            worker if you have one, social services
    children’s services.                             (social work department in Scotland), or
                                                     your GP, and tell them about the kind
    Equipment choice                                 of help you’re looking for. You can also
    Local authorities and the NHS                    approach other healthcare or personal
    increasingly operate a self assessment           care professionals, such as a district
    or self selection schemes, enabling you          nurse, physiotherapist or school nurse.
    to choose some items of equipment
    yourself. In some areas of England,              Assessing you and your child’s needs
    a needs assessment will result in an             An occupational therapist (OT) or social
    equipment ‘prescription’ being issued.           worker will usually visit you in your
    This prescription may be taken to a retail       home to discuss the situation further
    outlet and the equipment supplied up to          and carry out the assessment. An OT
    a specific cost; you may choose a more           is a professional who can advise on
    expensive version of your prescribed             equipment for daily living and managing
    equipment and pay the price difference           more easily in the home. When you’re
    yourself.                                        visited by the OT or social worker, it is
                                                     important that your needs as a carer and
    Items which must be provided free                those of other family members are taken
    In general, the health service cannot            into account. This includes any health and
    charge for any of its services, including        safety concerns.
    medical aids and equipment needed for
    health reasons. If you live in England,          If your child also needs equipment to
    certain aids and equipment provided by           help with medical or health needs, then
    the local authority cannot be charged            a joint assessment should be carried out
    for. These include equipment for daily           and the social worker or OT may contact
    living such as a shower chair, and minor         the community nursing service or
    adaptations costing £1,000 or less.              your GP.

4      Aids, equipment and adaptations
Aids, equipment and adaptations - Information for families
Where a need is identified, the social
worker or OT must consider ways of
meeting that need. This may include
practical advice about doing things
differently to make things easier,
providing aids and equipment, and/or
arranging alterations to the house. See
‘Adapting your home’ on page 18.

Making a complaint
If you’re unhappy with the outcome of
the assessment, then you can make            feeding aids, mobility aids and aids
a complaint using the local authority’s      for hearing.
complaints procedure. When making
a complaint, it may be useful to get         Complaints
help from a local disability or carers       If there is any aspect of health provision
organisation. The Contact a Family           that you’re unhappy with, then you
helpline can provide further advice and      should raise this with the person
tell you about any local organisations       responsible. Families in England can
which can help further.                      also ask their local patient advice and
                                             liaison service (PALS). Community health
We have guides to Disabled children’s        councils in Wales can offer support and
services in England, Scotland and Wales      guidance on how to make a complaint.
which have more advice about making a        Families in Scotland and Northern Ireland
complaint, available from our freephone      can make a complaint with the help of
helpline. If you live in Northern Ireland,   their local health council or health and
our helpline advisers can give you           social services council respectively. For
more information about the complaints        contact details, search online or call our
process in your area.                        freephone helpline on 0808 808 3555 .

Health                                       Your GP can make a referral to an
Aids and equipment needed for nursing        audiologist for an examination and
and medical care at home are usually         hearing test. If a hearing aid is necessary,
the responsibility of the local health       another referral is made to a hearing aid
authority. Equipment can be supplied         department where an appliance will be
through the NHS on a free loan basis,        supplied and fitted. NHS hearing aids
with certain items being prescribed          are serviced, maintained and supplied
by the GP or a consultant. This
might include special beds and bed
equipment, hoists, incontinence aids,          Freephone helpline: 0808 808 3555

                                                         Aids, equipment and adaptations    5
Aids, equipment and adaptations - Information for families
with batteries free of charge. Hearing    Vision impairment
    aids can also be bought privately. For    Low vision aids such as hand and stand
    more information, you can contact the     magnifiers can be prescribed under the
    organisations below:                      NHS through the hospital eye service,
                                              along with more complex appliances.
    NDCS (The National Deaf                   The following organisations can provide
    Children’s Society)                       further information on aids for visually
    Helpline: 0808 800 8880                   impaired children:
    Textphone: 0808 800 8880
    Web:                      RNIB (Royal National Institute for
                                              the Blind)
    Provides information and advice to        Helpline: 0303 1239 9999
    families with a deaf child.               Web:

    Action on Hearing Loss                    Offers information, support and advice to
    Freephone helpline: 0808 808 0123         people with sight loss.

    Offer information advice and support on
    any aspect of deafness, hearing loss
                                              Any concerns about your child’s
    or tinnitus.
                                              communication should be discussed with
                                              a speech and language therapist. You
                                              can either contact the therapist directly or
                                              ask your GP to refer you. Therapists are
                                              usually based in hospitals or clinics in the
                                              community. Following an assessment of
                                              your child’s needs, the therapist may be
                                              able to loan any required equipment.

                                              Please note that speech and language
                                              therapy for children is often an
                                              educational provision. This means that
                                              funding for it can be provided by the local
                                              authority (LA) as well as by a health trust.
                                              This provision should be identified in your
                                              child’s statement of special educational
                                              needs, or co-ordinated support plan
                                              if you live in Scotland. Please call our
                                              freephone helpline for information on
                                              0808 808 3555.

6      Aids, equipment and adaptations
Aids, equipment and adaptations - Information for families
The following organisations can also           Continence
provide further information:
                                               You can ask for advice on continence
Afasic                                         matters from health visitors, district
Helpline: 0845 355 5577                        nurses, learning disability nurses,
Web:                         community nurses, or social workers.
                                               Most health authorities will also have
A parent led charity that helps children       a designated continence adviser for
and young people with speech and               specialist help and advice. Once your
language impairments. Also provides            child is no longer an infant, continence
information and training for parents and       aids can be supplied by your local
professionals.                                 health authority, provided your child’s
                                               difficulties with continence are due to a
I CAN                                          disability. These may be charged for, or
Tel: 0845 225 4071                             free, depending on where you live. Aids
Web:                           such as bedding protection, disposable
                                               nappies, catheters, pants and odour
I CAN supports the development of              controls may be provided by the health
speech, language and communication             authority, or can be bought privately.
skills in all children, with a special focus
on those who find this difficult.              The Department of Health report on
                                               Good Practice in Continence Services,
Aidis Trust                                    (published 2000), states that, ‘In most
Freephone helpline: 0808 800 0009              cases it will not be appropriate to provide
Web:                             free pads before the age of four, but
                                               flexibility should be allowed for special
Helps disabled people make best use of         cases such as children with multiple
information and communication technology       handicaps and decisions should be
by giving information, help and support on     made in liaison with the designated
all aspects of disability computing.           paediatrician.’

The Sequal Trust                               Help might also be available with water
Tel: 01691 624 222                             charges. If your water supply is metered,
Web:                 then you may be able to get your bill
                                               capped. Please contact our helpline for
The Sequal Trust fundraises on behalf          further advice. Other help for families
of its members with speech and/                dealing with continence difficulties is the
or movement difficulties to provide            laundry service, although not all local
communication equipment. They also
provide equipment on a ‘life-long free
loan basis’.                                     Freephone helpline: 0808 808 3555

                                                           Aids, equipment and adaptations   7
Aids, equipment and adaptations - Information for families
authorities offer this. Where available, it is   Provides information, support and
    usually attached to the home help service        resources to children and young people,
    of the social services department. In other      their families and health professionals.
    areas, it is operated by the NHS.
                                                     The Bladder and Bowel Foundation
    Families with severely disabled children         Tel: 01536 533255
    can apply for help with washing, such            Nurse helpline: 0845 345 0165
    as a washing machine, from the Family            Web:
    Fund. See ‘Financial help’ on page 14.
                                                     Formerly Incontact and the Continence
    You may live in an area where you can            Foundation, they provide information and
    get a donated or recycled machine.               support for all types of bladder and bowel
    The Furniture Re-use Network is the              related problems. Run a specialist nurse
    national co-ordinating body for 400              helpline, providing clinical support for
    furniture and appliance re-use and               patients and carers alongside its general
    recycling organisations in the UK. They          enquiry line.
    collect a wide range of household
    items to pass onto people in need. For
    information about a project in your area,
    visit the website                 Any concerns about your child’s mobility
                                                     should be discussed with your GP first,
    The following organisations provide              who can then make a referral to the
    practical information and advice on              physiotherapist at your local hospital.
    continence issues:                               There your child’s mobility needs will
                                                     be assessed. Basic walking aids can
    ERIC (Education and Resources for                be provided on loan from the local
    Improving Childhood Continence)                  hospital or community health service,
    Helpline: 0845 370 8008                          usually on the recommendation of the
    Web:                             physiotherapist.

                                                      Information on local
                                                      health services

                                                      Northern Ireland

8      Aids, equipment and adaptations
Aids, equipment and adaptations - Information for families
Assessment and provision of a wheelchair
(powered, attendant-controlled powered
or manual wheelchairs) is carried out
by your local NHS wheelchair service. In
Wales, the Artificial Limb and Appliance
Service (ALAS) is responsible for
providing the wheelchair service.

Children’s buggies can also be supplied
through the wheelchair service.

The service should help you to choose a
wheelchair that meets your child’s needs.
This includes extras such as cushions,
armrests or trays. Your GP, local health
centre, physiotherapist or occupational
therapist should be able to tell you where
your local wheelchair service is. Families   Usually, you have to buy outdoor electric
in Wales, can call NHS Direct Wales on       wheelchairs, scooters or specialist sports
0845 4647. Parents in England and            chairs. If you’re unhappy with the choice
Northern Ireland can ring NHS Direct 111     available and need something other
and in Scotland, families can ring NHS 24    than a standard chair, then you could
on 08454 242424. Alternatively, visit the    consider the wheelchair voucher scheme
wheelchair services section of the NHS       (England only). This allows you to pay
website at                                   the difference between the costs of a           basic manual wheelchair, provided by the
                                             wheelchair service, to a more expensive
The wheelchair is supplied to someone        wheelchair of your choice.
whose need for a chair is permanent.
The service will also be responsible for     Additional sources of help with
its maintenance, provided any problems       wheelchairs include:
are not caused by misuse or neglect. You
should be given the number for a local       Whizz-Kidz
approved repairer who will be responsible    Tel: 020 7233 6600
for repairs.                                 Web:

In theory, any wheelchair can be supplied    Whizz-Kidz can provide essential mobility
by the NHS wheelchair service. However,      equipment for children up to 18 that is
this will depend on local criteria,
resources available and the circumstances
of the individual. In Scotland, there are      Freephone helpline: 0808 808 3555
national criteria for the provision of         Web:
powered wheelchairs.

                                                        Aids, equipment and adaptations   9
Aids, equipment and adaptations - Information for families
Any concerns about your
   child’s mobility should
   be discussed with your
   GP first, who can then
   make a referral to the
   physiotherapist at your
   local hospital.

 not available from the NHS. Also provides     For more information, contact Motability
 wheelchair skills training.                   operations on 0800 953 3060, or visit
 Go Kids Go! (Association of Wheelchair
 Tel: 01482 887163                             Starting from June 2013, Personal
 Web:            Independence Payments (PIP) will
                                               replace DLA for people aged 16 to
                                               64. If you get the enhanced mobility
 This is a small, national charity enabling
                                               component of PIP, you will be eligible for
 young wheelchair-users throughout the         a car under the Motability Scheme.
 UK to become independently mobile.
 They provide practical wheelchair skills
                                               Other mobility services
 training, assessment and support to
 young wheelchair-users and their families.
                                               Forum of Mobility Centres
 Also provides disability awareness training
                                               Tel: 0800 559 3636
 in mainstream schools.

 Mobility schemes                              The Forum of Mobility Centres is a
 If your child receives the high rate of       network of 17 independent organisations
 Disability Living Allowance (DLA) mobility    covering England, Scotland, Wales and
 component, and has at least twelve            Northern Ireland. They offer information,
 months award length remaining, then           advice and assessment to individuals
 you can join the Motability Scheme. The       who have a medical condition or are
 scheme can help disabled people hire          recovering from an accident or injury
 or buy a car, or a powered wheelchair,        which may affect their ability to drive,
 or a buggy. You can only be on the Car        access or exit a motor vehicle.
 Scheme or the Wheelchair and Scooter
 Scheme, not both at the same time.            The Blue Badge scheme and road tax
                                               If your child gets the highest rate of DLA

10 Aids, equipment and adaptations
mobility component, you can apply for           you information and help you through
road tax exemption and for a Blue Badge         the complaints process. Visit the website
for disabled parking. The Blue Badge   for contact details
may also be awarded where a child is            of your local Healthwatch.
aged two or over and has a permanent
disability which makes walking difficult,
or where they are aged under two and
either need to be accompanied by                Aids that a child or young person needs
bulky medical equipment or kept near a          for education may be supplied by local
vehicle so that they can receive medical        authorities, the school or college. The
treatment at short notice.                      school may arrange for an occupational
                                                therapist to assess your child and may
If you get the enhanced mobility                provide aids for use in school and at
component of PIP you will also be               home. Contact the head teacher or
eligible and for an exemption from road         special educational needs coordinator
tax. If your child qualifies for the standard   (SENCO) for further information.
mobility component you may be eligible
for partial help with the road tax.             If your child has a statement of special
                                                educational needs, then details of specific
Eligibility for the Blue badge will depend      equipment required to help your child at
on the number of points awarded for             school should be included. If you have
certain activities which relate to mobility.    concerns about your child’s needs, then
Qualifying points will also depend on           these should be raised with the school.
which part of the UK you live in. Contact
the Helpline for further information.           In Scotland, a child’s co-ordinated
                                                support plan should detail any
Complaints about wheelchair services            equipment necessary to meet a child’s
                                                educational needs.
Unfortunately, things can go wrong. If you
feel unhappy with the wheelchair service,       Contact a Family’s guides, Special
you can first try to resolve this by letting    educational needs for Wales, England,
the service know you are unhappy. If this       Scotland and Northern Ireland include
doesn’t work, you can make a complaint.         further advice about your rights and lists
Ask the wheelchair service for a copy of        other relevant organisations for further help.
their complaints procedure which will
explain how to make an official complaint.      Further and higher education
                                                For young disabled people in further and
If the wheelchair service is based in a         higher education, additional help may
hospital in England, they will have what
is called a ‘patient advice and liaison
service’ (PALS) that should be able to            Freephone helpline: 0808 808 3555
help you with this. In England, your local        Web:
Healthwatch organisation can also give

                                                            Aids, equipment and adaptations      11
Tel: 028 9024 4274

                                                Egsa provide information and advice to
                                                students studying in Northern Ireland.

                                                Play, leisure and child
 be available. This can be in the form of
 specialist aids and equipment or allowances    All children, including disabled children,
 to help pay for equipment or practical help.   have the right to play, have fun and
 To determine what help is necessary, your      take part in recreational activities. This is
 child will need a special assessment.          important as play has a very important
                                                role in a child’s development. Play can
                                                help develop speech, sensory skills,
 Disability Rights UK                           imagination, independence and social
 Disabled students freephone helpline:          skills. Toys and play can be fun as well as
 0800 328 5050                                  educational and therapeutic. It is crucial
 Web:                that all children, whatever their abilities,
                                                are given the opportunity to play and
 Disability Rights UK can provide further       access leisure facilities.
 information and advice to students
 studying in England.                           Toys, play and development
                                                For further advice and information
 Lead Scotland                                  on suitable toys, you can speak to
 Freephone helpline: 0800 999 2568              a paediatric occupational therapist.
 Web:                           Through activity and play, the paediatric
                                                occupational therapist works with children
 Lead Scotland can provide information          to help them attain the highest possible
 and advice to students studying in             quality of life. The paediatric occupational
 Scotland.                                      therapist can work in a variety of settings
                                                including the NHS, social services,
 Careers Wales                                  educational or charitable organisations.
 Freephone helpline: 0800 100 900
 Web:                      Find out where your local toy library
                                                is. Toy libraries are usually free for
 Careers Wales can provide information          children who access local services, (such
 and advice to students studying in Wales.      as Portage, or speech and language
                                                therapy), or who receive DLA, or are on
 Educational Guidance Service for               the local children’s services register.
 Adults (EGSA)                                  You can borrow a wide range of sensory
                                                toys and equipment. The toy librarian

12 Aids, equipment and adaptations
can help you choose suitable toys for fun      Run a range of play projects and offer
and development. Good quality toys and         services directly to children and families.
sensory equipment are often expensive          Also, help and support toy libraries and
to buy for children with additional needs,     play projects in Scotland to deliver quality
so being able to borrow these is really        services for children and families.
useful. Toy librarians can also signpost
you to other local play and leisure
services and, in some areas, run their         Second hand equipment
own play sessions.
                                               The Spinal Injuries Association and Disabled
                                               Living Foundation have helpful factsheets on
There may be a local play scheme               buying and selling second hand equipment.
or parent support group in your area           They include details of publications to
where toys and ideas can be shared or          advertise in and other helpful organisations.
exchanged. Call our freephone helpline         Information from the Spinal Injuries
for local information. Contact a Family        Association also lists dealers in second
also has a guide, Holidays, play and           hand wheelchairs and adapted vehicles.
leisure, available free for parents from our
reephone helpline.
                                               Spinal Injuries Association
There are a number of commercial               Tel: 0800 980 0501
outlets and specialist suppliers. Some         Web:
of these are listed under ‘Commercial
suppliers’ on page 13. Because there are       Disabled Living Foundation
so many, it is important for parents to get    See above.
the right advice to ensure they get value
for money. The following organisations         Disability Equipment Register
can provide further specialist information:    Tel: 01454 318 818
Disabled Living Foundation
Tel: 0845 130 9177                             A not-for-profit organisation providing
Web:                            a service for disabled people and their
                                               families to enable them to buy and sell
Listening Books                                items of used disability equipment on a
Tel: 020 7407 9417                             direct basis.
                                               Mobility Market
Provide audio books for leisure and learning
on MP3, CD, and via internet streaming for
anyone who has difficulty reading.

Smart Play Network (Scotland)                    Freephone helpline: 0808 808 3555
Tel: 0131 664 2746                               Web:

                                                           Aids, equipment and adaptations     13
A website where you can buy or sell used     to the provision of special equipment to
 mobility aids and equipment.                 help with learning.

 Furniture Re-use Network                     Funding and provision of equipment
 See page 8.                                  like this may be available from your
                                              local authority if you’re assessed as
                                              needing it and you meet the criteria.
 Information technology                       Alternatively, help may also be
                                              available from charitable trusts. Call
 Access to the internet can open up a         our freephone helpline on 0808 808
 wealth of information and networks for       3555 for information about grant giving
 families through specialist websites and     organisations which may be able to help
 social media sites such as Facebook and      in this way.
                                              Because of the volume of information
 Additionally, there are now a wide variety   and products available, it is important to
 of websites, applications and products       obtain specialist advice. The following
 such as laptops and tablets available to     organisations can provide further
 families with disabled children. These can   information:
 help in everyday life as well as help with
 your child’s development, communication      • Ability Net (see page 24)
 and learning.                                • Aidis Trust (see page 7)
                                              • ACE Centre (see page 23)
 Young people can also achieve                • Disabled Living Foundation (see page 23)
 independence through the use of              • Meru (see page 24)
 environmental controls and assistive         • The LiveNet assistive technology loan
 technology. These products can help with       scheme, N Ireland) (see page 23).
 operating certain appliances such as light
 switches, TV, phone or opening doors.        Financial help
 Equipment and packages can also help         Charities and benevolent funds
 with sound and vision and also help
 overcome difficulties with operating a       Family Fund
 computer and entering information.           Tel: 0845 130 45 42
 Solutions may include voice recognition      Web:
 or eye tracking systems, touch screens or
 replacing the mouse with a trackball.        The Family Fund gives grants to low-
                                              income families to meet the additional
 Your child may have the opportunity to       needs of caring for a severely disabled
 trial a piece of equipment or particular     child. In England and Wales, the age limit
 application. Extra help may also be          of children and young people they can
 available if your child has a statement of   help is aged 17 and under.
 special educational needs. This could lead

14 Aids, equipment and adaptations
The Fund will not help with costs that are
the responsibility of the local authority or
health services.

Freephone: 0808 802 2000

Online service to help people access
information on all benefits and grants
available to them from both statutory and
voluntary organisations in the UK.

Our freephone helpline can also give you
information about grant-giving trusts and
other possible sources of help.                helpline for advice.

Benefits and tax credits
To ensure you get everything you’re
                                               Value Added Tax (VAT)
entitled to and you’re not losing out,
our free guides on benefits, and The tax       Certain aids and equipment for disabled
credits guide give more detailed advice.       people are zero-rated for VAT purposes.
Our Checklist for parents also has a           This means that you do not have to pay
brief summary of entitlements. Call our        any VAT when you buy these goods for
freephone helpline on 0808 808 3555            the personal use of your disabled child.
for a full benefits check. We may also
be able to supply information on local         Not all goods and services for disabled
trusts. For information on benefits and        people are zero-rated
local advice agencies, call our freephone      Zero-rating applies to:
Contact a Family helpline.
                                               • adjustable beds, chair lifts, hoists and
Using direct payments to buy                     sanitary devices
equipment                                      • auditory training aids
Families from all over the UK can use          • low-vision aids
direct payments to buy equipment. Our          • certain medical and surgical appliances
guides Getting direct payments for your        • emergency alarm call systems
disabled child in England and Wales and        • motor vehicles and boats adapted to
A parents guide to direct payments in            meet a disabled person’s condition.
Scotland look at how to ask for them and
how they work in practice. For a copy and
more information about direct payments,          Freephone helpline: 0808 808 3555
call our freephone helpline. Families in         Web:
Northern Ireland can also contact our

                                                           Aids, equipment and adaptations   15
However, not every vehicle or adaptation   from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs
   will qualify, so seek further advice       (HMRC), via the link below.
 • any other equipment or appliances
   designed solely for the use of disabled    How to make sure you do not pay VAT
   people. It is not enough to show that a    To avoid paying VAT on the above goods
   piece of equipment is one that is often    or services, you will need to provide
   used by disabled people – it must be       your supplier with a written declaration
   specifically designed for their use. For   that you are entitled to buy these goods
   example, an orthopaedic bed would not      without paying VAT. A parent can sign a
   be zero-rated because it is designed for   declaration on behalf of a disabled child.
   use by both disabled and non-disabled      While there is no official form for making
   people alike. Ultimately, it is the        a declaration, a suggested declaration
   designer or manufacturer of a product      can be found at section 10 of VAT Notice
   who determines whether goods qualify       701/7 – VAT reliefs for people with
   for zero-rating.                           disabilities. This can be downloaded from
                                              HMRC’s website at
 You also don’t have to pay VAT on any        sectors/consumers/disabled.htm
 charges made for the installation, repair
 and maintenance of these goods, or for       It is the supplier’s responsibility to check
 any spare parts or accessories they need.    that all the conditions for zero-rating
                                              are met. If you have been charged VAT
 Certain building work may also be            incorrectly, your supplier may be able to
 zero-rated. This includes work on ramps,     make an adjustment to their VAT records
 doorways and passages, bathrooms,            and refund you this money. You cannot
 shower rooms, washrooms and toilets          obtain a refund of VAT from HMRC.
 and the installation and repair of a lift.
 However, the services of an architect,       For further advice on zero-rating of VAT,
 surveyor or consultant cannot be             you can contact our freephone helpline.
 zero-rated even if they are providing        Alternatively, you can contact HMRC on
 services in connection with building work    0845 302 0203.
 that does qualify.

 If you need to have any general purpose
                                              Commercial suppliers
 goods adapted for a disabled child’s         Many companies that sell aids and
 use, the extra you pay for the adaptation    equipment also operate mail order
 should be VAT free, although not the         services. Because of the vast range
 actual goods themselves.                     available, it is important to seek
                                              independent advice. The following is a list
 If you import equipment from abroad to       of some of those suppliers. Please note
 meet a disabled person’s needs, there are    that their appearance on this list should
 specific rules allowing VAT exemptions in    not be seen as an endorsement by
 certain circumstances. More information      Contact a Family of their products.
 can be found in VAT Notice 371, available

16 Aids, equipment and adaptations
Daily living equipment and products

DCS Joncare Ltd
Tel: 01235 523 353

Lisclare Ltd
Tel: 028 9079 4000

Nottingham Rehab Supplies
Tel: 0845 120 4522

Some of the Disabled Living Foundation’s
factsheets also list commercial suppliers,   Other suppliers
(see ‘Other suppliers’ below for contact
details).                                    Bag Books
                                             Tel: 020 7627 0444
Play and sensory resources                   Web:

Sensory Toy Warehouse                        Design and produce multi-sensory story
Web:             packs for people with learning disabilities.

TFH Special Needs Toys                       Bikedock
Tel: 01299 827 820                           Tel: 0845 062 5500
Web:             Web:

SpaceKraft Ltd                               A bike retail and mail order company.
Tel: 01274 581 007                           Also specialise in trikes for cyclists with
Web:                    special needs.

Rompa International                          The Disabled Living Foundation have a
Tel: 0845 230 1177                           list called Some suppliers of a range of
Web:                           children’s equipment on their website at
Mike Ayres Design & Development Ltd
Tel: 0114 235 6880

                                               Freephone helpline: 0808 808 3555

                                                          Aids, equipment and adaptations   17
The Challenging Behaviour Foundation            produced by Trading Standards Central,
  Tel: 0845 602 7885                              which is a government department, can
  Web:                          be downloaded from the website at
  The Challenging Behaviour Foundation
  supply information about specialist             People in Northern Ireland can get further
  equipment and safety adaptations. This          information from the Consumer Council
  includes suppliers of items such as             at or by phone on
  toughened furniture, special flooring,          0300 123 62 62.
  beds and bedding.
                                                  People in England, Scotland and Wales
                                                  can visit the Citizens Advice website for
  Consumer rights                                 information at
  When buying goods you have a right to           or call 08454 04 05 06
  expect certain standards. This applies          (08454 04 05 05 Welsh language)
  when you buy in person or by mail order.
  If something goes wrong and/or you’re
  not satisfied with the service or goods, try    Adapting your home
  contacting the supplier first. If this fails,
  then seek further specialist advice. It is      If you need to adapt your home to make
  important to do this as soon as possible        it easier for you or your child to manage,
  as your rights may depend on when the           then you may be entitled to a Disabled
  transaction took place, otherwise you           Facilities Grant (or Home Improvement
  could find that you’re out of time.             Grant if you live in Scotland). For anyone
                                                  considering an application for a grant, it is
  Your local advice service or trading            advisable to seek further help and advice
  standards service can provide further           as the system can be quite complex.
  advice. Information on your rights,
                                                  Disabled Facilities Grants (DFGs)
                                                  (England and Wales)
                                                  Disabled Facilities Grants (DFGs) are
                                                  usually paid by your local housing
                                                  authority. To be eligible you must be an
                                                  owner occupier, a tenant (private, local
                                                  authority or housing association) or a
                                                  landlord with a disabled tenant.

                                                  A DFG can help with the cost of, for

                                                  •   building a safe play area
                                                  •   installing a stair-lift
                                                  •   adapting a lighting or heating system

18 Aids, equipment and adaptations
•   building a suitable bathroom, or               However, nowhere in the legislation
•   kitchen facilities, or                         does it say that an OT assessment is
•   to enable access to a garden, and              a requirement of a valid application.
    other works.
A DFG is a mandatory grant, this means         It is important to be aware that
you must be given a grant if your local        contacting social services or an
council are satisfied that works are both      occupational therapist (OT) to ask for an
‘necessary and appropriate’ to meet the        assessment is not the same as making a
disabled person’s needs and ‘reasonable        formal application. There are no specific
and practicable’ taking into account the       time-limits on how long you may have
age and condition of the property.             to wait to see an OT. Because of this,
                                               some families have endured lengthy
If a grant is made to meet the needs           delays before their formal application is
of a disabled child or young person            even submitted.
under 19 years old, the parent’s financial
circumstances should not be taken into         To help them decide if your request is
account, except where a young person is        ‘reasonable and practicable’ your local
getting certain means-tested benefits in       authority will ask for an assessment
their own right or is in advanced education.   from an environmental health officer
                                               or a building surveyor (local authorities
Your local council must decide if you are      tend to use members of their own staff
entitled to a DFG within six months after      where possible). You may also need
receiving your valid application.              to get approval for building regulations,
                                               planning, listed buildings or conservation
An application for a DFG would only be         areas purposes. Your local authority has
valid if all the following information is      the right to ask for these but it should not
provided:                                      use these to exceed the six month time
                                               limit for assessing a claim.
•   details of the property
•   details of the work needed                 To minimise delays, you should make
•   at least two estimates of the cost from    a formal application to your local
    two different contractors, (unless the     council for a grant as soon as you
    local authority specifies otherwise)       can. You can do this even if you are
•   details of other services and charges      still waiting for an OT to visit to do an
    needed, for example, supervision of        assessment. A formal application can
    the work, disconnection of electricity,    be made on a special form available
    water or other utilities. To help them     from the local authority or in a letter.
    decide if your request is necessary        Your local authority cannot refuse to
    and appropriate to meet the needs
    of the disabled occupant most local
    authorities will routinely ask for an        Freephone helpline: 0808 808 3555
    assessment from an occupational              Web:
    therapist (OT) or from social services.

                                                           Aids, equipment and adaptations    19
allow you to make a formal application,       If a Disability Facilities Grant (DFG) is
 or refuse to give you a grant application     awarded for adaptations for a dependent
 form. Seek advice from our freephone          child, the parents/guardians will not be
 helpline if they do refuse, or if you are     means tested.
 experiencing long delays in the grant
 process.                                      You can get up to £25,000 for a DFG. In
                                               some circumstances, this award can be
 It is important to remember that you          increased by a further £25,000 at the
 cannot get a grant for work that you have     discretion of the Housing Executive and
 already started.                              with approval from the Department for
                                               Social Development.
 The maximum grant is £30,000 in
 England, £36,000 in Wales. However,           It will be necessary for an occupational
 if costs are over this limit, the council     therapist to recommend that the
 has the discretion to give a further          adaptations are ‘necessary and
 grant covering the full costs of the          appropriate’ for the disabled child. These
 mandatory works. Local authorities also       rules only apply to home owners or those
 have discretionary powers to provide          who rent in the private sector. Different
 financial and other assistance for            arrangements exist for families who live in
 improvements or repairs to the home.          public sector housing, housing executive
 This can be in the form of a grant, loan,     or housing association tenants.
 labour, relocation expenses, materials
 or advice. Contact your local housing         Applicants in Northern Ireland should
 authority to find out how these powers        contact their local housing executive
 apply in your area.                           office for a preliminary enquiry form.

 If your application is successful then the    Grants for improvements and
 grant will usually only be paid if the work   adaptations in Scotland
 is carried out within 12 months of the        Each local authority in Scotland must
 date the application is approved.             have a ‘Scheme of Assistance’ statement
                                               which explains how they will support
 If your application fails you can make        home owners and tenants in their
 a complaint. If you are unable to get         area who have to carry out repairs,
 enough financial help from your local         improvements and maintenance to their
 council you could apply to charitable         houses. Under the scheme of assistance
 trusts for assistance. Please contact our     local authorities are obliged to provide
 helpline for further information.             grants for work to meet the needs of
                                               disabled people in certain circumstances.
 Disabled Facilities Grants
 (Northern Ireland)                            Councils must provide a grant to adapt
 The system for getting help with              a house to enable a disabled person
 adaptations in Northern Ireland is            to have access to standard amenities.
 similar to that for Wales and England.        Standard amenities are:

20 Aids, equipment and adaptations
•   a toilet
•   bath or shower                              If you need to adapt your
•   wash hand basin and sink (in each
    case with hot and cold water supply).
                                                home to make it easier
                                                for you or your child to
Councils must also provide grants for
other work that is deemed essential to
                                                manage then you may
meet the needs of a disabled person.            be entitled to a Disabled
Your local council will decide whether or
not an adaptation is essential during their
                                                Facilities Grant
assessment of the disabled child’s needs.

A grant cannot be made for an
extension that provides additional living
accommodation. If an extension provides       of adaptations work covered by grant.
a standard amenity (for example,              The only limit is that provided by the
a downstairs bathroom) alongside              assessment of need, which will set
additional living accommodation, a grant      out what work is required to meet the
is only awarded for the portion of the        applicant’s need.
work providing the standard amenity.
If an extension only makes space for a        An application will be refused if the work
standard amenity and no additional living     has already started, unless you can satisfy
space is created, then a mandatory grant      the local authority that there was good
should meet these costs.                      reason why the work had to be carried out
                                              in advance of an application being made.
If you are refused a mandatory grant,
(for example, because you need an             Grants are usually only made to owner-
extension that does not qualify), you         occupiers and private tenants. If you rent
should ask your local authority about a       from a council or housing association you
discretionary grant instead.                  are expected to approach your landlord
                                              for help with adaptations, and can only
The minimum level of a mandatory grant        apply for a grant under the scheme of
awarded due to disability is 80 per cent      assistance in exceptional circumstances.
of the eligible cost. It should be 100
per cent if the applicant is in receipt
of certain means tested benefits. Each
local authority decides when it will make
grants of more than 80 per cent in other

It is unlawful for a local authority to         Freephone helpline: 0808 808 3555
apply a fixed upper limit on the cost           Web:

                                                          Aids, equipment and adaptations   21
Challenging decisions
 If you’re unhappy about the outcome of
 an application for a grant, or the length of
 time it has taken to reach a decision, then
 seek further advice. Ways of challenging
 decisions include talking to your local
 council, complaining using the local
 authority complaints procedure, or asking
 the local government ombudsman to
 investigate. A local citizen’s advice bureau
 or home improvement agency may be
 able to give additional advice.

 Getting further help and advice
 Home improvement agencies, sometimes
 called ‘care and repair agencies’, exist         disability advice project should be able
 to help home owners or private tenants           to help. You can also visit the website
 improve their living conditions. This involves   of the Northern Ireland Housing
 giving technical and financial advice as         Executive at
 well as help and guidance through the  
 application process for grants. They may
 also be able to identify other sources of        You can also contact our office in
 financial help if the grant isn’t enough.        Northern Ireland on 028 9262 7552 or
 For information about local agencies in
 England, contact:                                For families in Scotland, more detailed
 Foundations                                      information can be found in the
 Tel: 0845 864 5210                               Guidance for Local Authorities called
 Web:                      Guidance on the provision of equipment
                                                  and adaptations available here:
 For Scotland contact:                  
 Care and Repair Forum Scotland                   CC2009_05.pdf
 Tel: 0141 221 9879
 Web:             You can contact our Scotland office on
 For Wales contact:                               0131 659 2930 or email us at
 Care and Repair Cymru                  
 Tel: 029 2067 4830
 Web:                    People in England and Wales can find
 Or phone 030 111 333 to contact                  further information in the good practice
 your local care and repair agency (calls         guide, Delivering Housing Adaptations,
 charged at your cheapest rate).                  for Disabled People, at
 If you live in Northern Ireland, a local

22 Aids, equipment and adaptations
Assist UK
  It is important to                           Tel: 0161 832 9757
  remember that you
  cannot get a grant for                       Assist UK leads a UK-wide network of
                                               locally-situated Disabled Living Centres.
  work that you have                           Each centre includes a permanent
  already carried out.                         exhibition of products and equipment
                                               that give people opportunities to see and
                                               try products.

Further sources of help                        LiveNet (Northern Ireland)
                                               Tel: 028 9049 4907
and advice                                     Web:
Ace Centre
                                               The LiveNet assistive technology loan
Tel: 0161 358 0151
                                               scheme provides an opportunity for
                                               people in Northern Ireland to preview a
                                               variety of items of software or hardware
Work alongside young people with
                                               that have been specially designed to help
communication difficulties to design
                                               improve access to a computer.
software that enables, rather than
restricts, the user.
                                               The loan scheme is available to any
                                               member of the learning disability
Disabled Living Foundation (DLF)               community free of charge. This includes:
Tel: 0845 130 9177
Web:                            • children, young people or adults with
                                                 a learning disability (under 18s must
DLF produces a comprehensive range               get a responsible adult to sign the
of factsheets on choosing daily living           agreement)
equipment. This includes advice on             • family carers
equipment for children who need help           • staff or volunteers who support
to dress, personal care (toileting, bathing,     people with a learning disability.
washing) and beds and bed accessories.
The factsheets can be downloaded from          MERU
their website or you can ring the equipment    Tel: 01372 725203
helpline where up-to-date product and          Web:
supplier information can be given.

They also have a website SARA (Self
Assessment, Rapid Access), you can visit         Freephone helpline: 0808 808 3555 with information on         Web:
products that may help.

                                                          Aids, equipment and adaptations   23
MERU aims to improve life for children     British Red Cross
 and young people with disabilities         Tel: 0844 412 2804
 by designing custom-made specialist        Web:
 equipment when no ready-made solution
 exists to meet a child or young person’s   Has a volunteer-led medical equipment
 needs. MERU also has an information        service that provides wheelchair hire and
 and advice service for parents and         short-term loans of equipment in almost
 therapists worldwide.                      1,000 outlets in the UK.

 Remap                                      Other useful websites
 Tel: 0845 130 0456
 Web:                      There are numerous suppliers of disability
                                            equipment, mobility products and daily
 Design, manufacture and supply             living aids in the UK. It can be difficult
 appliances to meet the individual needs    to find a suitable company. Below is a
 of disabled people where they cannot be    small number. Again, please note that
 sourced commercially.                      their appearance on this list should not
                                            be seen as an endorsement by Contact a
 Ricability (Research Institute for         Family of their products.
 Consumer Affairs)
 Tel: 020 7427 2460                         Web:
 Ricability is an independent research      A community based website that has
 charity that provides consumer             information on products and services for
 information for disabled and older         disabled people.
 people. Guides are available on request
 or through their website.                  Independent Living
 Tel: 0800 269 545                          A site providing news, views and product
 Web:                  information designed to assist with living
 Offer advice and information on
 information and communications
 technology (ICT). Also supply a range
                                            Frequently asked questions
 of factsheets and skillsheets (available   I bought a trike for my disabled son and
 on their website) that give detailed       was told by the supplier that I have to
 information on a wide range of assistive   claim back the VAT. How can I do this?
 technology.                                First of all, you need to establish whether
                                            or not the trike should be zero-rated (see

24 Aids, equipment and adaptations
‘Value Added Tax (VAT)’ on page 15). To
reiterate this advice, VAT relief does not
apply to general purpose goods which
are of benefit to disabled people. So
you will have to pay VAT, unless the trike
has been solely designed to be used by
your disabled son. You should also be
aware that Her Majesty’s Revenue and
Customs do not refund VAT to customers.
Instead it is the responsibility of the
supplier to determine whether or not
the item in question is subject to VAT. If
you have been charged VAT incorrectly,
your supplier may be able to make an
adjustment to their VAT records and
refund you the VAT.
                                                I’ve just enquired about applying for
With help from the Disabled Facilities          a Disabled Facilities Grant and I’ve
Grants Scheme (Disabled Persons                 been told by the occupational therapist
Allowance in Northern Ireland), I’ve            (OT) that there’s a waiting list for the
just turned one of my reception                 assessment. It could be months before
rooms into a special playroom for my            I’m seen by the OT and two years
disabled child. I’ve been told I can            before I get a grant. What are my rights?
get some help with the Council Tax              The assessment by the OT is a crucial
because of this. Is this true?                  part of the grants process. Following
This is possible under the Disability           on from the OT’s recommendations, a
Reduction Scheme. When a property               formal application is often submitted to
has been altered in a certain way to            the housing authority. But you can still
accommodate the needs of a disabled             make a formal application to the housing
person, then the ‘band’ for your property       authority for the grant before the OT’s
can be lowered. The lower the band,             assessment. This can help speed up the
the smaller the bill. In your case, you         process as the authority is then required
qualify because you have a room which           to make a decision within six months of
is needed by and predominantly used             receiving the application. Within that time,
by your disabled son. It is worth noting        the OT will hopefully visit your home to
that if the dwelling is in band ‘A’, then you   carry out the assessment.
can get a reduction of one-sixth of your
bill. And also that the reduction can be
fully backdated. Properties in the lowest
band already, (A), only have the right to
backdate to 1 April 2000.                         Freephone helpline: 0808 808 3555

                                                            Aids, equipment and adaptations    25
If you don’t get a decision within the          it brand new, and I can’t return it if
 time limit, you should write to them            there’s a fault. Is this true?
 asking why you haven’t heard anything           No, you have the same rights as if you’d
 and asking for a decision to be made.           bought a new one, and the trader is also
 If there is still no decision, then seek        obliged to point out any faults before you
 advice on other possible remedies; such         pay for it. If any faults have been pointed
 as making a complaint using the local           out, then this may affect your rights.
 authority’s complaints procedure or the         Contact your nearest advice service or
 local government ombudsman. See                 trading standards office for further advice.
 ‘Adapting your home’ on page 21 for             See ‘Consumer rights’ on page 20.
 more information.

 I bought a second hand wheelchair
 from a trader, but I’ve been told I don’t
 have the same rights as if I’d bought

    Explanation of terms                         In Wales, Local Health Boards assess
                                                 health needs.
    Health services
    Throughout this guide, we refer to the       In Scotland, the department of your
    ‘health service’. In your area, this might   local authority involved in providing
    also be known as the Primary Care            equipment services is usually called
    Trust (or Health and Social Services         ‘social work’.
    Trust if you live in Northern Ireland). In
    England, local Clinical Commissionig         In Northern Ireland, equipment services
    Groups, led by groups of local GPs, buy      will be part of the Health and Social
    local hospital and community health          Services Trust.
    services, including wheelchair services.
    However, some equipment services             Local authority
    are provided by the local authority.         Please also note that throughout the
                                                 guide, we use the term local authority, or
    In England, services for adults and          LA, when referring to the part of the local
    children from the local authority are        authority that’s responsible for education,
    usually provided separately. Previously      which used to be known as the Local
    known as social services, it is likely       Education Authority (LEA). In your area,
    that the office in your area responsible     it may now be called ‘Education and
    for children will be called ‘children’s      Learning’ or ‘Children’s Services’.
    services’. They will be responsible for
    delivering education and practical help      Note: The Code of Practice for Special
    for disabled children, in addition to that   Educational Needs still refers to Local
    available from the health service.           Education Authority (LEA).

26 Aids, equipment and adaptations
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