Article Written by Tara Collyer
For families who have one or more loved ones with special needs, money is an on-going issue. Firstly, there is the pressure that many people face being on a limited income, as a carer and/or person with a disability may have an inability to work, or reduced work hours. Secondly, there are the additional on-going costs of paying for therapy, medical aids, specialist transport needs, medications, specialists or gap payments for in-home care. The list is never ending.
However, there are a range of government and non-government programs out there that are designed to assist people to meet the costs of day-to-day living. The difficulty is that they are administered by so many different departments and have such varying eligibility criteria, that many people simply do not know what exists out there.
I have complied a listing of some of the programs which I have found, which may support you and your family. Many of the programs are available to anyone, regardless of whether you hold a current Centrelink Health Care Card, while others are only available to people receiving specific payments. This is by no-means a comprehensive listing, and it is primarily targeted at programs for people under the age of 65 years. If you know of other programs, please let us know, so that we can keep adding to this list for everyone.
My general rules of thumb are:
- There is a range of funding supports available to families who have children and family members with special needs.
- Some funding is easy to find and well-known.
- Some is very hard to find out about, and only insider information will allow you to access it.
- If in doubt, apply, as you may well be eligible for things that you did not know about.
- Make sure you have a supportive doctor who knows your history. When calling to have a doctor complete a form, make sure you ask for a longer appointment to allow them to help you better.
- To locate these programs, simply type the name of the program into your internet search engine.
Don’t feel guilty about applying for these programs (thinking, “There are people out there worse off than me”), as they are set up specifically to assist those who will benefit from them.
Don’t be afraid to ask. People are often willing to help you to fill out forms, and clarify things for you. Centrelink have social workers to assist clients, while some local Community Centres have volunteer staff to help people complete forms and applications.
General: No pension or concession card required:
- Qld Government Assistance to Help with the Cost of Living: http://www.qld.gov.au/community/cost-of-living-support/
- Companion Card: for any person with a permanent disability who requires carer support to access the community. Free card. Free ticket for carer.
- Translink Access Pass – for any person with a disability who is unable to touch on/touch off with a Go-Card, but is able to use public transport. Unlimited public transport for $60 per Year.
- Taxi Subsidy Scheme: for any person who is unable to use public transport independently, or uses a wheelchair. Free card. 50% discount off taxi fares, up to $50 per trip.
- Transit Care (Community Flyer): for people with disabilities who require support with transport (unable to use public transport). Will take you to appointments in 15km radius. Small co-pay of $4-$8 per trip. Can take a carer.
- CAPS (Continence Aids Payment Scheme): Administered by Medicare. For any person who requires incontinence aids over 5 years of age. Annual payment of $350 per year. This is separate to any MASS entitlement.
- VOSS (Vehicle Options Subsidy Scheme): Helps to pay for appropriate vehicle purchase and/or modifications to meet disability-specific needs. Up to $9’000
- CEATS (Community Equip Access Technology Scheme): Pays for equipment for community access (e.g. speech devices, wheelchairs, etc.), up to $4,000 per piece of equipment.
- Medicare Safety Net: Will pay up to 85% of all out-of-pocket expenses, once threshold reached, for most services. 2014 thresholds: $2,500, or $600 for those with health care card.
- PBS Safety Net: Will pay extra to reduce costs if you fill more than 52 scripts per year as a family. Then PBS scripts are free. You need to process all your scripts through one pharmacy, or use a Safety Net card to record scripts (ask a Pharmacist for one today).
- Disability Employment Services: Open to all people with disability over 18 years old or has finished Year 12. Need to have Job Capacity Assessment (JCA) and referral trough Centrelink.
- My Future, My Life: For Year 11 and 12 students with disabilities to access equipment or services to assist transition to post-school options. $1 000 (Year 11), $2 000 (Year 12).
- Allied Health Care Plan: 5 visits per year to PT, SLP, OT and/or dietician, subsidised by Medicare. Set up by GP (requires 2 visits).
- Mental Health Care Plan: 10 visits per year to a psychologist subsidised by Medicare. Set up by GP (requires 2 visits).
- The Smith Family: is a children’s charity helping disadvantaged Australian children to get the most out of their education, so they can create better futures for themselves. They support: children with reading difficulties were paired with older reading buddies through the student2student reading program, one-to-one tutoring support in our out-of-school Learning Clubs, home computer and internet access, students from Years 9 to 11 are matched with trained mentors to guide and help them plan career and study paths, tertiary students receive study and career guidance from a trained mentor who works in a field related to their studies.
- The No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS): is available to individuals and families on a low income. It is a community-based program enabling you to access interest free loans and credit for the purchase of essential goods and services.
- The Australian Government’s financial management program: provides emergency support and financial counselling to people who are experiencing financial difficulties.
- Lifeline’s Financial First Aid: counsellors offer free independent financial advice for Queenslanders who are in financial trouble and looking for help.
- Counselling and information support for carers: (Salvation Army) 3282 1000
- Disability Information Service: (Help to find specific services) 1800 177 120
- Dept. of Transport: Free registration and CTP on electric wheelchairs and scooters.
- RACQ: offer a breakdown service for electric wheelchairs for $10 per year.
- Telstra Disability Equipment Scheme: Supply specialist equipment to any consumer of any company who have vision, hearing or speech disorders that impact their access to the phone. Rental $2.50 per month.
- Home Assist Secure: Will perform minor maintenance and modifications to houses for people with disabilities.
- Technical Aids for the Disabled: will make specialist equipment that cannot be commercially purchased to meet a disability need. You only pay for materials.
- Australian Tax Office: If you have combined medical expenses of more than $1 250, you are entitled to a rebate of 20c to the dollar, under Net Medical expenses Rebate. Covers equipment, gaps in chemist/Medicare, therapy costs, vitamins (if prescribed by doctor for your condition), assistance/therapy animals (all care costs – food, medical, etc.).
- Disability Services (Queensland): Perform a needs assessment and provide a Support Linking Plan for services.
- Commonwealth Carelink: Gateway to access respite services. Also able to provide emergency respite if carer is unable to care e.g. goes into hospital (short-term only). 1800 052 222
- A Vision Impairment Travel Pass: entitles the holder to free travel on all TransLink bus, train and ferry services (except Airtrain services). The pass is valid for five years from the date of issue.
- Australian Disability Parking Permit: A disability parking permit is granted to applicants when their ability to walk is severely restricted by a medical condition or disability – permanent or temporary (6-12 months).
- Early Release of Superannuation: You can apply for your superannuation to be released early on specific compassionate grounds (e.g. to pay for medical treatment, home/vehicle modifications for a disability, etc.) or on grounds of severe financial hardship. Contact your superannuation fund for details.
- Foodbank: Check with local churches and charities about food parcels.
Job in Jeopardy Assistance:
If you are at risk of losing your job because you are ill, injured, or have a disability, Job in Jeopardy Assistance can help by seeing what can be done to keep you with your current employer. It does not help you find a new job. Job in Jeopardy Assistance is free and is available through direct registration with a Disability Employment Provider. You do not need to be receiving a payment from the Department of Human Services or have an Employment Services Assessment to access Job in Jeopardy assistance. Through a Disability Employment Provider, Job in Jeopardy Assistance may include:
- advice about redesigning your job so you can keep working
- having your workplace assessed to see how it can be changed to make it easier for you to work
- having your workplace changed so you can continue to work
- specialised equipment to help you do your job
Requires a Pension Card or Health Care Card – for some or all household members (check programs individually for eligibility requirements):
- Carer Business Discount Card: any person who receives carer allowance or payment can access this free card. Works like Seniors Card. Business Discounts.
- MASS (Medical Aids Subsidy Scheme): Person with disability can access continence aids, oxygen concentrators, mobility equipment, etc. Some co-pay money may be required.
- Spectacle Supply Scheme: Any person can access free glasses/contact lenses every two years from an accredited optometrist.
- Council Rates: Home owner eligible for 50% discount on general rates.
- Dept. of Transport: Concession on registration of one vehicle per person.
- Phone: some companies offer discount plans to pensioners.
- Telstra Disability equipment services: will supply specialist phone equipment for people with hearing, speech or vision loss.
- Pensioner Electricity Subsidy Scheme (QLD): Discount on power bills of 77 cents per day. Apply through your provider.
- QLD Medical Heating and Cooling Subsidy: Annual payment of $280 if heating/cooling required to minimize side-effects from disability/illness.
- Concession Go-Card: for Translink Services and other Public Transport.
- Health Care Card: Concession rates for movies, theatres, concerts, TAFE, etc.
- Australian Hearing: Free hearing services and hearing aids for those with hearing loss.
- The Smoke Alarm Subsidy Scheme: means that all eligible deaf and hearing impaired people can afford to keep themselves and their families safe with the best specialised smoke alarms. Funded by the Queensland Department of Community Safety, the scheme is available to people throughout Queensland and makes these smoke alarms available at a fraction of the normal cost.
- Australia Post MyPost Concession Account: holders will receive a MyPost concession card that entitles them to 5 free concession stamps, with the option to purchase a maximum of 50 concession stamps per year. Account holders will also have access to concession rates on Mail Hold and Mail Redirection services and a digital mailbox to securely manage communications, pay bills and store important documents online with privacy, choice and control.
- Carer Allowance: Non-means tested allowance of $120 per fortnight. Also, health care card if person being cared for is under 16 years old.
- Carer Payment: Means tested pension of up to $860 per fortnight for those who are unable to work full-time due to caring duties. Can earn up to $1 600 per fortnight before pension cuts out and loss of health care card.
- Assistance for Isolated Students: Approx. $3 700 per year if child needs to attend a School of Distance Education for medical reasons (e.g. anxiety disorder, etc.). Non-means tested.
- Disability Support Pension: For people over 16 years old who meet criteria. Not dependent on parental income. Pension is $360-$860 per fortnight, depending on age. Can also be eligible for rent assistance while living at home. Able to work part times and still receive some pension and keep pension card, up to $1 600 at upper end of pension.
- Pensioner Education Supplement: People with health care cards undertaking recognised study – $25 per week.
- Rent Assistance
- Mobility Allowance: to help pay for travel costs to and from work, training, or approved volunteer activities.
- Family Tax Benefit A and B:, for dependent children up to end of year 12.
- Essential Medical Equipment Payment: Pays approx. $170 per year for heating/cooling, electrical wheelchairs, ventilators, oxygen concentrators, etc. Payment per piece of equipment.
- Carer Adjustment Payment: A one-off payment following a catastrophic event when a child under 7 years of age is diagnosed with a severe illness, medical condition or major disability. Examples of catastrophic events may include but are not limited to: car accident, childhood stroke, diagnosis of a serious or severe illness such as childhood cancer, fall, fire, poisoning, near drowning, another type of accident
- Child Dental Benefits Schedule: Financial support for basic dental services for children aged 2–17, receive, or their family, guardian or carer receives, certain government benefits such as Family Tax Benefit Part A for at least part of the calendar year, are eligible for Medicare.