Figuring out what benefits – if any – you can access from the government, to help financially support a child (or adult) with autism, can be quite a daunting task. I’ve encountered many people with an autistic child who have never heard of the Child Disability Allowance, and I’ve encountered parents who have simply assumed that their autistic child will qualify for “the disability allowance” once they reach 16. So I’ve decided – for my own education as well as others’ – to pull together what information I can about what benefits and allowances are available specifically for families raising an autistic child (or for an autistic adult).
I will not include the more generic benefits and allowances that can be applied for independent of autism / disability. Neither am I attempting in this post to cover the government-paid services and supports (including therapists, carer support, and respite). But it is worth knowing that the benefits I discuss in this post are not the sole government supplied funding and services available to autism families. I’ll provide links at the end of the post to point you in the right direction for more information and help in those areas, and may do future posts to expand on those topics too.
I’m going to provide a list of the benefits and allowances, including picking out vital criteria, how the benefits relate to each other, and I’ll mention (where it’s otherwise not clear or obvious) on whether the severity of autism impacts on eligibility:
The Child Disability Allowance (CDA) (comprehensive pdf link, and the WINZ website summary page). The CDA is paid to the caregiver (typically parent) of a disabled child. The child must meet these criteria:
- under 18 years old,
- has a serious disability (including sensory, intellectual and neurological disabilities),
- requires constant care and attention because of that disability (which goes beyond the amount otherwise required for a child that age), and
- is likely to require that attention for more than 12 months.
It is not income-tested, and can be received while also receiving the Disability Allowance (see below). If the child qualifies for an Invalid’s Benefit at the age of 16 (also see below), then the parent can no longer receive the CDA.
There is a review period that will differ from child to child; the time frame is suggested by the medical practitioner who fills out the required medical certificate. Whether a child qualifies at all and how long the review period is, will depend on the severity of the autism; autism is not an automatic qualifying condition, though it is expressly recognised as a potentially qualifying condition.
The current weekly rate is $45.34 (link to the latest rate, updated as the amount changes).
The Disability Allowance (WINZ webpage) is available to the person affected by a disability, and can be applied for by the caregiver if the child is under 18. It is for those who need help with costs associated with everyday tasks or ongoing medical care. It can be received in addition to other main benefits. This benefit is income-tested. The amount you receive under this benefit depends on actual costs associated with the disability (unlike the CDA), including costs for specialists, prescriptions fees, and travel costs (if those costs aren’t already covered by another agency of course). The maximum weekly payment for this allowance is $60.17 (link to latest rate).
Domestic Purposes Benefit – Care of Sick or Infirm (DPB-CSI) (WINZ page, and more extensive pdf guide). This benefit provides financial assistance to carers (but not if those carers are spouses or partners), who care at home for someone who would otherwise need high and special levels of care elsewhere. The person being cared for must require access to 24 hour care and attention (but need not actually receive that many hours of attention everyday from the carer). The home where the care is happening, can be that of the carer or the cared-for person.
This benefit is income-tested. The amount received under this benefit depends on circumstances; it’s around $200 to $300 per week. This benefit can be applied for retrospectively too.
Autism is included in the list of illustrative examples of conditions that might qualify, again, the severity of the impact of the autism is essential for determining whether someone qualifies or not. Like the CDA, there is a potential review period involved too. Similarly, a medical certificate is required.
Invalid’s Benefit (WINZ webpage) is available to people over the age of 16 who are severely limited in their ability to work because of their disability. The individual must be unable to regularly work 15 hours or more a week. Proof of the condition is required (though this need not be a medical certificate). A person may not qualify if they have other money to live on, such as a partner’s income.
Payments again depend on individual circumstance; they vary between $207 to $336 per week. It is possible to work and still receive the Invalid’s Benefit (including over 15 hours a week on a trial period). The amount received from work can impact on the weekly amount from the Invalid’s Benefit. This benefit is reviewable.
The Sickness Benefit (WINZ webpage) is like a step down from the severity required for the Invalid’s Benefit. It is available to those over 18 (and those who are 16 and 17 if they live with a partner and have children). This benefit is for those who have had to stop work due to their disability, or who are finding it hard to look for work or find full-time work due to their disability. It is income tested, and a medical certificate is required.
Payments again depend on individual circumstances, and vary from $136 to $293 per week. Other income is allowed, and will impact the benefit amount after a certain point. The sickness benefit is reviewable too.
So those are the five main autism-relevant benefits / allowances I could find, and the best sense I could make of them based on what I found. There are numerous other benefits and allowances that are available to autistic people and their families too, based on circumstances independent of their disability. Examples include:
- The Accommodation Supplement
- Various payments made in situations of Financial Hardship.
- Working For Families
I must of course emphasize that you need to speak to WINZ directly to figure out whether you or your child might actually qualify, and what else you might qualify for besides what I’ve found, but I think it is helpful to have some idea of what is currently available (this information will become out-dated over time, I’ll update it or provide links to my updates when I become aware of such changes). If talking to WINZ is a bit nerve-wracking, you can contact a charity like Autism NZ or IHC to support you in finding the information and accessing the funding.
I have found it particularly useful to have gone through this fact-finding exercise; I hope some others have found it useful to read too! Please do let me know if you spot any errors in my information, and what if any of these supports you have qualified for, and how hard (or easy) it was to qualify based on autism. Thanks!
Links to a couple of my previous posts looking at the supports and services my family received for my son: