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Paying for disability equipment and assistive technology

Most disabled people who need equipment to help them to live more independently can get it from their local authority. This is free. You will need to ask for a social care needs assessment for things like:

  • bathroom equipment
  • wheelchairs
  • mobility scooters

You could also buy the equipment that you need. Used equipment can be cheaper. Loans and long-term hire-purchase agreements can mean that you get equipment quickly, but are usually more expensive than paying in full.

Social care needs assessment

If you need equipment to support your daily life, you can apply to your local authority for an assessment.

Apply for a needs assessment by social services (GOV.UK)

What you're entitled to

Your social care needs assessment report will list 'desired' and 'essential' outcomes. Your local authority has a duty only to meet the essential outcomes.

The Care Act 2014 defines specific eligibility criteria for social care. These include:

  • eating and drinking
  • maintaining personal hygiene
  • dressing yourself
  • using on public transport or access to alternative transport, like paying for a taxi or getting a lift from someone you know
  • going to appointments and other places like libraries, cafes and pubs

Challenging your social care needs assessment

Wheelchairs

How and where you get a wheelchair depends on your situation and needs. You may be able to get a wheelchair from the NHS or through grants, charities or fundraising.

How to get a wheelchair

NHS continuing healthcare

Some people with long-term complex health needs qualify for free social care arranged and funded solely by the NHS. This can include equipment like hoists and powered wheelchairs.

You will need to apply for an assessment. The process can feel complex. The company Beacon gives up to 90 minutes of free advice to people living in England on NHS continuing healthcare.

Free information and advice on NHS continuing healthcare (Beacon)

Access to Work

You can use Access to Work to pay for equipment that will help you to do your job. You can also use this to travel to work or if you travel for your job.

Access to Work equipment belongs to your employer. You do not have the right to take it with you if you leave. But your employer may choose to sell or give it to you when you leave.

Access to Work

Keeping disability equipment when you leave your job

Motability Scheme

The Motability Scheme lets you lease a car, mobility scooter or powered wheelchair using the mobility component of your Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

Motability does not pay for your fuel but does cover:

  • insurance, including tyre and windscreen replacement cover
  • breakdown cover
  • vehicle tax

Driving and Motability

Getting a Motability car (Citizens Advice)

Eligibility

You must be receiving either:

  • the higher rate mobility component of DLA
  • the enhanced rate mobility component of PIP

To qualify, you must also have 12 months or longer before you will be reassessed for DLA or PIP.

VAT relief

You do not need to pay VAT when you buy things that are designed or adapted to support you. You can receive VAT relief for most types of:

  • adjustable beds
  • stair lifts
  • wheelchairs
  • medical appliances for 'severe injuries'
  • alarms
  • low vision aids, not including spectacles or contact lenses
  • specialist software, like a screenreader or speech recognition
  • motor vehicles
  • leasing a Motability vehicle
  • building work like ramps, widening doors, installing a lift or toilet

You can also get VAT relief on:

  • installing equipment
  • repairs or maintenance
  • spare parts
  • accessories

Get VAT relief on certain goods if you have a disability (GOV.UK)

Grants

Grant-giving funds, also known as charitable funds, give grants to people that meet their criteria. This could be for something in your needs assessment, but is marked as 'non-essential'. For example, assistive technology or other disability equipment including wheelchairs.

Each provider has its own rules about:

  • what they fund
  • the size of grants
  • if you can apply
  • assessing what you need
  • how to buy the equipment

Some will let you tell them what you need and get it yourself. Others will ask you to go to a supplier for an assessment.

Finding and applying for grants

Warning Crowdfunding can affect your benefits

Money that you raise could be treated as income by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). This could affect means-tested (income-based) benefits.

Used equipment

Used equipment can be cheaper or even free. Check:

  • websites for recycled items
  • local disability charities
  • equipment manufacturers
  • local newspapers
  • local community boards

Buying used disability equipment

Warning Look out for scams

Research sellers before you buy anything.

Loans

Find out how much the loan with interest will cost. A loan usually costs more than paying outright.

Get advice on the loan from someone independent. This should not be the person selling the loan.

Getting a loan if you're ill of disabled (Money Advice Service)

'Buy now, pay later'

In-store credit

Getting in-store credit usually means paying interest. It's like a loan. This means that it will cost more than paying in full.

Hire-purchase (HP)

Hire-purchase agreements let you hire a piece of equipment. If you do this for long enough, the agreement should give you the chance to buy the equipment. This could cost a large or small amount. Look in the agreement to find out how much.

You do not own the equipment unless you buy it.

Last reviewed by Scope on: 17/07/2020

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