KidsParenting News

Financial planning for your child’s special needs

As the new year rolls in parents may find themselves having to fork out more for their children’s schooling than they did last year.

South African parents are feeling the financial pinch of rising school fees, a higher cost of living, and the pressure to provide a more holistic schooling experience for their children. This is especially true for parents or guardians with children who are differently abled.

The financial hurdles that these parents face are unique too, with added expenditure on assistive devices, healthcare, transportation, personal assistance, and education fees. Children with exceptional needs and the parents who care for them face many challenges when it comes to deciding, locating, and securing the best suited education from cradle to career.

But with the right financial planning, none of these obstacles are insurmountable.

“For many South Africans, the extra costs associated with special needs schooling means that parents simply cannot afford to give their children the best education. Households with very little financial means are often forced to keep their children at home, preventing parents from being able to work and earn a living,” says Kresantha Pillay, Liberty’s Chief Specialist for Lifestyle Protector.

Some parents have had to provide care and education to their children at home, long before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, with 2015 statistics from the Department of Basic Education (DBE) showing that almost 600,000 children who are differently abled were out of school. Exacerbating the problem, most special schools are still not listed in government’s publicly available annual “no-fee” schools lists. In 2019, Human Rights Watch found that, for the first time, the Gauteng province listed 5 special schools as “no-fee” out of 128 special schools in the whole province. This leaves the financial costs for private special needs schooling squarely on the shoulders of their parents.

The most popular and recommended option is to plan ahead by setting out a financial plan to get you through the year ahead. With special-needs schooling there will be a substantial number of factors to consider. These range from the four types of Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) your child has been diagnosed with; the number of schools in South Africa that cater to special-needs children, the questions and answers are endless but manageable.

Become financially prepared

“While it is important for all parents to develop a financial plan, unfortunately, the exact cost of raising a differently abled child is still undetermined, especially in the South African context. It is important to engage with a Financial Adviser to scope out and prepare for the total cost of educating your child based on their unique circumstances. Thankfully, there are several options out there to help relieve financial strain and protect these children’s education and secure their future,” says Pillay.

Seek financial advice

With the help of an accredited Financial Adviser, you could get guidance and help on this journey. Financial Advisers look at more than just your finances; they take your unique living circumstances into account and help you meet these.

Budget, budget, budget

No child is the same, and of course, this rule still applies to children with special needs. Sometimes it can be difficult to know how much you’ll have to spend on their schooling, essentials, and extra-curricular activities each year. However, there are potentially treatments, therapies, medication, and other expenses such as school fees that you can plan for in advance – and these will undeniably affect your budget. By knowing what expenses are likely to emerge in the future, you can adapt your current savings plan and household budget to accommodate them.

Look at the bigger picture

While medical aid schemes may not resolve all the costs associated with raising your special-needs child, they are important because they ensure that medical care is covered. However, with life’s uncertainties, anything can happen to you as the guardian or parent.

Guardians and parents should protect themselves – and their children’s stability too – if they are no longer able to provide for their families. Liberty’s Lifestyle Protector EduCator benefit has recently expanded its cover to pay special-needs tuition at 150% of the normal rand limits at an approved institution which will cater for the ongoing education of your child in the event of a family tragedy such as disability or death of the policyholder,” says Pillay.

“It has no waiting period and also covers education inflation costs; and offers flexibility in terms of private or public schooling – and caters for overseas studies too,” she adds.

Parents can assess the specific financial implications of raising a child with special needs and work alongside an adviser to plan ahead to help children reach the goals their parents have envisioned for them.

Pillay adds that this not only safeguards against unexpected costs of special education cover but helps parents ensure that the gift of education will continue should they be unable to do so due to a death or disability.

Back to top button