When you become a parent there is naturally a financial impact from birth!
In fact those costs even start pre-birth, what with the moses basket, the pram, creating a nursery, the clothes, the nappies, the lotions and potions etc.
But were you aware that the average cost of raising a child, up to the age of 18 years old, is a staggering £230,000!? As a mum of three girls, I am sat here totting that up and dreaming about what I could have spent that on lol!
Joking aside, it is no real surprise that raising a child is an expensive business!
However, add in to the mix a child with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), and/or Social, Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH) needs, £230,000 seems cheap at twice the price!
Totting up the costs
I’m unsure what first prompted me to look at the additional costs. It may well have been at a low point as I walked around our old house one evening, a home we had been in for over 20 years, whilst my daughter finally slept, assessing the damage! Emotionally it is soul destroying, looking around at your home that you have lovingly created, to see nothing other than absolute carnage!
Once I’d allowed myself that time to grieve for the beautiful home that once was, the practical side of me emerged and I started totting up the financial impact!
This lonely evening happened about 4 years ago.
I sat at my, then, kitchen table and started to write a list of all the things that had either been damaged, destroyed or previously replaced.
In my mind I went room to room and the list got longer and longer!
There were curtains in bedrooms that had been pulled down multiple times, not only damaging the curtains but also pulling and damaging the rails off of the walls. So not only did the curtains and rails need repairing/replacing but the wall needed fixing too.
I was in a dilemma after what felt like the millioneenth time of putting curtains back up. What is the point? Can my daughter really not have curtains in her bedroom? What would the social worker think when she came round if there wasn’t the basics ie curtains?
But in all honesty, there was NO POINT! So I made the decision not to bother anymore with this pointless exercise. Instead I invested in some privacy glass which I stuck on the windows, not attractive but it was functional!
As I wandered, in my mind, around the house I saw multiple carpets ruined from the constant launching of products. I also saw countless holes in walls and many more that had been previously filled.
Another problem when things are launched is the holes in the lino it caused too. At this time we lived in a big Victorian house and the whole of the ground floor was lino apart from the lounge so this was a BIG area.
I saw obscenities etched in doors and carvings in the bannister. Dents in the dining room and kitchen tables, scratches in the office desk. I also saw a very tired looking and broken grandmother clock in the corner of the hall which had been pulled over so many times it was not fit for anything other than firewood!
I recall one occasion where over £300 of her sister’s makeup was ruined in one hit and obscenities scribbled all over her bed, so not only was the makeup destined for the bin but so was the bedding.
There have been countless electronics that have been launched and smashed! Not least 7x Ipads (well Tablets as cheaper to replace), a laptop (this was mine and had been stabbed with scissors), multiple phones, CD Players, Vapourisers and various sets of headphones.
I have lost count of the number of kitchen items that have been destroyed. From crockery, to vases, to kettles, to fish tanks!
In the heat of the moment, nothing is indestructible!
Additionally to all of this there is an added cost of making your home as safe as possible. I had to install locks on the inside of bedroom doors, reinforce doors (to prevent panels being kicked out). I had to purchase a lockable metal ‘sharps box’ to keep all knives and scissors out of grabbing distance. I even installed CCTV in the house!
All of the above, as I sat in my kitchen that lonely evening, totalled well over £10,000!
To replace or not to replace?
Some may say, for an example: ‘well why replace a smashed tablet or broken headphones?’ and this is a very natural and ‘traditional’ style of parenting kind of question. If my elder two daughters had broken or destroyed something, would I have replaced it? The honest answer is ‘no’ I wouldn’t.
So why is this different for my youngest?
Well, it is different because my daughter has multiple conditions, including a neurological condition, called PDA. This means she gets so overwhelmed and overloaded that her fight or flight reaction kicks in regularly! This is out of her control, so in turn not her fault.
The other reason that I would replace items such as an ipad/tablet or headphones, for my youngest, is because these were very important tools to try and help my daughter self-regulate and also an essential part of restoring or maintaining calm.
Additional items that HAVE to be replaced/repaired
Unfortunately, there are some things that HAVE to be replaced/repaired and whilst we have been lucky in the sense that it hasn’t happened to us (touch wood!), things like broken windows or external doors are a necessity!
Other essentials, whilst on a much lesser financial level, are things like clothes when they have been ripped or torn.
That said, if something in particular is currently being targeted or is at higher risk of damage ie the bannister rail in our new home (which gets pulled off) and the hall way damaged (by things being launched down the stairs) then there is seriously NO point in repairing/replacing until this no longer is a target.
Knowing that there is massive potential that things are likely to get damaged or destroyed, I’ve found myself having to take out lots of additional insurances, all obviously at a premium.
In addition to the usual home and car insurance (not that my car insurance would cover damage caused during meltdown), I’ve had to insurance my phone, my laptop, her ipad, the sofa, the dining table and chairs, the microwave, the TV etc…all things that I wouldn’t have needed to do when my older two daughters were growing up.
Another additional financial implication, that shouldn’t be underestimated, is the money that is required for constant activities which are essential to keep a child like my daughter entertained and active 24/7!
Additional longer term financial impact
So you can see that having a child with SEND and/or SEMH conditions, massively impacts financially in the home, but how else?
Like so many SEND parents, I had to give up my job/career to become a Parent Carer. Giving up your job naturally means that there is a loss of income when you suddenly stop receiving a salary.
Something else that goes hand in hand with giving up your job, and this didn’t hit me until fairly recently, and that is, the loss of being able to pay into a pension. This is sadly going to affect me and many others later on in life. I’m unsure at this moment in time as to what extent this will impact, however what I DO know is that my pension is not going to be what I had anticipated it to be!
Further financial implications for us SEND/SEMH parents is one that only dawned on me recently. I suddenly thought, what will happen when she turns 18? The majority of benefits you receive as a Parent Carer stop! Her DLA will become PIP and this will go directly to her. Child Tax Credits and Child Benefit will cease. I must admit I am struggling to work out how at aged 18 years old, your child suddenly stops being the ‘severely disabled’ individual that Tax Credits acknowledge throughout their childhood?
So at 18, I will be 52 years old, having been out of employment for 10 years and my skill set just a very distant memory….who in their right mind would want to employ me then? This is a very bleak thought but one that I can’t worry about just right now!
Where we are at now
Having moved into our new home a year ago, I am saddened to say we already have multiple holes in walls, worktops/doors/window seals dented, bannister rail pulled off of wall, dents in the fridge and multiple things broken and in the bin.
However, I have hope for the future, I HAVE to! As my daughter gets older, I live in hope that the continuous drip feeding and the teaching of self-regulation will improve things.
So what IS the additional financial impact of having a SEND/SEMH needs child?
Honestly? The financial impact is ENORMOUS and a figure that I wouldn’t even like to hazard a guess at 7 years in!!!
However, if I had that ‘Magic Wand’, how awesome would it be if there were charitable insurance companies out there willing to take us on at a reduced premium and no excesses on our home insurance?! Or electronic insurance companies that don’t charge for a ‘whatever happens’ policy for individual items? But what would additionally be AWESOME is a team similar to DIY SOS who offered a free repair service to families like ours!!