All self-sufficient adults need to understand how to manage their money. This is no different for intellectually disabled people who are able to live alone, or who live with family but are able – or wishing – to manage their affairs more independently.

Being intellectually disabled means being ultra-careful with how you part with your money. If you have someone who can work with you, all to the good, but sometimes you are going to have to make decisions on your own. You may have to factor in living costs more carefully, and these may include medication and doctor visits, etc. It’s important to incorporate sound financial habits into your daily routine as soon as possible.

Disability Benefits: Should you receive a disability benefit, you need to understand its value and how far it can help you in your spending decisions. Your first area of caution should be cash. This can slip out of one’s hands very quickly, so keeping to a daily or weekly quota is vital. Credit cards are possibly the most dangerous financial tool in anybody’s hand – let alone if you have any trouble keeping track of numbers in your head. Rather organise a debit card that only allows you to spend what is in the account and no further – a safer and more sensible option.

Beware of accounts: Be aware of opening accounts – it sounds so easy – take what you want now and pay later. When there’s a time difference between purchase and payment, you can lose track of what you are spending, and you can also forget. When that statement comes in at the end of the month, it can be a huge shock. Avoid store cards, learn to pay immediately for an item – or delay shopping until you can pay directly.

The beauty of budgeting

Budgeting is a skill you must grasp before all others. It’s really simple: if you spend more money than you have, you will end up in a pickle. In other words, possibly bankrupt. So understanding what you need and how much you have to spend gives you the basis of your budget programme. You may have a firm grasp of this issue already, but there are many slips down unknown avenues that can ruin your focus and plans.

There are so many confusing ways to slip down the endless road of debt – and the solution always comes back to the same rule: budgeting. Work within your monthly budget and never waver from this rule, and all the temptations the world lays out there for you and your money, will be soundly managed.

  • A budget is the one skill that all intellectually disabled people should learn above all else.
  • It’s a form of money management that can make or break your finances.
  • A budget is a record of money coming in and money that you spend.
  • The purpose of a budget is to give you peace of mind that you have money to pay for what you need.
  • When a budget works, you can feel more secure in knowing that you can take care of yourself and plan for the future instead of worrying constantly about finances.

Working your budget

  • Firstly, establish how much money you need to spend. You can work weekly or monthly – whichever suits you better. Once you have a list of every item you purchase on a weekly or monthly basis, you are able to set an amount of money you will need.
  • The results of this exercise can be surprising. Some of your spending will be estimations – but that’s okay. Keep a daily log by writing down every item you purchase and any bills that are paid by cash or electronic transfer. Once you write down each trip to a coffee shop or every pizza delivery, you begin to get a better idea of what you may be spending.
  • There may be things that you will need on occasions like new shoes or a new coat, you need to keep money on hand for these items over a period of months, so that these extras don’t come with stress to your general monthly living budget.

Caring for the finances of an intellectually disabled person

  • Special needs benefits are not necessarily paid directly to an intellectually disabled person, but through a designated family member or long-term carer or institution.
  • People with special needs may have a host of legal restrictions on how and where their money is kept – and how it can be sourced. This is because levels of independence vary from an individual having a job, living alone, living with family, living in a care institution, or being dependent on family or government benefits.
  • Sometimes a joint account is a good way to go, whereby a guardian can access a budgeted amount on behalf of the intellectually disabled person. Issuing the person in their care with a weekly allowance is possibly the safest route depending on the level of independence and understanding the person portrays.

The story of Sunfield Home

Twenty years ago, Chris and Lynne Bennett, parents of a young girl with Down Syndrome, pursued their dream of establishing a home for their daughter and other intellectually disabled young adults in the Western Cape. Together with other parents, they founded the Sunfield Home in Wellington, providing a loving and nurturing environment for over 100 residents and day-care adult individuals.

Each individual is screened to evaluate their strengths and allocate activities according to their abilities. A protective workshop has been established where contract work is undertaken, as well as arts and crafts activities. An employment scheme has also been developed and as a result permanent and successful positions have been found within the surrounding wine and cheese industries.

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