Research & Analysis by Ilene R. Zeitzer
In the United States, low-income families who have a child or children with a disability may be eligible for cash benefits payable under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. In the last few years, the number of these children on the SSI rolls has increased dramatically due, in large part, to new standards developed in response to a 1990 Supreme Court decision and the subsequent retroactive activity as a result of that decision. The rise in the number of child beneficiaries has led to increased concerns as to whether cash benefits are the best way to help these children and their families deal with the additional needs and expenses caused by disabilities. This article begins with a summary of recent American developments regarding the childhood disability issue as background to an exploration of comparative practices.
In light of the current interest in the United States concerning children with disabilities, it seems timely to explore the approaches used by other countries' social insurance programs. This study details the practices and provisions of 14 European countries and 4 other developed countries (Australia, Israel, Japan, and New Zealand). In addition to examining the variables involved in making cash benefits available and awarding them to families on behalf of disabled children, the article also provides information of in-kind benefits to which such families would be entitled and gives some insight as to the philosophy and policy goals of selected foreign programs.