From birth, all people in Germany have the right to participate in the life of the community. They should not be excluded. That's what the Basic Law, Germany’s constitution, says. Therefore, people with disabilities and people at risk of becoming disabled have a legal right to certain forms of assistance in order to integrate into the community.

People are considered disabled if their physical or mental abilities or their mental health deviate, not only temporarily but for at least six months, from the condition that would normally correspond to their age and if their participation in life in the community is impaired as a result. People are at risk of disability if such impairment is to be expected. The right to participation also applies to children. Assistance for children, young people and adults with disabilities is available through health insurance, accident and pension insurance or from the Social Welfare Office (Sozialamt). The Social Welfare Office uses a technical term for this in German that translates to ‘integration assistance’ in English.

It can be difficult for many people with disabilities, or those at risk of becoming disabled, to know all the many regulations designed to enable them to participate in life in the community, or for them to apply these regulation to their own lives. This also applies to parents of children with disabilities. In order to support such people, there is a legal entitlement to what translates to ‘Supplementary Independent Participation Counseling’ (EUTB, § 32 SGB IX) as well special counseling centres local to you. They are called EUTB counselling centres. There you can get independent, professional and free advice and support.

Your child can receive integration assistance benefits if their participation in community life is significantly restricted by their disability. There are many different types of support available. These are, for example, benefits for participation in working life, for participation in education, for social participation and for medical rehabilitation. The support may consist of personal assistance, but it may also be in kind or in cash. Particularly important for children and young people with disabilities are not only the benefits for medical rehabilitation, but also the benefits for participation in education and social participation.

If doctors determine that your child has a disability or could develop a disability without specific treatment, then services for medical rehabilitation are usually necessary. This includes treatment by doctors, early diagnosis and early support for children with disabilities, as well as remedies and aids. These costs are usually paid by your health insurance. As soon as your child starts school, the measures of early detection and early support usually end. Medical rehabilitation also includes treatments for your child's health that are not carried out by doctors, but for example by psychologists and physiotherapists. Professional counselling for parents is also part of these measures.

Within the framework of the benefits for participation in education, children and young people with disabilities can receive support at school. This includes, among other things, school accompaniment, i.e. the financing of personal assistance that may be necessary for school attendance.

Social participation benefits include curative education services for children who have not yet started school. These are measures that contribute to the development of your child and the development of their personality. This includes non-medical therapeutic, psychological, special educational and psychosocial services, as well as counselling for parents and guardians. Social participation benefits also include aids for integration assistance, such as barrier-free computers, handicapped-accessible switching devices for washing machines or kitchen appliances, as well as additional devices or special software for communication for speech-impaired people. These are just a few typical examples. There are many other services that may be suitable for your child.

Depending on the support measure, either your health insurance, nursing care insurance or pension or accident insurance is responsible. Rehab and participation services are usually paid for by your health insurance and other rehabilitation providers. If this is not possible or if they only pay for part of the necessary measures, you can apply for integration assistance. As a rule, the Social Welfare Office (Sozialamt) is responsible for this. People with disabilities do not have to pay anything in addition to the benefits of integration assistance until they have a relatively high income or assets and only for certain measures. If there are several rehabilitation providers involved and thus payers or different services come into question, a so-called ‘participation plan procedure’ takes place. This will identify what help your child needs. The procedure is designed to ensure that all services fit together. It also regulates who pays which costs.

In order to receive integration assistance, you must submit an application for it. As a rule, your local Social Welfare Office is responsible for the application. Before you receive integration assistance for your child, the Social Welfare Office checks whether an insurance company has to pay, if so which one, and whether you have to contribute to the costs with your income or assets. An expert opinion may be required to determine the need for rehabilitation.

As an EU citizen or citizen of another country with a permanent residence status in Germany, your child generally has a legal claim to integration assistance if they lives in Germany. As a citizen of another country without established status, you may be eligible for integration assistance under certain circumstances. This can be the case in particular with children and young people with disabilities. People either seeking asylum or who are citizens of another country with the same status are not entitled to integration assistance. If you are receiving benefits under the Asylum Seekers Act and have been in Germany for more than 18 months, however, your child is entitled to the corresponding benefits. In the first 18 months of your stay, you can only receive benefits from integration assistance if this is necessary in individual cases to ensure health or to meet special needs of children.